Why I refuse to compete for relationships (in terms of history and kale). Adapted from a journal entry in my early twenties. All names and some details have been changed for confidentiality purposes.
Billy Richards and I have an ability to hangout, for exorbitant periods of time together, isolated in the wilderness, and never get bored. Today, after spending hours splashing around the lake, conversing in mostly inside jokes, and chasing the sunset, we pull into Jamba Juice before the rest of our journey. Too tired to deliberate over the dozens of smoothie choices, we order immediately. The two of us have long since memorized each other’s preferences for basic chain restaurant menus, and we hold an unspoken money share when buying food, groceries, or event tickets. It’s not like the real dating couples, where one person says “oh please, allow me. I got it this time, you got it next time.” It’s more like the married couples that have become one wallet, so there’s really no point in even keeping tabs or bringing it up.
As we slurp our smoothies in a state of mutually satisfied sundrained exhaustion, I conclude that this is the ideal summer Saturday. But then comes an interruption. Far too insync with the buzz of his i-phone, my heart deflates when my eyes catch sight of the name Jane, supposedly “ex” lover, Jane Parker, on his screen, twice. Dang it. I thought she was well on her way out of his life for good. I thought she transferred to an Irish College, in a castle with no cellular service-– or maybe that was just my naive wishful thinking, and I do have trouble distinguishing between the two. But either way, they still keep in contact. Billy excuses himself to use the bathroom which leaves me with nothing but a berry banana smoothie in hand, and a wandering metaphorical head on my shoulders.
Jane Parker represents the funfetti cake of Billy’s life, and the two of us could not be any more opposite. Like a funfetti cake, she is fashionably decorated, sweet, wildly popular, and definitely the life of the party. But I am shy, and go to parties to talk about books, and goose guard the chips and hummus dip. Funfetti is fun, but the downside comes in the addictive sugar coma that follows even the most casually intentioned and cordial visit. Most people dabble in a funfetti relationship here or there in high school or college. But then they are supposed to outgrow them and switch to different or more classy desserts like sea salt almond dark chocolate truffles. Except Billy hesitates to move on or forgo the funfetti of his youth, and the result, is the yo-yo cake diet.
The soundtrack of Billy and Jane’s relationship rotates like clockwork through the three Katy Perry songs, Hot N Cold, Teenage Dream, and The One That Got Away. Meanwhile, I am the Dark Horse, and the soundtrack of our dynamic takes on more of a Carly Rae Jepsen jingle, of Call me?-maybe. Or, more commonly, it’s a lyrically similar situation to the Neon Tree’s song Animal: “here we go again, I kinda wanna be more than friends.” We enjoy each other’s company, and I’m consistently available enough, to slip through the cracks from time to time and make a very solid second place bid. At this point, I am confident that third place trails far behind.
But I admit, this whole love triangle concept makes me feel like I’m a piece of kale: the vegetable. Wholesome, down to earth, highly recommended by everyone’s parents, and also green with envy about Jane. Last week our mutual friend Brad confronted Billy to tell him that there comes a day in a man’s life where you must choose between kale and cake. Regardless of our lack of label, Billy’s my buddy. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and I am positive he would never do anything to hurt me on purpose. But worry still creeps in because the sugar coma of Funfetti-Jane could cloud his judgment, and I’m out of the loop. What is this? Some sort of kale by day and cake by night type of diet? I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound kosher.
The thing is, even if our next DTR resulted in a wholehearted “kale yeah!” I would respectfully decline. I don’t want to be a guy’s kale friend. Because kale, is like the trendy California darling vegetable that all the soccer moms, and Crossfit people choke down in a fake act of great joy. And sure, it has a nice quirky crunch, but I doubt everyone likes it as much as they say. And I’m skeptical it would actually improve the taste of my peanut butter, chocolate chia seed smoothie.
Besides, if I am kale, how would he introduce us as a real couple? I can only imagine.
