Isn’t love wild?
To me, the absolute wildest of all is our first love because you finally get to see what everyone’s been talking about. You can actually relate to some of those Smiths songs you’ve been listening to! Every romcom I watched and every love song I listened to until I was 18 built up expectations in my mind for how it would be with “the one” and, boy, did mine deliver.
Of course I’d had “boyfriends” (as much as you can call the guy who gets dropped off by his parents at the move theater five minutes before your parents drop you off there so you aren’t seen together) prior to The First Love (TFL), but this was the real deal. We met online in a music forum where we chatted with other teenagers about the bands we were made fun of for liking by people at our respective schools. Good times.
TFL and I clicked so well while chatting there that we progressed our friendship to phone calls and texting! This was back in 2004 when you’d have to press a key on your Nokia cellphone three times to get the letter “R” to pop up, so you KNOW I was into this guy with how much time it took to even type out a basic yet tastefully flirty message.
After declaring ourselves ~official~ we dated long distance for a whole year—him in North Carolina, me in Wisconsin—before he transferred colleges so we could give our relationship a real shot. How cool and amazing and great is it to be head over heels in love with your absolute best friend ever? TFL was so funny, handsome, sweet, charming, smart, goofy. From what I remember (through my rose-tinted glasses), we had an absolute blast just being in each other’s orbit. Young love is dope with literally zero responsibilities to inhibit its growth.
And we lived happily ever after!
OK, not really, because life happened after four years of being young and dumb in love. I moved out of state for my first adult job while he stayed in Wisconsin to finish school, I worked a lot and at weird hours, I became anxious by questioning the idea of having only one (!) boyfriend my entire life. I wanted to experience more. I broke up with him over the phone.
So our relationship was over but, oh yeah, did I mention I talked him into getting a matching tattoo with me after he moved to Wisconsin?
Two puzzle pieces on the top of my right foot, two complementary pieces on his rib cage inspired by the Bright Eyes lyric, “The last few months I’ve been living with this couple, yeah you know the kind who buys everything in double. They fit together like a puzzle.”
At age 18, I must have truly thought the epitome of everlasting love was shown by choosing TWO OF THE MOST PAINFUL PLACES ON THE HUMAN BODY to have stabbed repeatedly with a needle. Or maybe it was my terrifying teenage insecurity that propelled the idea. Yeah, probably that.
For 14 years I had two puzzle pieces in different shades of green outlined in black on my right foot – but no more!
The tattoo wasn’t particularly offensive to me. I didn’t ever glance down at it and think, “Damn! TFL! What was I thinking!?” Because, uh, I knew what I was thinking: I love this guy, tattoos are cool, we’re of age, let’s do it! However, I was now re-evaluating the space on my body and my relationship with it.
At age 30 I said, “Fuck it” and got a large crane tattooed on the back of my arm, the same arm I’d hated (along with the other one) for a very long time because it was fat, flabby, jiggly, annoying. Up till then I had told myself if I lost a proper amount of weight, I could get a tattoo as a reward on a part of my body that I deemed good enough to have it displayed. Instead, I got the crane to mark the new, loving relationship I built with my body.
I’m all good with my first tattoo – a Cursive lyric on the top of my left foot – but the puzzle pieces? I could do without. I decided on some type of plant or other greenery to fill the space and sent off the idea to Katie at Jackalope, who had tattooed my crane.
She came up with a beautiful assortment of succulents that was such a pain in the absolute ass to get tattooed. I sat three separate times throughout the summer to finish it up and every last one of them sucked and was miserable! But it turned out just as beautiful as her drawing.
I went into the tattoo coverup believing I was going to be very thoughtful throughout the process by reminiscing on the time I was with TFL, the years following when I bumbled through some awful relationships and thought I made a huge mistake letting him go – how great, real closure and peace of mind! But no, all I could think about was every needle jab, poke, line. At least my boyfriend, Jason, was there holding my hand, telling me I’m a champ the whole time.
I am very thankful for TFL – for the experience of that dumb young love that makes your eyes wider and heart bigger. It was the love I compared all my following loves to, none ever quite measuring up because, I think, of how PURE that time our lives was. That’s just not reality as an adult.
Jason and I are 32. We have a dog, a mortgage, a basement that likes to flood sometimes but not every time it rains, jobs, families, friends, obligations and responsibilities!!!
I love him in a completely different but deep way. It’s a love that is shown reciprocally through acts, words, gifts, long-term commitment and (hopefully) someday: rings. No tattoos necessary.