Was I born a masochist or did society make me this way?

Tag: love


I just wanted to know if you were happy, that’s all. If you could give me a sign, a hint, some faint promise that you are doing just fine, then maybe I’d be satisfied with your absence. Maybe I could believe that it’s for the best.

Look me in the eyes and tell me that you’re content, stop smiling like you’re being held hostage. I’d never seen such a gloomy wedding. You looked like you were stepping forward to your execution.

Tell me that she is everything you’ve dreamed of and more. That she evokes your heart’s deepest desires and heals the wounds you’d hidden for as long as you could remember. Wounds you never dared to show me. Promise me that you’ve never looked back, never regretted your cowardice, never for a moment doubted your sincerity, never mistook fear for passion, nor pain for connection.

Tell me that you’ve never missed me, not for one single moment. No song has ever reminded you of me. You’ve never heard a joke you wished you could share with the only girl so dead inside, she could never be offended.

Tell me if you’re still listening, just so I can hear your voice again. The echoes of fading memories don’t do it any justice. Tell me it was all in my head, you never loved me at all, not even for a minute.


We’re living through strange times. The bell curve of human intelligence or lack thereof has never stretched so far apart. It’s difficult if not outright impossible to discern the truth from the barrage of information we’re constantly bombarded with on every screen we glance past.

As a child, I had always assumed being an adult meant something. As if age magically bestowed you wisdom, or at least common sense. But it isn’t so. People do not miraculously become clever or more sensible after consuming nonsense for most of their lives.

I have always avoided reality TV like the plague, and on the rare occasions when I watched them, I felt bewildered by their popularity. The cheap theatrics filled me with an irrational passionate hatred. It felt like a betrayal, that in this short time we have on the planet, this limited journey, we were being studied religiously, then targeted with the most likely trash to elicit a click, an endless scroll. We were being robbed on a daily basis, of seconds, minutes, precious hours wasted by clever algorithms, designed to keep us complacent, bored yet satiated, just tired enough to never strive for more. Let the homeless carry iPhones. They will own nothing and be happy about it.

Isn’t it strange, that we’ve never had more and felt worse about it? For all that the younger generations complain of wealth inequality, unaffordable housing, and the con that is higher education; we have never had so much material comfort, access to information, opportunities to be more than the circumstances we’re born into.

But we squander it every fucking day. I watch my youth slip away as I inflict irreparable damage to my spine because I’ve not yet aged enough to regret my poor posture. We share the same cliche quotes with pastel backgrounds and pretend it’s as good as therapy. We experiment with different pills till we find the right one that numbs our pain with the least repercussions. We nip our problems at the bud so we never have to examine the roots too closely.

We’re the first generation in a long time that’s had it worse than our parents, and we’re angry but not quite sure at who. At our parents for doing their best? At ourselves for believing lies about dreams being achievable? At the teachers tasked with pretending we weren’t mediocre? Who needs a mid life crisis when you can experience anxiety on a daily basis? It’s not a drug addiction if a pharmacist labels the bottle.

What if their best was not even remotely close to good enough? Can you ever really break the cycle? Home used to be a place I would hide. A roof over my head, enough distance between me and her temper. Never quite enough distance.

I was never given permission to make a home my own, and even now, sitting in the house I own, it feels lacking. I never quite know how to answer when the designer asks what I want, because for so long “wanting” was a crime. The audacity of a child to want more, when the parents had so little. A crime beyond repent.

There was a time when my mother was so miserable that the very act of expressing happiness in her vicinity was a recipe for disaster. I find myself experiencing the same irrational rage at mild inconveniences and it feels like a cruel cosmic joke, to become what you loathe the most. The irony that I’m now the favourite child. The successful yet obviously not successful enough lawyer she can humble brag to her friends, whilst making quips about how she never had high expectations of me.

All that I am was despite her good intentions. Yet she wears my achievements like glorious validation.


Maybe it was a mistake that you made love feel too good once upon a time. Nothing ever compared or came moderately close to that feeling of being the one and only, that complete blinding faith of yours which never wavered. Where did that come from? How did we lose it so quickly?

What would have happened if I had let it run its course? Would you have eventually realised that I wasn’t quite as perfect as you had pretended? Would we be having the same miserable fights, petty squabbles over the mundane and never ending tasks of functional adulthood? Functional only in the most ironic sense.

Would you take the usual path? Would I start to lose more arguments because winning becomes more important to you than my happiness after all? The same stubbornness you once found endearing begins to wear on your patience. You wonder if I had always been so unreasonable. Who really changed? Was it ever love if we could only tolerate the most agreeable version of each other?