“Hey guys, meet my new girlfriend, KALE. I’m making a political shift. I once voted libertarian, tea party with cake, but I’ve gone green party, for kale. I chose her for her earthy style, and witty undertones.”
Then people will ask, “do you ever want to have kids?” And he will say, “kids? I always thought Kale was a genetically modified plant, non-seed-bearing and incapable of reproducing offspring. But don’t ask me, such a thing has never once crossed my mind. I have other visions, of a funfetti future, with six cupcake children, just like kale’s family.”
Oh, isn’t that just charming. Well, at least I can feel morally righteous that I’ve probably never caused anyone to stumble.
So now what? My friends tune into the cake war channel to either cheer me on, or tell me to quit, and her friends probably do the same. I suppose it’s exciting that I’m even in the running as a kale, but why can’t I just be a salmon? Everyone thinks salmon is a great catch. With their silvery brilliant scales, the salmon jumps with joy and adventure through both the rapids and smooth waters of life. And after they’re caught, they are even more delightful. But unfortunately, like a salmon, I also swim upstream, in a cake war, against a cake boss, who has him wrapped around her finger.
This is our situation from my viewpoint:
Billy sits on the shore of a lake, plopped in a camping chair, fishing. Perched on his left, always in his peripheral vision, is a big plate of tempting funfetti cake. Straight in front of him, always around, flounders me the salmon, because somehow he’s got me hooked. I’m not totally irrational. He definitely, sort-of, likes me. Except this whole “⅗ of my heart compromise,” has really created a relational stalemate. Apparently he’s in angst about which one of us to pick, but he’s certainly in no rush to institute a cease-fire on the cake war–and I can’t blame him. I mean, what guy wouldn’t just love to kick back in a camping chair, and be the main character of his own mini version of “The Bachelor” TV show.
Sometimes it feels unfair. I work so hard in hopes that one day I can be impressive enough to win the cake war. But it’s a terribly unequal distribution of labor because Funfetti-Jane doesn’t have to say a word. She knows the fisherman has a dangerous sweet tooth. And she also knows, that if she plays her cards right, that the salmon could eventually tire and die floundering.
While I cringe to admit, it’s possible that even after all this time, I might still remain 100%“kale zoned.” That’s a bad place to be because no guy wants a pile of bitter green leaves for a wife. It makes sense, really. Cake brings about a sweet nostalgia of childhood memories, birthday parties, and old friends. But kale reminds people of their aging bodies, and of annoying parental reminders about eating vegetables. In terms of electricity, I like to consider myself an oft-unnoticed long lasting ember of eloquence and loyalty. On the other hand, Funfetti-Jane marches around all the male minds like the Disneyland electrical parade in all of her beauty and bubbly confidence. And I am very jealous.
Alas, I sigh. What am I supposed to do? Campaign for kale by reenacting the Boston Tea Party? “Dump funfet-ti into the sea, don’t you see the salmon in me.” No, that’s too aggressive. For a short time, I was tempted to write a killer persuasive essay on why to catch a salmon–because I probably could, but I decided against it. Ultimately, whether he votes for the cake and tea party, or goes green party kale, that’s his choice. And it’s not his responsibility to put a cease-fire to all this, either. This is tough, but I must prepare myself to bring it back the French revolution, and be the Marie Antoinette. If he truly wants to be with Funfetti-Jane, then by all means,
“Let him eat cake.”
Closing advice from 2016 hindsight: Ladies, after repeating the same mistakes a few times, I now take a firm stance on the subject of relational competition. Why bid for the silver, if you could be someone’s gold? You’re not a second place bunch of kale. So, I strongly suggest cutting the cake war of comparison and just keep swimming as salmon catch until the time comes.
Ending Side Notes:
- In the real life present day I do not vote green party, but I do enjoy a good kale salad, and salmon is my favorite food.
- I have long since respectfully parted ways with Billy and Jane, and I know not of their whereabouts. However, I am grateful for every good encounter, and I wish everyone well.