“Physics is boring,” is the first sentence R.J ever texted me. It was almost six years ago and I was outside my history class near the water fountains. We had only ever spoke once before, very briefly and a mutual friend had given him my number. I wasn’t sure if the text was from him, because I didn’t have his number—but my heart was bouncing against my rib cage like a marble in a pinball machine all the same.
It was him. And we spent the rest of the day texting and he asked me out for that Friday night. I remember walking around the hallways of my high school that week and just knowing that everything in my life was about to change. I had never felt so sure of any feeling I ever had but I knew that after we finally met on Friday a part of me was always going to be this happy on some active surface of my soul for the rest of my life. It was a pretty ambitious set of feelings for a 17-year-old who had never really been in love—but then, I was taking AP European History, so I pretty much felt invincible (Oh wait, I failed that class didn’t I?)
Anyways, I had whipped myself up into this supreme panic attack by Thursday night and I had so assured myself that I wouldn’t be able to function on an actual movie and dinner date that I somehow lost my nerve and gained it all at once by asking if he’d mind coming over to my house to hang out instead?
Remember, I’m 17 years old. So I live with my mom, step-dad and my better-looking, worldlier 18-year-old sister. And I look like this:
Looking back, our first date must have really been a minefield for poor R.J. See, just entering the house was kind of a trap. First he had my sister outside telling him where to park (he thought she was me.) Then he had to walk past and first meet my mom and my step-dad who were (for whatever reason) outside the front door—and then there was me, sitting at the kitchen table absolutely terrified.
But somehow he made it all feel perfectly normal.
We sat at my kitchen table and talked for hours, until my mom told us to let the dog out in the backyard. And he kind of attacked my face for our first kiss. When he left that night I said to myself, “there is no reason why I can’t marry him.”
The next few weeks were a matter of bliss. 17-year-olds in love have absolutely no filter, no embarrassment, and no sense of how making out 24/7 could be potentially awkward for anyone else in the room. ( About that…Sorry…everyone I’ve ever known.)
When we first started dating, I was careful about how I was going to introduce R.J to the idea that I was sick. Was it something you said all at once over dinner–or something you slowly explained over time? I was scared that he wouldn’t want to deal with all my baggage. Or that I would limit him from being a normal teenager–after all, most of our dates ended when I would fall asleep at 9:30.
But life went on, and he stayed.
So, we went to prom together.
We made friends together.
We even sent out Christmas cards together.
And when I had to go the emergency room at three in the morning, he was by my side.
It took him a while to get the hang of things. He had to be taught about what I could and couldn’t handle anymore, and we had to learn new ways of working around my limited energy and multiple hospitalizations. I think this made us even stronger–I mean, he must have developed some real arm muscle carrying me back and forth to the bathroom after my abdominal surgeries. But life goes on!
We watched my mom get married.
When it came to Today’s Teen, he was a huge support (and even modeled for some of our shoots!)
He took me out of my comfort zone.
He started his career, and I started mine.
We moved in together this year.
And even though I’ve spent a lot of time sick…
The pinball machine in my chest is still as loud as ever.
Sure, I’m never going to be able to give solid advice on dating with a chronic illness, because we kind of went from hello to I love you in the span of a week–but being in a relationship with a chronic illness is something I can speak to…
I’m sure there will be plenty of posts about the trials and tribulations of being in a relationship and having the constant roadblock of chronic illness driving a wedge into your plans and romance–but for today…
I think there’s something special about being in a relationship with someone who knows how clearly jacked up you really are–and loves you all the same.
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