What’s it like to be called dramatic when your tears have finally dried? What’s it like to love someone who prefers you make appointments for any and all grievances? Who is less concerned about the actual grievance than the potential inconvenience of it to his schedule. “Don’t wake me unless it’s actually important.” What’s it like to not be actually important?

How long can you chip away at superficial love until it’s only a sum of all your friends’ memories of who you used to be? You don’t look your age yet but you will and you wonder if that’s when he’ll find the courage to leave. Nothing makes a man quite as brave as a younger woman’s admiration.

What are we now other than a sum of all our disappointments? The totality of our faults, real or imagined, leaving marks wherever we go, determined to be remembered badly for fear of not being remembered at all. I almost forgot your name the other day, it took some searching to recall. What a terrible feeling of freedom, to forget we ever loved at all.


It dawns on me that you would no longer be the boy whom I remember. In the end I’m mourning a soul who no longer exists, perhaps never existed at all. There are days that I forget your name, the sound of your voice. I no longer remember the way you kissed, I suppose it was tender. I don’t remember the way that you smell, but I remember I liked it. I don’t remember the way you fucked, but we left marks to celebrate.

All I really remember is the pain. A pain all consuming that it blurred my sense of reality, a pain so deep that death appeared less frightening. All logic dictated that my heart was still a functional organ, diligently beating, cycling blood through my body. You shouldn’t be able to feel a heart, yet I felt it. A searing, red hot sting, I felt it tear into pieces with every word, crushed by the weight of your apologies.

Sometimes I miss the pain, not in a masochistic way, although perhaps a little. But truthfully I miss the way you broke my heart so completely. One must love completely in order to be broken. But we grow and we learn and we never open up quite so sincerely again. We put up walls or at least some respectable fences. We leave one foot out the door, for safety.

I don’t miss being young but I miss the innocence of our youth. I miss saying I love you without caveats. The days of saying words like forever and meaning it, the way only foolish children could do. The days of never worrying about the future, as it was simply too far out of reach. When the greatest crime was the assault of a stranger’s perfume lingering on your shirt, not a lipstick stain.

I suppose, in a way, you still complete me. I may have been a different person had you not kissed me. Would I have been happier? My heart lighter? My soul unobstructed by the weight of your transgressions? Who would you be? Who would you have broken instead of me? Would she have recovered more elegantly?

Would she still wear her heart on her sleeve?


I still underestimate how much people mean to me, even after all this time. You’d think I’d be prepared by now, I should know how to cut my losses, stop hurting myself over people who never think of me at all. Wouldn’t that be the saddest thing, if you never thought about me at all.

Maybe that’s why I pretend we meant more to each other than we really did. It’s been four years since we spoke. Long enough for memory to become unreliable, and I was never a reliable witness. Maybe that’s why I pretend you never loved her. It’s easier to tell others you’re in a loveless marriage than to believe you might be happy in a life without me. The truth is, I know better than anyone that a man as calculating as you would never fail a question as big as marriage. You were always far too clever to sign yourself up to a life of defeat.

Or perhaps the truth is far more wretched. That you carefully considered the possibility of me, the wasted potential of me. You wrote a pro and con list, you reviewed my deficiencies and concluded that I was a disaster waiting to happen. You’d rather be bored than to suffer at my unpredictable hands. I never learned how to put you at ease. I excited you, I terrified you, but I was still only a stranger in your bed, never noticing you could only fall asleep alone.

Now you kiss her good night before retreating to separate rooms. You say “good morning darling” with the same ease as I pour my first coffee. You both promised the counsellor you’d remember to say “I love you” with more empathy, whatever the hell that means. You close your eyes and still you think of me. Your gin soaked breath tracing the curvature of my spine, your hands gliding along my shoulders, your lips on my skin, remembering every groove, every imperfection. Every scar, every near miss. The smell of my hair, the taste of my lips, the bitterness of unspoken goodbyes. Still you miss the shadow of me, yet you never grieve.


There are days when it is easier to miss you. Then there are days when my whole body aches for you. Days when tears stream silently as I sleep and dream of you. There are times when I wonder if I actually miss you at all, or simply a memory of you – my own distorted recollections of a man far more impressive than the truth could ever live up to. The kind of man who wouldn’t have abandoned me out of fear, the kind who had conviction and loyalty. That man would have stayed and loved me as a friend, as I have stayed faithful to embellished memories and searched for bearable imitations, chasing feeble flames to feed the flickering wicker you left behind.

