As a little girl, I hated bath-time, but not because of the bath itself.
Being in the water was entirely enjoyable: shampoo mohawks, soapsud beards, slipping beneath the surface to hear the echoing boom of my own heartbeat.
My time in the tub was happy, but I always feared the moment when I’d have to get out. There was something about stepping from the womb-like warmth into the cold air that felt so lonely, so vulnerable.
Unfortunately, as an adult, my last romantic relationship started to feel this way—like a tub it was high-time to get out of.
Trouble was, on paper everything between us was fine. When I’d enter his apartment, he’d hug me hello and ask if I needed anything. He’d always ask how my day was, offer to rub my back if I was feeling down. He was nice and handsome and a marvel in bed. He was fine. We were fine. Just…fine.
But something was missing.
I didn’t have a word for it, couldn’t put my finger on it. But that thing that wakes you in the morning with a smile because you saw him in your dream, and terrifies you at the thought of living in this world without him? Yeah. That thing—that feeling in love thing—just wasn’t there.
As I tried to decide what to do, stay or go, two voices battled inside of me: that of the frightened little girl and that of the empowered woman I was aching to become.
The little girl liked my boyfriend. He was like a safety blanket. Warm and cozy, and comforting to curl up next to on the couch at the end of a long day. For weeks, every time I thought about leaving, she would scream, “But it’s nice in here! And so cold out there! Please-please-please don’t go.”
So for a while, I stayed with him.
When we’d go out into the world, to museums or department stores, wander separately through the rooms and then inevitably turn to catch the other’s eye, I explained away the fact that he looked at me the way I’d look at a complete stranger. No glimmer of intimate knowing, no spark of a smile. It was fine, I told myself. Being impersonal in public was just his style.
When we’d go out to dinner and our meals were served with a cold side of silence because we’d run out of things to say to one another, I explained it away. Told myself it was okay, I could go without lively conversation. Sure I could.
When we’d lie in bed and I’d feel brave enough to crack jokes from that place of quirky inner weirdness, and not only would he not laugh, but his face would twist into a frown of confusion, I explained it away. Told myself we just had entirely different senses of humor. That was fine. We didn’t need to make each other laugh.
But it wasn’t fine.
Our relationship was like a lukewarm bathtub.
Sure, it wasn’t cold. It hadn’t turned my lips blue or caused my teeth to chatter. It would have been easier to accept that I had to get out if it had felt unhealthy or abusive in some way. But no, it was just warm enough to make me think the stagnant water was preferable to the goosebump-raising air of the single life.
There is no “right time” to get out of a tub like that. But the woman in me kept gently insisting I deserved more. I deserved a relationship that was hot and steamy, that burned with candlelight and was scented with rose petals. And my boyfriend at the time deserved the same.
Eventually, I decided to believe her. To trust myself. And so, one quiet Monday evening, I got out.
There was no romance waiting for me. The air was indeed cold and a bit jarring at first. But the woman I’d chosen to become was there to extend a helping hand and hold up a towel.
I wrapped myself in the warmth of myself. And it was fine.
Fine—not in the “convenient lie” sense of the word, but fine like aged red wine. Full-bodied, delicious, and entirely intoxicating.
Author: Lexi Tess
Image: develon acker/ Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren