i am the type of person who believes you can’t know your favourite flavour until you have tried them all. despite this fact, as a young child voraciously seeking and discovering new tastes, my go to flavour was always vanilla. smooth sweet soft vanilla. but my appetite for new tastes was strong and i kept on tasting as the world seemed to invent new combinations as quickly as i tried the last.
after a time, somewhere in between pre-pubescence and awkward adolescence, ice cream gave way to Love. i was still very hungry. but what i now craved were the intricate intimacies of another soul. platonic and romantic love crashed and coalesced sometimes rather appetizing other times brutally upsetting. but no two flavours of Love were ever close to being the same. i devoured to my heart's content, happy with the thought that i would live out the rest of my days taste testing bliss with intermittent periods of fasting. but then i met a Vanilla Boy.
society trains you to have a refined yet bombastic taste for Love. we must be damn near swept off our feet, obsessive slightly to the edge of psychosis, and idealize these demi-gods of Love lest they dare exit our lives and leave them empty and withered. admittedly, my views on Love were never quite that melodramatic, but i saw other people living to these standards and it horrified me. yet over the years i had had some very sincere experience with first Loves, Loves at first sight, Love for creative muses, and the ever fleeting brushes with star crossed Lovers. to this day each of these Loves ultimately left a delightful taste in my mouth, and although i understood and accepted that i would never taste them again, i was thankful to have gotten my fair share of delectable nibbles.
after my most recent experience of tasting Love at first sight i thought i was finally full. i had tasted what was sweet, feasted on my wildest fantasy, and there was simply no point in stuffing my face with fillers. everything after that could only disappoint. i certainly wasn’t looking for Love when i reconnected with you. after a year long fast from sex, if felt simply that my libidinal juices were ready to flow again and when the opportunity spontaneously presented itself i was indifferent to resisting it.
we had met one other time two years before at an outdoor music festival. we spent the weekend tied up in your tent deep in the trees. i never even told you my real name, but by the time we met again my fake name had started to stick and it’s what everyone called me now anyways. i remember you being thick and satisfying. i would gladly take another slice. when i invited you to my home that night i never expected to see your face in the morning light. you smiled and apologized for falling asleep. i smiled and said i didn’t mind.
you left. that was that.
except it wasn’t.
we actually spent more time talking than fooling around that night. and we fooled around a lot. i’ll never be sure which of us was more surprised that the other one was actually someone worth talking to. we remained each other's casual hook up with the added benefit of slowly discovering the other wasn’t a total loser.
you weren’t like other boys i had lusted over. i didn’t re-play our kisses in my head a hundred times in between our meetings. i wasn’t nervous to be around you although i did enjoy your company. you were neat but i never took you seriously and this became the biggest blessing. not only did i resist the trap of trying to be the version of myself i thought you would like best, i also didn’t place you onto a grande master pedestal of high achievement and unattainable glory. i started out sipping you but it quickly turned into gulps. yet when i wasn’t with you my insides weren’t wrenching from thirst. at first i betrayed this neutrality as being nothing more than proof that Love was not present. but slowly and surely as time went on my palette became more refined. i looked back on past emotions i had savoured and realized i may have mislabeled them.
i had tasted lust,
and these were all different flavours of Love
but what was Love in its rawest state?
pure Love stripped down with no extra toppings?
what did Love taste like when it wasn’t mixed up with remorse, doubt, approval, yearning and mania?
what was Love when it was plain?
for a long time i went through the motions but in the back of my head i always questioned whether i should move on from the appetizer to the main course or not. i ordered that next step the day we moved in together. even then it was more function than romance. the house was close to school, rent was cheap, and i needed a change of pace. but despite my ulterior motives this move was the one that allowed me to start breaking down your recipe to see what you were really made of.
you forced me to acknowledge the ooey gooey center i had tried my best to keep charred and black. you gave me space to express my appetite for things such as bubble baths bouquets and kisses on the forehead. my feminist stripings had typically put these things safely outside the realm of what i was comfortable with, but the day i realized you called me sweetie pie and my Heart didn’t completely cringe was the day i had to sit down and start assessing my feelings for you. i was always scared of going soft and being domesticated. but due to the fact that i wasn’t trying to impress you or uphold an idealized vision of myself as a strong independent warrior women, my real truth and sentiment kept slipping out and spilling all over the floor. in my youth those i Loved fiercely never Loved me or even liked me the same way. i gave up on those feelings. but you hadn’t become so jaded yet. you put Love blankly and shamelessly at my feet and took no personal affront at my lack or response to it. you Loved yourself. you Loved your Life. my Love might have been a happy bonus but you weren’t starving.
you were the first person i ever met who i genuinely felt wasn’t trying to hide behind themselves. your Love for yourself was simple and straightforward. you had no major accomplishments, no trophies, no degrees. but the Love was there. you were the most normal balanced person i knew. i heard talk of anger issues in your youth, and i witnessed a handful of fits during video game sessions or rush hour traffic, but in a world where perfection is impossible these tiny spats seemed just enough to keep you feeling human and real to me. you were a year older yet gracefully maintained the curiosity and innocence of the children who would have been too afraid to approach me on the playground.
i had been the bad girl. the high girl. the troubled girl. the reckless girl. i had been a mess and i Loved it. i too had been shamelessly in Love with myself but for entirely different reasons. i loved being the bad ass. and when i wasn’t anymore, when the party drugs and all nighters slipped happily through my fingertips into elusive teenage yesteryears, i lost my entire identity. and as i worked myself from the ground up i wasn’t always proud of who i had been or how lost i now felt.
ironically, it was easy to Love myself in those rebellious days. i hated straight laced people and then i became one and i didn’t know what to make of myself. i became straight laced out of extreme insatiable curiosity. i wanted to know who i was not just who i was pretending to be. but when i stripped everything away i expected to find myself waiting underneath- gasping and thankful for air. instead, all i found was an empty space. a blank slate. i was nowhere to be found and the challenge now remained to redesign myself. a huge task. daunting and overwhelming at times. could i do it all by myself? well it appeared i would have to or fall prey to the same facade it had broken my Heart to let go of.
then you walked into my Life. you reminded me of something important that deep down i always knew. true Love is not conditional. i wasn’t going to start Loving myself more when i became something or did something special enough. Love came first. Love is who and what i am. and if i am Loving what i am doing, no matter what i am doing, then Life is a success.
i never expected to learn so much from you. you didn’t dress like any of my other friends. no hippy clothing bizarre hair colour or excessive piercings. you wore black and white tee-shirts and ripped jeans (although you started buying more and more coloured tees the longer we dated). you didn’t do yoga or meditate or light candles (except to occasionally take a bath) yet somehow you spouted wisdom that i deeply needed to feel. and the most important part was you rarely taught me with words. your lessons were unintentionally demonstrated through your actions and that’s how i realized they were authentic. you never tried to impose your ideas but through curious and committed observance i saw your Life as teeming with Beauty. you went to work. came home. played video games. washed dishes. cooked. made Love. watched nature documentaries and rolled around on the floor laughing. you were patient when my emotions rolled and heaved and you were an endless optimist. Life was simple with you. and Love was ever present. i never met someone so accepting and content.
in an instant you brought me back to my childhood.
i Loved vanilla.
and at this point i had taken plenty of time trying all the other flavours.
but it was you.
it was always going to be you.
my sweet Vanilla Lover
and damn delicious.