Back in highschool, while playing the “Would you rather” game, a friend asked, “Would you rather marry the one you love the most? Or the one that loves you the most?”
“Why can’t they be the same person?” I demanded.
“What if I love my mom the most???” Another friend feigned horror.
“That’s not how it works! Just play the Goddamn game!!!”
Of course, we proceeded to give her a hard time before answering almost simultaneously.
“The one I love most.”
“The one that loves me the most. DUH!”
We stared at each other confused, as if we couldn’t possibly comprehend how someone could feel differently. But our friend already moved on to the next question.
I continued to play along, but secretly I thought to myself ‘What a sucker!’
It’s so much better to be loved than to love someone else.
Fast forward a decade to our current story.
“Kathy? What are you doing here?” Ronnie opened the door with utter surprise.
What? Did you expect me to end up at the doorstep of some guy? Sorry to disappoint. Though I admit that would have been MUCH more interesting.
“I’m in serious trouble.” I let myself in; never the one with casual pleasantries.
Ronnie closed the door and asked “What happened?” She crossed her arms and looked concerned.
“I think I’m seriously falling for him.” I was referring to Johan. “Except…I don’t think he’s that into me.”
She nodded sympathetically, then disappeared into the kitchen. She returned with a bottle of Chinese liquor and two glasses. She poured a little into each, then said “Ok, spill.”
I took a sip, winced as the alcohol burned my throat, and proceeded to spill everything.
I told her how Johan didn’t do anything for my birthday, and how I reacted to it. He’s not my boyfriend, he’s not obliged to do anything, so why was I so bothered?
“Then I realized on my 3 hour walk here, “ Ronnie’s eyes widened as I said this, but didn’t interrupt. “that I really really REALLY like him.”
“That’s why it bothered me so much. I wanted him to do those things because I wanted him to want me the way I want him…” I knew I sounded nonsensical but continued anyway. “But I don’t think he does.”
“How do you know he doesn’t?” She finally spoke.
“Because I went through the same thing with my ex. I know what it looks like when someone’s into you.” I said as I thought of all the things Bob did for me, then with sadness and a hint of remorse, “And what it looks like when someone isn’t.” I thought of my own actions and feelings towards Bob.
I took another sip, winced, and went on.
“You know, I thought this would be just a fun and harmless experiment, dating someone different… I never expected that I could be the one getting hurt.” I shook my head. “I know that sounds awful, like I’m ok hurting other people. But the truth is… It just never thought about it! I was only concerned about protecting myself to worry about others.”
It is both terrifying and liberating to admit that you may not be such a good person after all.
“I think all of us are afraid of getting hurt.” Ronnie empathized.
“But I didn’t know how afraid I was until now. I’ve never allowed myself to be in a position where I COULD get hurt.” I took a deep breath. “I’m scared shitless!!!”
Ronnie chuckled, then after a while said “Me too…”
We traded more stories, and Ronnies shared a few from her past as well. We realized that we were both extremely guarded and marveled at our girlfriends who can put their hearts on their sleeves.
Our girl talk was soon interrupted by the arrival of our friend Charles, who messaged Ronnie to hangout. I agreed to let him join since a guy’s perspective could be useful.
“So…you are man.” I said after I retold the entire story. “What’s your take?”
After pondering for a few seconds, he said “From your story it’s hard to tell definitively whether he’s into you or not into you.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“As a management consultant, we make recommendations for our clients based on risk assessment.” He adjusted his tie Barney Stinson style. “So it seems to me you have two choices: the high-risk choice, and the low-risk.”
Despite being compared to a business, I listened eagerly.
“The low risk choice is to break up with him. Get out now before anybody gets hurt.” He put it simply.
“Ok, make sense.” I nodded in agreement. “What’s the other one?”
“The other option is to continue dating him. Make it clear to that you are unsatisfied with his current treatment of you. Give it a month or two, and see if anything changes. But of course….” He looked me in the eyes the way a fortune teller might give caution. “This is High-Risk because there’s a chance YOU will get hurt.”
I leaned back and let it sink in.
“What would you do if you were me?” I asked after a few seconds.
Always the business man, he said “Further consultation will cost extra Ms. Wong.”
“Don’t be a smartass!” Ronnie smacked him jokingly.
“Ok, ok…” Charles conceded and rubbed his arm. “Personally, I would take the high-risk route and see where it goes.”
Dammit, I was hoping he wouldn’t say that.
I let out a long sigh and said “I’m not sure I can take that chance.”