“Are you in a relationship?” he asked. I didn’t think to lie. “Yes.” The tactophobe and I had been dating for only a few weeks. I was still filled with hope.
The question was part of my Peace Corps application process. As my recruiter explained–most people who quit their service early do so for a relationship. This cost the Peace Corps money.
The tactophobe had the same recruiter, and I thought this would work in my favor. “My boyfriend already has his invitation,” I said. “We’re okay with going to separate countries. It isn’t a problem.”
In truth, I could so rarely ever say I had a boyfriend that I couldn’t resist admitting to one now–even though perhaps he was no boyfriend at all.
“You’ll have to have him fill out a form,” the recruiter said.
There was a form that I would have to give my boyfriend about our relationship. I started to protest, but shut my mouth. When I got the form with its five questions, I set it aside. There are pages and pages of forms to get into the Peace Corps. Maybe no one would notice if I failed to turn this one in.
Four months later my recruiter told me he had my medical forms (four visits to four different doctors), letters of reference (eight), personal essay, written answers to interview questions, actual interview, application form, financial documents, and transcripts, but he didn’t have that form.
I thought of telling him I had no future with my boyfriend, that it was just a thing, not a relationship, but what would that sound like? Did I want to sound like that for a guy who wouldn’t kiss me? And how could I admit that after five months, my boyfriend hadn’t kissed me? That wouldn’t do.
I dug out the form.
“Hey,” I said to the tactophobe, standing in his living room. “Could you fill this out for me?” I held out the form. “It’s stupid, but, you know, I can’t get my invitation without it.” Maybe he would think I was crazy. Maybe our relationship was all in my head. Maybe he would say, “What do you mean boyfriend?”
He took the form. “Oh this,” he said. “I should’ve warned you. You should’ve lied.”
“Yeah, well. What did I know?”
He sat on his sofa and scribbled some answers. I didn’t look at them when he handed the form back to me.
That night, alone in my own room, I pulled the form out of my purse. I skipped down to the last question–What are your future plans for this relationship? We have no plans to be together.
One day you will put your work out into the world and someone will look at what you’ve done, and he will shrug. All your friends and a few strangers will love what you do, but there will be someone who just doesn’t. This is not the end of the world. This is not a final judgment. But often we let the person stay in our thoughts and undo our confidence. Why do we give this person such power?
Is there one person you keep trying to please even when you know you never can? Does this soul deserve this power over you?
Or have you ever thought that you were that person? Have you seen someone trying to please you, and nothing that soul does reaches you? Do you try to explain it? Perhaps put it in writing?
Should I even say Happy Valentine’s Day at this point? ha.