There was a time when my smile could brighten up a room for you, when your gaze would always be the first to find me, claim me as your own. There were days when your smallest gestures were enough to hide the shame, mask the pain, make existence tolerable again. Those were the foolish days when we both practised smiles, feigned passion, and mistook our pride for intimacy. Those were the brief moments of honesty, when you weren’t afraid to admit that you were choosing her out of guilt rather than love. But if the guilt is powerful enough, who needs love anyway?

I scrutinised all your wedding photos, searching for a semblance of happiness, the vaguest promise of contentment you sorely deserved, but all I found was a mask on the brink of collapse. Your strained smile, her clasped hands, choking on meaningless vows, promising to love someone forever when you couldn’t love her a moment. Man of her dreams. You couldn’t bear to crush her fantasy, disappoint so many. You at least have the decency to pretend.

Because who are we without our masks? The cloak of civility masquerading as decency, the voice you put on for polite company, the jokes you tell with variations, distinctly catered to different guests. The way you move your body, the urgency of your kiss, the bruises you leave, the people you hurt with names you no longer remember. Do you still remember me?


Were you happier before or after you had children? Does correlation imply causation? Are you really happy or do you just think you should be? Am I really happy or just afraid of seeming ungrateful? Do you complete me or will I never know what that feels like?

He’s never had to fight to be heard so he always assumes he should be. If he can’t win the argument he’ll simply deem it is over. He acts like walking away is the rational adult thing to do, and when he’s ready to make amends, I’ve been quietly seething in resentment and chosen my hill to die on.

I didn’t know it was possible to have this many fights about nothing. I’m so tired of existing in this perpetual state of purgatory. Some days it’s not just failing to be on the same page, some days I’m not sure we’re even reading the same book. Some days I want to erase him from my story altogether and start over. Try again. If only it were as simple as hitting refresh.

When I get complacent I start to look for creative ways to self destruct. Happiness is the enemy, then you have something to lose. I’d forgotten how to love without one foot always out the door. Always watching, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When do you intend to fall out of love with me? I’d like a memo please, add an alert to my calendar. Maybe we could have a zoom meeting about it? Schedule the break up like one of your conference calls. Be efficient about it, leave a five star review.

It feels like we’re stuck in a warped simulation set to boring dystopia mode. Some alien child created us for a social studies assignment and forgot about us after handing in his report. Or maybe Earth is the universe’s version of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. We’re the trashiest reality show in the galaxy and aliens have been laughing at us for eons.

Most days it all feels futile. Chasing a lost dream that only ends in heartache. It’s never a question of if your heart will break, merely when. Does he leave you with a splatter of youth left, a chance to recoup your losses? Or do you grow old together until one of you gets to plan the other’s funeral? Write your vows and obituary at the same time, be efficient about it.

He says he loves me but I don’t believe him. The more he repeats it the more I convince myself it’s a conspiracy. Mostly it doesn’t feel like we’re together because we love each other. Most days we’re together because it’s better than being alone. Mostly he says what he must to tick the boxes. Most days I let him think I believe it too.


Do you have anyone you miss?

Someone you think about often, when you know you shouldn’t at all. You chastise yourself for wasting time when you don’t ever have enough to begin with, yet the mind still wanders when you let your guard down.

I miss him on Sunday mornings, waking up next to the man of my dreams, in a house full of peace except when I stir it. Still I find myself wondering, where are you, what you’re doing, did you ever learn to be happy? Does she make you feel loved the way you craved, did you ever feel the passion you longed for? I worried when you said you never felt it. You deserved to know what that felt like.

We’re told over and over what it takes to fall in love. What flowers to buy, what chocolates on what holidays. No one warns you how little it takes to fall out of love. How many petty squabbles, how many minor grievances can mould themselves into relentless disappointment. How the smile that used to brighten your day can turn so quickly into a smirk, how swiftly infatuation dissipates to leave only heartache. You can never really turn the page if you’ve stained through the next.

Misery doesn’t knock on your door one morning bright and early to announce itself. It creeps up on you slowly like a parasite, digging itself deep into crevices while you attempt to ignore the warning signs. By the time you notice, you’ve already lost your composure, your compassion, and though he witnessed it all, he’ll claim he has no idea what happened. How did you turn into this monster? What did he do to deserve it? When did you start to bring out the worst in each other? Like an itch you know you shouldn’t scratch but just can’t help it. We start to enjoy making each other bleed. We revel in the precision of our inflictions.


In the end all that matters is that you chose me once. That you smiled at me across the room and invited me into your life when you were still a recluse. That we enjoyed every moment in each other’s company and you kissed me like a lover who felt like a friend.

That you saw my pain and believed it because you felt it too. We didn’t wallow together but I felt understood.

In the end what matters is this: kindness and faith. Waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and seeing it shine brighter than you ever imagined possible. That gnawing sense of regret in the pit of my stomach because you’re not here to see it, I so wished you were here to say you’re proud of me.

In the end it doesn’t matter that you chose her.


In a lot of ways the past few years have felt like a blur. A mostly happy blur, or at least limited to a level of sadness that I could handle without falling apart. I don’t know whether to attribute that to age or wisdom, or perhaps an uninvited combination of both.

It might be a testament to my own narcissism that I seemed more distraught over losing my university boyfriends than I was about losing my grandmother, or hearing about the death of our family dog. It felt like a different sort of sadness, a dull ache, not a shattering. Or perhaps the defining difference was that I had the chance to say goodbye this time, with a full heart.

I was too young to be concerned about her mutterings when she lived at home with us, but thinking back, it pains me to remember how deeply unhappy she was. She would constantly tell me how she wished she was dead, and was annoyed with her body for not obeying. Even being surrounded by her children and grandchildren couldn’t ground her enough to make up for the loss of her husband. She was from a different era, and the idea of seeking new happiness never even crossed her mind. As far as she was concerned, her life was over when he so selfishly passed away so soon, and she was merely waiting to follow.

As the dementia set in, we became a blur too. But there were a few moments of clarity towards the end, or maybe just my wishful thinking convincing myself that she was happy to see me.

I remember feeling an uncharitable degree of anger towards members of my extended family for being true to themselves. Aunts who refused to let her live with her sons despite it being custom. People who balked at the idea of spending money on someone with one foot in the grave, now trying to alleviate that guilt by contributing to an expensive coffin. Their giant crocodile tears and banshee screeches at the funeral almost making me laugh out loud. Her favourite son who decided he didn’t need to be there in her final moments, but rather stayed in China to guarantee his inheritance and avoid inviting squabbles. A cousin who cited young children being difficult to travel with, and a demanding work schedule as reasons for his absence. I’ll concede that funerals don’t have quite the same appeal as an island getaway.

I know that I am being unfair, yet felt that anger magnify whilst scrolling past cleverly worded social media tributes to a woman who could barely turn on the television without assistance and had never owned a mobile phone. It filled my mouth with a bitter taste I was unaccustomed to. I was never close to them but had always felt a fitting level of camaraderie, which vanished as quickly as their feigned trauma. I grew up being told that family was more important than anything, and blood was thicker than water. It took years to unlearn those little white lies, and let go of the associated disappointments.

I might not ever become one of those people who wake up in the mornings feeling a sense of purpose, but I no longer wake up with dread. It’s taken years to drag myself away from depressive and suicidal thoughts but they no longer take up the majority of my day. Most days they’re not even an afterthought. I still feel anxious and I worry too much despite knowing better, but I’m comfortably optimistic about the future. I want to build a family, the one I’d always wanted, filled with joy and laughter, and bursting with love. For the first time ever, that doesn’t seem impossible.


The temptations of unfamiliar flesh. When an attractive stranger desires you, lusts for you, dreams of you, whispers your name with an urgency you don’t recognise. Those little moments feel better than the orgasm itself, and the orgasms aren’t bad at all. The way he pulls your hair, hard, but restrained as he’s trying to learn your limits. The way he bites your neck, digs his fingers into your back, and explores your body with his tongue. The adrenaline rush that came with being exposed, vulnerable. The excitement of tasting someone new.

As unfulfilling as they would be in the morning, I adored those small moments of simple, animalistic pleasures. A few moments to forget who we are, why we’re here, where we’re headed. Just you and me, strangers, lovers, friends, all, and nothing.


After all this time, you were the one who taught me what love ought to look like.

I’d never taken the time to observe the wonders of nature, the beauty of a well kept garden. It had seemed frivolous, wasteful, time that could be spent more constructively. I was taught as a child to remove myself from unnecessary distractions. I didn’t forget how to have fun. I never learned how to.

Love came in many forms and disguises, but yours was the sweetest. You whispered empty promises until I believed them, and I am still falling for your bad intentions.

There was a small part of me, naive and blindly optimistic, that was sure I could mean something to you even after I was gone. That you might think of me as the girl who loved you unconditionally, until she had to leave to recover all that she had lost in loving you.

I never wanted your gratitude, or gentle thoughts, or even nostalgia. But if I held on tight to my memories of you whilst you let go, how much of it remains real? Was it only ever lust imitating passion? Perhaps I’d unwittingly fantasised my own importance, my recollections of how fiercely we fought for our temporary infatuations being a mere extension of my narcissism.

There was a time when you meant the world to me, but I was only ever a small star in your galaxy. She will make you forget my name. She will make sure of it.

