We are shaped by our past experiences. So much so that your future can be dramatically affected by your past. And it takes a tremendous effort to change the direction of your emotions...
I am 36. I am single. To tell you the whole truth, I have never yet had a long term relationship. I can blame it on many factors, but I feel that the simplest is also the strongest:
I fear love.
You all know (or at least most of you, I'm sure) the pain of unrequited love. It sucks in ways that only the single most powerful emotion we possess can. And, being bisexual, I've been burned by both genders. Yes, I have fallen deeply, madly, truly, head-over-heels for one special member of each sex, and been mercilessly shot down by both of them. The guy was straight, and the woman... Well, she had her reasons, and I respect them. That really doesn't make it any better, though.
So this guy, we'll call him Andy, worked in the same place I worked. It was a big place, lot of employees, and he worked in a different part of the building and I only rarely saw him. He was good-looking in an average sort of way. You know the type - never be a cover model or a Hollywood leading man, but a good catch nonetheless. I admit that my own stupid arrogance got in the way and I thought that he wasn't worth my time. But then I opened up and gave him a chance and got to know him. Found out he was smart and funny. We got together outside of work and just hung out. We played chess, went to concerts, played pool. And over time, my feelings for him grew so subtly that I was unaware of their growth at all. Comments were made in honesty, not in malice, that he would find himself unable to continue our friendship if I was attracted to him. I understood. I continued on, perhaps foolishly, but did not want to lose so dear a friend. Until one night... We were shooting pool and I had just failed to sink the ball. I stepped back from the table and Andy stepped in front of me as I backed away to take a drink of my iced tea. I felt an overwhelming urge to reach out and touch him. Even so small a thing as just to lay my hand on his shoulder, although I knew that would never be enough. In that one brief moment, I realized that I had fallen so desperately in love with him that I had been lying to myself without even knowing it. I didn't touch him. In fact, after that night, I never even saw him again. Nothing was said, but I believe he understood. Sometimes the quick, clean break is best. Even when it hurts the most.
Some years later, I'm working at another place. I have risen through the ranks and become a manager. We hire this girl, and she's a good employee. Let's call her Lynn. Again, she's bright and funny and reasonably attractive. In fact, I have some very specific attractions when it comes to women, and she fit all of them. All of them. It was crazy - how often do you meet that one perfect person? I admit, of course, that she was not perfect - no one is. It's just that when you when you're as picky as me and someone comes along that fits all your criteria - well, rose-colored glasses and all that. I tried to be subtle, but subtlety is not one of my strong suits. When I confessed to one of the other guys at work that I was attracted to her, he replied "well, duh." It seems that everyone knew. I wonder, to this day, if she knew. But that comment was galvanizing. I finally asked her out. She said no. I asked her why. She gave me her reasons. I will respect her privacy and not reveal them here, but they were good and valid ones. Needless to say, she found another job soon thereafter. It took me a while to realize it, but I had fallen pretty hard for her, too. I fear that in retrospect, I may have fallen for the idea of her, but it amounts to the same thing, in the end.
I have a third experience that I won't recount here, as it is simply more of the same. What has happened is that I have learned, in proper Pavlovian fashion, that love leads to pain. In my case, every time. Hear the bell, get a broken heart.
I have resigned myself to a single life. The irony is that people always say that's when you meet that one special person. Not for me, though. And even if I did, I wonder if I could get past my own experiences. I wonder if this hardened heart could allow itself to try again.
I really do wonder...