Until the day I turned 18, I had always equated love as a gooey romantic feeling. I thought of it as something that belonged only to the movies– to the handsome pair with smoky eyes and whistle-bait shapes. Yup, the curvy and the brawn. Blame it on the countless movies that assaulted my imagination and twisted my world view — Ready for love, 14 going steady, Bagets. My romance with romanticism even sank deeper when at 13, I started devouring pocketbooks that had protagonists twice my age and a prince charming not younger than 30 years old. My preoccupation with matters of the heart in the dead of the night thus made me impatient to grow up fast and triggered my imagination to run wild.

While the rest of the family were off to dreamland, I was off daydreaming and replaying in my mind romantic fantasies I watched or read, this time with me as the heroine– melting in the undying love of a whale of a hunk who looked exactly like Miles O’ Keefe (He was the one who played Tarzan in the 80s—well-chiseled nose, square jaws, hard rock chest). I was entangled in my world of rainbows, only that I basked in its enchantment when the lights were dimmed. Oh, the madness of imagining what “love” was like.

Driven and competitive in school, I resolved though not to get emotionally involved with infantile boys who occasionally got smitten with me. I had a different standard of what my man ought to be and the ones I bumped into in reality were wanting both physically and intellectually. Poor things. How could they ever match up with the perfect man of my dreams– one that came from the flawless, silver-lined pen of Penny Jordan and Anne Mather? One that had the combined hunkiness of David Hasselhoff (during his Baywatch stint) and Tom Cruise (in his Top Gun form), the cuteness of Ralph Macchio, the tenderness and passion of Keanu Reeves in the movie A Walk in the Clouds, the depth and intellect of Morgan Freeman and the sense of humor of Jackie Chan?

Being bombarded with the 80s love songs hitting the airwaves didn’t help either to stabilize my somewhat skewed notion of love. At most, songs like Ocean Deep, Changes in my Life, Foolish Heart and Lovers Moon made jelly beans out of me and oftentimes led me to my starry world of magical kisses, flying horses, and knights and damsels of unending bliss.

By the time I reached 16, I had already “known” what love meant– straight from the pages of Mills and Boon. It was simply an emotional high, a physiological reaction to someone who embodied the qualities of Mr. Dreamboy. Foolish me. I soon realized that what you exposed yourself would shape or influence you. I began to be shaped by the world I was in, by the stuff I read, movies I watched and friends I hang out with. I glorified the aesthetics — that feel good, “electric” feeling over skin-deep attractivess. Eventually, my fixation with romantic feelings made me a bunch of nerves. I became too emotionally sensitive–like a high-strung chord waiting to snap out.

Enter My Knights

There were three. One was a high school throb and two were college crushes.

I was in third year high school when a tall, brown-eyed, fair-skinned guy I secretly admired (uh,uh. okay, I swooned over) winked at me at high noon while the sun punished bitterly. It could have been my overly active imagination giving me away. Maybe he just squinted — a normal reaction to the sun’s glare, and I just happened to look at his face. But my fifteen-year old heart interpreted it otherwise. Heart somersaulting, I even had to look back to make sure there was no one behind me to whom that heart-melting “wink” was directed. Nada. I was walking alone. I was dead certain it was my beauty, and mine alone that captivated him. Gosh, I felt my knees wobble. How could such a cutie take notice of a kinky-haired, chocolate-skinned beanpole when more poised and queenly lookers probably swooned over him? Hah, Mr. sunshine’s torturous rays worked in my favor.

Next scene I found myself beneath the shade of an Acacia tree located in the middle of the school field where the guy went (He was in fourth year). On a starry February night (I think it was a school Valentine party) amidst the upbeat yet deafening sound of the disco music blared a few meters from where we stood, I gave my unabashed “yes” to that one question I was itching to hear: “Will you be my girl?” With my words barely out my lips, I got the shock of my life, when I heard the one thing I never imagined he’d ask: “May I kiss you?”

Shucks… so soon? I felt my virginal heart stabbed. Thoughts ran wild. I felt disappointed… and disrespected. Is this what I’d expect from him every time I’d see him? The nerve. I was expecting somebody who’d engage me in a sensible (and probably) intellectual conversation spruced with fun and banter – not one who’d take “advantage” of my naivete and emotional weakness. I had only known him for barely a week (uh,uh, okay. I could not wait to get to know him better) and I thought saying yes meant the start of the getting-to-know-you stage. Boy, was I mistaken. It was for him the start of something else.

I had the urge to slap him but I held back. Without batting an eyelash, I blurted, “Break na tayo.” (Let’s call it quits). Boom. The romance had ended before it even began.

One thing I learned? Looks can deceive. His cuteness, handsomeness and heart-melting swagger could not compensate for his lack of finesse and yup, brains. I wanted more than just brown hair and tantalizing eyes. As I had discovered, high school boys proposing “love” sucked.

