Stories from middle America

“You’re not going to get all weird on me, are you?” Josh* asked. It was early on a weekend night, I had snuck home to meet him at my place.

Moving to Omaha had been an embarrassing cocktail of recovering from an unnecessary broken heart mixed with a few other painful interactions. I was finally on my way to “no strings attached.” This guy was immature, emotionally unavailable, and attractive. Perfection.

I’ve always identified with being single. Proms as the 11th wheel, sorority functions full of drunkenly exchanged numbers that I immediately lost, Facebook stalking, 12 bridesmaid dresses – these were the telltale signs of my life.

I concentrated on solidifying friendships with a rad girl squad. Pursuing romantic relationships seemed to make people an unattractive version of themselves (which includes especially, regrettably, myself).  

Besides – I always had a good story to tell.

Josh and I continued to hang out for months. Midnight texts and playing it cool, we both made it known that we were not interested in more. I relished in how attractive he found me and rarely sent the first text: a millennial’s guide to winning the game.

During a vacation with some girlfriends, forcing them to tag me on Facebook photos so Josh would know I was have a great time without him, a friend called me out.

“You’re wasting time on him because he can’t ultimately hurt you, you don’t matter to him and he doesn’t matter on you,” she said, tagging a photo of me hiking in the desert. I shrugged it off – who cared? Maybe I just didn’t want to hurt for a while. Maybe, I wanted to be The Cool Girl for once.

As the New Year approached, I loudly declared that the next year was the “year for me”: men would be an accessory to my enchanting single life. But, at a New Year’s Day hungover lunch party, an actual human walked into my life. Someone I found endlessly fascinating, handsome, driven and creative. He was pretty forward in the fact he was interested in me. Outwardly, I balked. Inwardly, I swooned.

The Cool Girl stayed out on school nights and drank whiskey with her best friends. The Cool Girl tried to download Tinder just for the stories. The Cool Girl always had her legs shaved and her apartment clean. The Cool Girl didn’t have serious relationships with emotionally mature adults.

But there he was, threatening my Cool Girl status. I lacked the energy to keep up with shaving my legs, let alone keep my apartment spotless. We stayed up so late talking the first weekend, I fell asleep a few nights later while a friend and I were out for wine, practically mid-sip. I fielded complaints from my friends that I wasn’t around anymore.

I tried desperately to hold onto my Cool Girlness, but it didn’t last long. I didn’t lose myself, either. All those years I spent terrified I’d leave part of myself behind if I shared my life, were wrong.

I recently attended a wedding where I wasn’t a bridesmaid, just an attendee. I watched, almost jealously, as the bridesmaids flocked around the bride and shared inside jokes and danced. It was the first wedding I had ever brought a date to, and instead of keeping the bride out of awkward in-law conversations, I sat in the back with my boyfriend and kissed his cheek.

I’m finding that I can still keep a little of my Cool Girl manifesto, and even imbibe in a little mid-week whiskey. My dreams and ambitions are not diminished when I decide to share my life with someone else, I get support and encouragement from my partner. I often find myself watching this beautiful person standing next to me, and I’m glad it took me this long to find him and have him prove me wrong.

*name changed cause duh.

  • Ginger McCandless

    This was so so fun to read ☺️

    • Amanda Rucker

      Ginger! Thanks so much! <3

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