People constantly mistake my penchant for sarcasm as pessimism. It's true that my first instinct in any situation- however serious- is to crack a joke, but this is mostly a defense mechanism to avoid admitting to others that I have an even more serious character flaw: I'm a hopeless romantic.
It's not my fault- I can trace it back to when I was six, watching Dirty Dancing and simultaneously singing Disney songs while eating macaroni and cheese as my mom baked cookies in the background. That kind of sensory overload would distort anyones brain.
Combine that with a vivid imagination and tendency to over-emote and stick it all inside the anxious mind of a small girl and you have my entire childhood.
"Being a romantic isn't a flaw!" you say? Well perhaps not but it's certainly hindered my ability to handle relationships with any modicum of realistic expectation, the earliest example of which dates back to 1997.
It was the summer after second grade when I first decided to fall in love.
I had just watched Sleepless in Seattle without my parents permission and decided it looked like fun. My older sister obviously thought so too since she was in love with a boy named Jeffrey, although neither of them would admit it. This also posed a problem because Jeffrey was the only boy I knew and regardless of what they will tell you, he was taken.
I realized that falling in love was going to be much harder than I thought, and I set out immediately, leaving no time to waste. As I walked through town looking for reasonable candidates, I spied Jeff and my sister under a tree in the park. My sister was reciting the mutiplication tables and licking a ring-pop while Jeff was munching on an entire package of Rolos, trying to crush ants with the end of a stick. It was the most romantic scene I had ever witnessed in person and I was determined to take part in this thing called Love.
I wandered and searched for an eternity. Later that same day I was walking past the ditch that ran through the middle of our little town and saw a lone figure sitting on the bank a little way off, his bare feet dangling in the water. He was gazing at something in the distance that probably didn't exist in the real world, and he sported a rather blank expression on his dirt-flecked face.
Still, he was the same age as me and anyway he was probably the best I was going to get. I walked up and introduced myself, launching into a long explanation as to my actions. He just kept staring off into space, all the while slowly raising one skinny arm toward me until his hand formed a gun pointed directly at my chest.
He said it quietly, and then repeated himself several times in a much louder voice as I kept trying to speak over him.
"Bang! Bang! Bang!"
I finally stopped talking and he stopped shooting, and it was the beginning of what I could tell was going to be love.
It was beautiful but brief, as love tends to be when you're eight years old. We wandered around aimlessly for a few hours until he found a grasshopper, pulled all of it's legs off one by one right in front of me and then threw it in the ditch.
I told him it had been wonderful but I was getting a divorce and how lucky it was that we never had children because it would have been so hard on them. I trudged home in the deepest throes of agony and he sat down by the ditch, staring once again at something in the distance, having already forgotten me.
Still, I look back on our relationship with a certain fondness, especially since it's still the closest I've ever gotten to actually being in love.