My Poster Boy

The next guy I was drawn to had blue-green eyes. I had not gotten over my HD (hidden desire) for fair-complexioned guys with aquiline noses and colored (read: not black) eyes. Maybe because I wanted little pink angels that were a sight to behold. ( I secretly nurtured a dream of raising a future beauty queen or movie star to compensate for my frustration of never being one).

It was a dewy Monday morn–the first day of our college life. I was on my way to the Audiovisual room for my comm I class when a lithe, not so tall guy wearing a pair of black shorts and squeaky white V-neck shirt approached me and asked where TBA was. I was literally dumbfounded when I gazed into a pool of sea-green eyes. Gosh. He looked like he just came out of a photo shoot for a youth mag. He also smelled minty fresh.

“TBA?” I gave him a questioning look.
“Yup,” the venue of Comm 1 class under Prof. Dizon.”
“Oh, it’s at AVR 2, down there” pointing to him the way to the basement of DL Umali Hall. “By the way TBA – means To Be Announced.” I gave him a sweet smile, hoping it would send a shiver down his spine. He faintly acknowledged my correction, muttered inaudible thanks and proceeded to the classroom. I was left with my unbridled imagination running wild again for the umpteenth time.

The next thing I knew, he was seated a few seats behind me. Our young lady professor was probably as smitten with him as I was (but she was already married, and chubby… I was single and slim, teehee) because he was the first to be called during introduction time.

I was inwardly swooning. This was it. Half-Filipino, Half-French. He was a distinct proof of the perfect mix of Filipino and Caucasian blood. The name though was unmistakably pinoy (the Dad’s native). He had a cute nickname – Nacho, a classy rip-off from his real manly name, Ignacio.

I played a sleuth for this new find. He played football regularly at the LB grounds. He mixed up with cono-looking men like him. He wouldn’t smile back when you tried to become chummy. In short, he was a snob. Of course, He never bothered with me. I learned that he was in love with a commercial model who was a dead ringer for the beauteous Ruffa. (I thought I had a chance, as I was made to believe I resembled the Miss World Second Princess, anyway. Kapal lang.) As it turned out, my existence had never been in his radar.
The more frequently he ignored me, the faster my infatuation dissipated.

The One

My ideal man came along two years later.

He was tall, not really handsome in the conventional sense, but he was intellectually and spiritually “mature.” He was nonetheless mature enough not to cast me an I-like-you look. I almost went paranoid whenever he was around. Okay, I admit. He hit me hard. I entertained thoughts of being his soul mate. I was ready for a lifetime journey with him knowing that he had almost everything (except for the “native” looks) I wanted in my man. But life has a way of making a joke out of one’s feelings. While I was “crazy” and ready for him, he was not. Never had been.

While I was secretly pursuing him (that is, passing by his dorm just to catch a glimpse of him, craning my neck over our classroom window to check whether he had already parked his rusty green vintage car in front of the coop store, going to the places he used to hang out), he was nonetheless oblivious to my moves as he was also pursuing somebody else. Hayyy… whatta life. I gave up a handsome dude back in high school who still pursued me even after I broke up with him, only to be ignored by a plain-looking guy in college. What’s wrong with me? It didn’t hurt that much when Half-French Nacho never acknowledged me. But this one? I had to control the urge to wail like a cow when I heard the song Desperado being played over the radio as I slumped into my dorm bed, weary from secretly running after him.

Ego bruised twice over, I could not deny any longer I was a failure in matters of the heart. I had to lie low until I could gather my wits and self-respect back. One realization hit me: I was no beauty queen that could steal the affection of anyone I liked. I knew it. I had been lied to when I heard words of “praise” and “compliments” for my “beauty.” No beauty would be this heartbroken.

Love evolved

I decided to shut myself off from earthly love. “Loving” was painful. Unrequited love pierced my heart. I was in a lonely-go-round dodging someone I didn’t like and chasing somebody I cared about who was, in turn, going loco over someone else. I halted, cleared my head of twisted notions of love, got off my self-constructed charade, and faced reality. As I gazed at the young lass in the mirror, I muttered, “Jumping guns is over.” The pursued must not be the pursuer. There must be more to chasing this phantom shaped by years of devouring the musty pages of Harlequin, Silhouette and Mills and Boon.

One of the things I did after waking to “reality” was to throw away boxes of pocketbooks, which had played on my emotions for too long. They were unhealthy to my inner being. Their influence clouded my view of reality and destabilized my sense of balance. As I later found out, moonlight kisses dissolve to fiery clashes in broad daylight once the imperfections surface. Romantic love simply disillusions. It is a creation of a material world that glorifies the aesthetics. If you do not have the looks, you have no claim for romance.

I resolved not to get EI (Emotionally Involved) again until after I finish college. Instead, I turned to the Word for comfort and answers.

It did not disappoint.

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