On Dating For The First Time In Your Twenties

By Annelise Knuff

We met on Twitter, of all places, through mutual Twitter friends. He was 28 years old and I was 23, and it was eight hours by car to see him. We became friends, talked on Google chat, and even Skyped. Then we started to discuss meeting in person, because why the hell not? But we were both cautious because we were both virgins and we both had never dated before. Of course there were dalliances, and almost-relationships but none that ever came to fruition, whether because of intense and quirky personalities, old souls, or something else. Furthermore, both of us had dealt with various issues, such as mental illnesses and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, that had been a barrier to that depth of a relationship. For some reason though, we were willing to take the risk with each other, and I am so glad that we did.

Contrary to our peers that had been smooching since middle school, we were novices. So of course we went about it in a very matter-of-fact way: “I’ve heard, statistically, that most people tilt their heads to the right when they kiss so let’s try that”… “OK, now what happens if I do this”… and then we troubleshot, because that’s what we do. The same thing went for sex, because although we had nerdily read books about it, my goodness it’s just not that simple. But we never took ourselves too seriously, had fun, and just enjoyed being with each other. It was a welcome discovery to realize that despite my own bodily insecurities, he loved every inch of me because I was me. I suppose that is an advantage of being in our twenties and experiencing these things for the first time—I feel like we were able to bypass some of the teenage angst. Also, since we’d been through our fair share of therapy and family drama, we knew the importance of clear communication, which has helped immensely.

I have received the direct, or indirect, comments that because he and I are each other’s firsts, we can’t possibly end up together for the long haul. I’m told that I need to see what else is out there before settling down. But those onlookers don’t realize that I’ve seen the pool of potentials—it’s not as if I lived in a hole until the point of meeting him. I’ve flirted, danced, sexted, and daydreamed about boys before (hence the almost-relationships). But none of them came to fruition until now. Why do I have to know for certain right this very moment if he and I are going to still be together twenty years from now? I literally had the sudden realization that I wouldn’t change a thing about my past because it led me to him. I am with him now, and for the foreseeable future that is perfect and I am content because I love him.

But there’s still some things that no one told me about. Such as, how frightening it is to be emotionally and physically vulnerable with someone, when you’re not completely certain he won’t dump your insecure ass. Or how attached I could get to this man, in a relatively short period of time, and the almost physical ache I feel when I am not with him. The moment when I smelled a pillow he had been lying on, and felt the acute, unexpected stab of sorrow that he was not sitting besides me. The loneliness of going to bed alone, and missing the familiar warmth of him beside me. When we realized that, contrary to everyone else we knew, we could tolerate the other person being in our living space for long periods of time. The acknowledgment that we could probably live together and not kill each other, which was a fascinating concept to us both. The talk of me looking for jobs in his region so we could see each other more frequently. The awareness that we were each adopting some of the other’s characteristics and phrases, and melding together while still maintaining our separate identities. The cognizance that I would protect him with all that I have, and if I ever met his past abusers I would be a force to reckon with. The desperate terror when I think about how emotionally devastating it would be if we broke up. I despise that I sound so cliché, but every single one of these things is true.

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I realize that I can’t know the future, and that being in a relationship has an extraordinarily high risk of wreaking havoc on my life—especially since he is my first. No one warned me that I would turn a blind eye to the logic that I typically rely on to guide me toward smooth sailing. He might be my first and my last, or he might be the first among many dating situations. Apparently, I don’t take the standard route in life so there’s really no telling where I’ll end up, or in what order. But as far as firsts go, I couldn’t be happier that he was mine.

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