I will whisper my silent goodbyes. I will love you to my grave.


I’ve never truly felt like I belonged. People had friends, they had groups, they had their chosen families. I never felt close to my own family and I didn’t know how to be close to others in that way. I was too awkward, too riddled with anxiety. I worried about saying the wrong thing. I worried about the sound of my voice. A mistaken tone. Accidentally offending someone. It would be easier if I never had to talk. Why was it no longer appropriate to remain silent. Why are we obligated to fill in the blanks, always.

I was so tired of the asinine small talk. The needless banter with strangers we wouldn’t spend a moment with if there wasn’t some sort of banal transaction binding us together. The annoying wastes of space you had to speak to on the phone, making your job more difficult by merely breathing. If murder had no legal consequences, more of us would grab a bone-saw. We have violence in our blood, some lose the battle to contain it. Who are we to judge, really? What about the darkest most depraved thoughts you’ve ever had. You’re no better. You could be worse.

I miss you. Losing you makes me wonder if I lost something within myself. The part of me that was worth loving, because you loved me once. You made me believe there were people out there who could see the truth behind the whispers. Now you whisper about me too. I become an anecdote. The wild girl who offered unlimited stories. Who put her life on display for your amusement. She would have died for you. You’d let her.

I hate you. For giving me hope before you snatched it. The illusion of salvation, my bitter dissolution. Watching me shatter for your bragging rights. But you were a victim of your own imagination. You saw something in me that never existed. You tell her I was a mistake and she believes you. I never needed any convincing.




Despite our bitter dissolution, I can’t deny that he once saved me from myself, and I will always remain grateful for that brief respite of unexpected kindness.

We met under peculiar circumstances. I was lost, certain only of the fact that I must be damaged goods, and desperately searching for anything to prove otherwise. He saw me drowning and reached out a hand, for no other reason than he had been walking by. He had kindness in him once, on that day, and the days that followed, perhaps I simply used it all up.

It was only intended to be temporary, and neither of us knew what to do when we grew accustomed to waking up together in the mornings. I suppose he bit off more than he could chew, and I was still greedily clinging to him for breath. He was always a realist. I should have known then that he would cut me loose if it meant saving himself.


It was both gradual and all at once. One day we woke up and smiled at each other and that was the beginning of the end.

We were smitten, obnoxiously attached like codependent Siamese twins. It was overbearing and mildly irritating even to friends, but we were too enamoured to care. I believed him when he said “I love you”, despite all evidence to the contrary. I had been so deprived of affection that those words were enough at the time. I let my imagination fill in the gaps. I was too infatuated to see past his carefully calculated responses. He did the bare minimum to maintain us and I was all too eager to pick up the slack. 


My depression wasn’t the only battle, but it was enough to cripple our already fragile foundations. He convinced me to stop taking the pills and felt his own acute despair when his presence proved to not be enough.

It was the lack of purpose, the grind and pressures of university, the constant procrastination and guilt, my repugnant inability to change. There was so little hope,  and he remained the only constant. That must have been unbearable, but he never complained.

The more I believed love could save me, the more he wanted to run. He would never have admitted to it. He never wanted to be unkind.


I can understand it now, in hindsight, how appealing she must have been. All gentle smiles and grace, an undisturbed childhood and a mother who could compliment without degradation.

I was barely enlightened enough to be in denial, only irredeemably naive.

The more I craved for him to choose me, the more repulsive my desperation appeared. It’s bitingly sardonic that the only thing that might have saved us would have been walking away, but I wasn’t strong enough then.

It wasn’t a lesson I ever wanted to learn. If you’re lucky, a blessed childhood can heal all life’s trauma. If you’re unfortunate, you’ll spend your life chasing the ghosts of your past.






Watch me destroy my own happiness. I can tear down the foundations on a rainy day and leave you out to dry. Wipe her lipstick stain off your cheek, kiss the crimson away till my lips are bloody. You and your pride, both of us struggling for air as our egos compete to drown the other. My stubbornness, my inability to let anything go, did you really find that endearing once upon a time?

How could you ever have loved me? Flaws and warts and all. Every imperfection is sharpened like razor but we both got so good at pretending. I could almost have believed you were the one. You could almost have been my salvation. We might have been able to save each other if you meant all the lies you were saying. I would have given everything for them to be true.

I told you all I had was a bunch of sad stories, and I had learned to hide the bitterness with a sickly sweet smile that reached my eyes. He taught me how to smile with my heart broken wide open. You never cared enough to notice the cracks. My darling, sticks and stones may break my bones, but love will never hurt me.