October 31, 2019

STELLA | We Did Not Find Love in a Hopeless Place, but We Remain Romantics

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All of us romance lovers have been there: a seemingly unimportant moment — maybe they’ve got food on their chin, maybe they roll their eyes at us — when we look over at our significant other and unpromptedly think, “God, I fucking love you.” Yesterday we were on top of the world, wiping mustard from their face. Today we’re cradling ourselves in bed while listening to James Blunt’s “Goodbye My Lover.” It’s at points like these when we envy our casual friends who prefer one night stands and labelless partnerships.

Many romance lovers find ourselves falling head over heels time and time again. Once for the person in the grade above us in high school, once for the friend we’d always insisted was just a friend and once for the pair of unfamiliar eyes across the beer pong table. We love the idea of romance and gleefully look past early red flags (she still talks about her ex, he only talks about himself) to tell our friends we’ve found someone.

Relationship people experience higher highs and lower lows than the rest of you cold-blooded souls. It doesn’t have to be an important date or big gesture that brings out the romantics in us. Sometimes something as simple as meeting their parents, getting lost taking back roads home or snuggling up to your favorite movie — the one they haven’t seen yet — can serve as a rush of dopamine to our heads to create our adolescent sense of euphoria. Contrastingly, breakups lead to spikes in Kleenex sales. We experience the five stages of grief, but ultimately settle into the temporary sadness that comes with losing that special someone.

The first love cuts the deepest. I forgot who said that, but someone important, probably my dad. I’ve only ever really been in love once, but as a self-proclaimed sap, I tell my friends I’m in love every other week. They don’t notice anymore. In highschool, I was the asshole who didn’t say the “L” word back. We were going to college in a few months and I was scared. I saw my brother break up with his high school sweetheart and my friends do it with theirs. That’s what you’re supposed to do — find someone new in college. But then you get to Cornell.

Cornell has a “work hard, play hard” environment. With that comes the nonchalant attitude towards hook-ups that we see in so many Cornellians. A series of dance floor makeouts at frat parties is as meaningful to many of us as a budding relationship is to others. I’ve fallen into this culture as well, as have many of my friends who also prefer relationships. It’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by it, but strangely enough some lucky souls can find love in the dampest of basements.

Two friends of mine met at one of my fraternity’s mixers and have now been dating for close to three years. As juniors, they’ve spent more of their college experience with each other than they have alone. He’s in ROTC, she’s a tour guide and I’ve been vying for the best man role since their six month-mark. I love love, even when I’m not contributing to it.

I’ve never had a relationship with someone at Cornell. Lots of people haven’t, but most of those don’t want one, or don’t let themselves believe they want one. Fear of commitment seems to be airborne on campus. I’m not saying I’m looking for one, but if the girl of my dreams bumped into me on her walk to class I’d thank her and take the blame. For the majority of my college experience, however, I didn’t let myself look for anyone else.

After we broke up for college, my high school sweetheart and I still talked (I know, I know). We hooked up when we went home for winter break and spent the holidays together after I finally mustered up the courage to say “I love you too.” I tried almost every kind of relationship with her. Friends at first, and second semester freshman year we attempted an open relationship (oh hey, those don’t work!). Sophomore year, we never spoke —  until second semester when we tried dating again. A fully-fledged, committed, long-distance relationship. And it worked, for a while. We dated throughout the semester, buying plane tickets to visit each other. I took her to Taughannock. She took me to Nashville’s Honky Tonks (we had a heated debate over Ithaca vs. Nashville, I won, of course). But sometimes things just don’t work out.

I loved being in love, and I laid in a fetal position while my friends stroked my hair to the voice of John Mayer. Highest of highs, lowest of lows, but we always end up back on our feet with a little time. To quote perhaps the biggest romantic of all (I know who said this one), “the course of true love never did run smooth.” That’s Shakespeare, for the engineers among you.

Romantics like to stick together. In the beginning of my sophomore year, almost all my friends were single, and we’d spend our nights drinking wine and complaining of broken hearts or hoping to find someone new. At first, this helps you with your own love troubles, but then all of your friends get girlfriends and you’re left to drink alone while listening to your sad song playlist on repeat.

AJ Stella is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at astella@cornellsun.com. Stellin’ It Like It Is runs every other Friday this semester.