I have been quite successful at crafting a persona that envelops a lot of strength, a healthy dose of sass, an earnest attempt at humor, and a flood of sarcasm. This, quite honestly, is reasonably spot on to what you get when meeting me in person as well as in print. I have a tendency to be quite blunt and my demeanor has a bite to it, no matter how big I smile.
Most days, I find comfort in resting on my bratty disposition because, luckily, the work I produce at least shows that I am not a complete asshole. Working in the realm of HIV and HIV stigma, it has helped to have somewhat of a thorny exterior. But, in the spirit of National Coming Out Day, I figured it's time to step out of the closet and admit to who I really am.
I am a hopeless romantic.
I’ll pause while you recover from gagging. It’s true. Don’t let the salty exterior and the I’ll-do-it-by-myself attitude fool you, I have been dreaming about my Prince Charming since I was a child. At first, my future husband resembled Patrick Swayze in the role of Johnny in Dirty Dancing. Over the years, he morphed into different variations resembling an amalgamation of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the Red Power Ranger, Jake Gyllenhaal, my soccer coach, and Keanu Reeves. (Say what you want. He is my Prince Charming, not yours.) But he has always been there, the ideal man: One day I would make pancakes for him, we would waste entire Sundays watching The West Wing in our pajamas, and he would hold my hand during the most inappropriate times.
As my dream man started to transition into reality, my late teens and early 20s were filled with sweeping romantic gestures, ideas of romantic grandeur, and moments of seemingly epic tragedy. Sure, there was heartbreak, but it was always worth the risk. No matter how heartsick I was over the loss of someone I loved, I knew it just meant I had yet to find “him.”
At the age of 25, I had experienced two major breakups and a series of minor slipups. Even though my romantic vein may have been a little weary, I was still barreling through life with my heart on my sleeve. Then I met him. But it was definitely not the “him” I had envisioned.
It was 2009 and I had just moved back to Texas after finishing graduate school, and I was a little lost. Not knowing what exactly I wanted to do and severely limited by the job market, I began to look outside my bubble of options for something a little more risky. In the meantime, I met him. He was a little older, very handsome, and the exact opposite of me. I was a big thinker, a little scatterbrained, and a free spirit. He was organized, calm, collected, and levelheaded (or so I thought). It happened fast, like all great love tragedies do. Before I knew it, I was consumed with love for him, and the feeling was mutual. During our torrid whirlwind of what I thought was love, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a job teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. Surprisingly, it took almost no cajoling to convince him to follow.
Long story short, the love affair was anything but love once the culture shock set in. Combine a free spirit with a control freak in the confines of 150 square feet and someone is going to get hurt. The man who once looked at me like I lit up the world was now yelling at me for taking my socks off the wrong way and picking apart my relationship with my mother. So here I was, on this year-long trip that was supposed to be the most romantic adventure of my life. Turns out it was a horror movie, not a romantic comedy that I was signed up for. But I wanted an adventure, no doubt. Be careful what you ask for.
I left South Korea to find solace away from the robot that resembled my boyfriend. Once I left, he seemed to return to who he once was and told me that he would be following me to make it right. I was petrified. I barely resembled the man I was when I left for South Korea. Without the mirrors of your friends and family to show you that you are worth more, it's hard to hold on to what you think you deserve. And I was still in love. So I braced myself for impact. No matter, though. Two weeks before he was supposed to arrive, I received a text message. He had decided to move somewhere else instead. I have never heard from him since.
What I have learned in my dating debacles is this: Never date a man who is capable of switching his emotions on and off like a desk lamp. No matter how deep you think his feelings for you are, you will never win in the game of who breaks first. I broke. I was broken. And it took years to put the pieces back together again.
Humor and sarcasm has always been my drug of choice. It was easy to mask my heartache with a biting remark, a cackling retort, and a general dismissal of anything-mushy-lovey-dovey. I prided myself on being strong and unaffected by the sweet sentiments that plagued the more naive. For a while, this was my therapy. After a year or two, it became my defense. Now it has turned into facade.
Even though I let go of the pain that was South Korea, it has been difficult pushing past my don’t-fuck-with-me exterior and get back to the squishy mushball that I know is still there. Prince Charming exists, and even though my Asian adventure almost wrecked me forever, I would do it all over again if it meant that I was that much closer to finding the man of my dreams.
Although I might have to hobble for a little while until the sugary-sweet side of me is apparent on the outside, it’s time that I come out and let the world know who I really am. Heartbreak be damned. I am a hopeless romantic.
Here’s to my future prince, wherever he may be.
TYLER CURRY created the Needle Prick Project as an editorial and visual campaign to elicit a candid and open conversation on what it means to be HIV-positive today. To learn more about the Needle Prick Project, visit www.facebook.com/getpricked or follow Tyler Curry on Twitter at @iamtylercurry.