That Moment I Realized I Cared That He Didn’t Really Care About Me

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After ending my high school relationship upon coming to college, I decided to pursue my next long-term relationship with my loving bed and Netflix. That didn’t last long, however. I hit rock bottom when I fell into the trap of the ridiculous friends with benefits cycle.

Disclaimer: If you enjoy hookups for fun with no attachments, go for it. But when it comes to me, I have no idea how anyone does it. I get attached to a phone case cover if I stare at it for too long on Amazon. So obviously this generational relationship trend doesn’t work for me. Too bad it took me too long to realize that.

It began as it always does: Boy meets girl, both ogle each other, they take eight years to say something and make millions of mistakes after the first point of contact. I thought adding a “friend” with benefits to my monotonous schedule would double as a fun way to let off some steam. Plus, I had that cocky belief that I was just so amazing I could change the relationship to something more serious if I wanted.

I realized almost too late that, at least in my experience, anyone in search of a hookup will not see anyone as anything more. Life doesn’t look anything like a romantic comedy. You won’t find any musical interludes or illogical slo-mo sprints to the airport in the rain. But for a secret romantic like me, I mistakenly assumed that any form of hookup or “non-relationship” actually equals the setup for something real.

After my first friend became a “friend,” I found it fun to shock my buddies with my out-of-character decision with a less-than-average guy who wanted nothing more than to add a new girl to his ongoing list. I enjoyed the sense of power I had over my faux relationships with the ability to carelessly do whatever I wanted with whomever I wanted. I chose the temporary attention from him over my own dignity. Even though he never actually cared to begin with, I worried he’d just stop caring. Funny enough, I didn’t even have feelings for these guys. I just cared about what the guys thought about me.

The cycle continued with each boy (yes, multiple). My self-esteem waned day by day. The few intimate moments I shared that felt like something real never amounted to anything. The talks of dates and secret aspirations turned into lost conversations forgotten once the new day began.

As much as my friends enjoyed my stories of the almost meaningful conversations I shared with the guy of the hour, I felt miserable. I overanalyzed the smallest exchange with the rare guy I made the mistake of falling for only to be disregarded at each advance I made to become closer.

The worst may be when one guy I cared for finally asked me out. I relentlessly pushed for it, only for him to add “but as friends right?” Let me tell you—holding back tears from the quick turn of pure excitement to sheer disappointment sucked.

I got so used to the half-attention I received that I didn’t know how to live without it. It felt like pure rejection each time I didn’t get a response, each time I didn’t get asked on a date or each time they neglected me when we were together. No longer could I call myself the “cool girl” that didn’t care about relationships. I became needy, insecure and dependent on attention I never received from guys who didn’t matter. This hookup culture wasn’t fun anymore. It was toxic.

After finally realizing the shell of the person I’d turned into, I finally figured out that I was above what I’d put myself through. Why torture myself in hopes that a random guy might find some potential in me? Why settle for someone who has their sights set on one-night stands and numbers to call late at night?

I don’t need to hide my romantic side. I deserve to be wooed. If I have to wait weeks, months or even years until I find someone I want to ask on a date, then I’ll do it gladly. I have my Netflix and bed until then. I’ve been alone for eons now. I’m not going to lie because I’m not a living, breathing advertisement for the single life. It feels lonely. But you know what felt even lonelier? The constant feeling of rejection from the strings of hookups that saw me just as that.

I value this newfound, healthy alone time. I use it to fuel my adventures to expand my fields of interest for future occupations. Now, I can focus on my wellbeing and myself. I’ve done so much more in the past few months than I ever thought possible. If I’m not studying, you can catch me at the movies, attempting to paint like a professional, creating my own recipes or searching for any writing or film opportunity possible. My pity party ended when I cast myself in my own montage of new experiences.

Our lives aren’t made to resemble the movies. We wouldn’t spend 10 bucks to watch them at the theater if they did. So while my generation’s revolt on romance is still up and running, I’ll proudly stand on the opposing side.

Rachel is a sophomore at the University of Florida. She is currently majoring in English with a passion for film. Her favorite pastime is laughing at her own jokes.

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