I chased P for roughly five months, and by chased, I mean awkwardly drummed up reasons to interact with him at work and pretended that these interactions weren’t meant to be romantic in nature. He quickly earned the title “Dr. Boyfriend” among my group of nurses several weeks before he asked me to get a drink with him after work and the secret nickname became a reality. Before our first date, I hastily forced my best friend T to give me an age that I would deem “too old,” since I was having trouble pinning him with an estimated age. The number we arrived at was 33, which turned out to be exactly right. He was 33 years old, a doctor from the Middle East who had moved to the U.S. four years ago and Rhode Island five months prior to our date. Family was what brought him to RI, something that drew me to him immediately, but not the only thing. He was smart, but in a way that I thought to be uncommon. It was an intelligence that could only be earned through experience…I guess we could call it wisdom at the risk of sounding cliche. He oozed self confidence and genuinely seemed to give a damn about the people he cared for, something that is less common in the world of healthcare than one might assume. I could listen to him tell stories from “back home” for hours in his particular brand of broken English, and many days I did exactly that. He was, in all honesty, a good man.
From the beginning I was very skeptical of the relationship because for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what this successful older man from halfway across the world saw in me but for whatever reason, he was amused by me and treated me like a princess. I was so skeptical, in fact, that I flat out asked him if he even liked me, which was met with laughter and reassurance that “of course, and if that ever changes, then you’ll be the first to know.” It was a seemingly perfect relationship- P and I could discuss our jobs in a way that only two healthcare workers could, he “loved” how “American” I am, and I enjoyed his typical Persian male persona that was, at times, eye-rollingly adorable. We could laugh at each other, helped each other, and, were quite simply, good together.
Roughly one month later, he stood by his word, and ended the relationship in what was certainly the most surprising but amicable breakup I had ever experienced as we were sitting on his living room floor one morning. He assured me that we could date for a very long time and it would probably be a very happy relationship, but that he just wasn’t sure and was too old for uncertainty. He told me that we would be friends and that his time with me would always be very important and special to him, and with a look on my face that I’m sure can only be described as dumbfounded, the only word I could muster was “okay” as I walked out of his apartment to digest what had just happened.
The strange thing about the breakup was that while I was both surprised and disappointed, I wasn’t all that upset. Ten minutes before my descent in his elevator, I would have told someone they were nuts if they informed me that P was about to break up with me. But when it happened, I was, in a way, met with feelings of respect and understanding rather than devastation. Not a single tear was shed. So for the past two and a half weeks, I have found myself asking why this is the case. Why did such a wonderful person that I had chased and was so drawn to not leave a more lasting impression on me?
The fact of the matter was that he did leave a lasting impression, but not in the form of being “the one”. An easy answer is that whatever “it” is wasn’t really there. I have, of course, experienced “it” before and yes, maybe this was different, but I don’t think it was that simple, because in a lot of ways “it” was. I enjoyed every second I spent with P and hung on his every word, but something was missing. P was, to the day, nine years and six months older than me. We tend to overlook the parts of our lives that may be in the relatively recent past so quickly that those nine years and six months were a much bigger obstacle than I had initially thought them to be. P had experienced things that I am likely years from understanding, and I am experiencing things right now that P is years past. My life became full of “act like you’ve been there before” moments as we frequented expensive restaurants and fancy bars that without P, I wouldn’t even know existed. While I smiled ear to ear and laughed through every second as I toured P’s life, we were missing a common ground that my time dating P has made me value more than anything.
There is something to be said about experiencing your twenty-something years with a fellow twenty-something. Your first big kid interviews, your first real person job, your first (seemingly) baller paychecks that you can blow on nights at rock clubs, laughing and talking over random bands as the thirty-somethings next to you tell you to pipe down. That was what I missed with P, and while being wined and dined was beyond enjoyable for the months that it was my reality, I subconsciously missed living life as a lost twenty-something trying to find exactly where I fit into this world, as I’m sure P missed living life as a thirty-something who already had that figured out. In short, P was right- perhaps my time is better spent navigating my twenties with someone whose imperfections and insecurities are similar to mine, so that they can be hashed out in a way that only another twenty something can understand- a lesson that only P could have taught me.