A couple of months or so after I got back from my study abroad, a cute guy dropped me out of a tree. Obviously it wasn’t intentional, we were simply engaging in a rescue mission for a wayward dog toy, and unfortunately my inherent clumsiness plus his poor grip on my feet meant I was destined to bang my elbow into the trunk. Honestly, I was completely unfazed, and I was so far in “omg omg cute guy” mode that I didn’t even realize I was bleeding until my mom pointed it out about ten minutes later and promptly fixed me up (in true mom fashion). I didn’t think too much about my treeside rendezvous for a few weeks, because I was too distracted by work, classes, and finishing up the remainder of my summer in somewhat-less-stressed style. Plus, I was going through a long list of items to be processed, so there wasn’t too much room for new business… but hey, I could tell my friends in passing about that random cute guy who dropped me out of a tree that one time.

I have spoken before of something I call my “Prince Charming complex,” the part of my brain that enjoys things like dramatic confessions of love, grand romantic gestures, and larger-than-life fantasies. Part of it is probably the writer in me who just loves a good story every now and then, and part of it is the undeniable, old-fashioned romantic I am at heart… okay fine, part of it is also the vast number of romantic comedies under my belt. It used to feel as if I was constantly waiting for one of those emotionally validating grand moments that often did not come. Learning to let go of many of those grandiose fantasies has shown me that yes, those would have made great stories, but it’s an entirely different thing to be engrossed in a story than in a real, tangible moment.

So many of my “Prince Charming” fantasies began after pieces of my heart were already broken. That makes for a great climax, with rain-soaked confessions of how yes, I messed up but I’m here now telling you I figured it out and isn’t that just incredibly romantic and perfect? Somewhere down the road, I’ve started to think that maybe the big reconciliation isn’t always worth the pain that someone puts you through… and often, the moments that matter most are not dramatic motions to heal painful ones. I wondered when heartbreak seemed to become the necessary cause for romance in my daydreams, because something shouldn’t have to break before you see how someone cares for you. Instead of focusing on my next romantic endeavor, I decided it was time to focus on how to be satisfied with myself, sans-“Prince Charming” and (refreshingly) sans heartbreak. It’s funny how the times when you’re working through those weird existential crises are often the times when things fall into place.

About a month and a half ago, Tree Boy fell back into my life. Since then, we go on a weekly tea date. I refer to it as “Tea Day” in conversation (capitals included), and it’s something that I look forward to every week. Sometimes (okay, most of the time), Tea Day is what gets me through a rough week because I know I’ll have at least one day where I’m treated to a warm mug of my favorite blend with one of my favorite people. It’s something small, and is a habit that got formed because we enjoy spending time together… a moment that wasn’t instigated by a dramatic swell of music or emotional realization in the last twenty minutes of the movie. Tea Day is a moment each week where I can slow down and truly enjoy being with someone who doesn’t check his phone every five minutes and who is genuinely interested in me.

I am still an incurable romantic, and still smitten with the occasional dramatic confession and grand moment– hey, I fell out of a tree for a guy, and if that’s not grand and dramatic I don’t know what is! Once I stopped defining myself based on “Prince Charming” and his grandiose gestures, I have found many things that have changed about the way I look at the love and relationships in my life. I used to worry about keeping things in neat little boxes (“boyfriend,” “friend,” “flirtation,” etc.) and I used to measure my worth in a relationship based on those big moments and the labels on them. As I move down this (weird, twisted) path that is my love life, I realize that it’s not the rain-soaked moments or roses I pay attention to the most– those things are great, and I love flowers just as much as the next girl, but those aren’t always the best indication of the strength of my past relationships. In fact, many times those grand gestures only came into play at the end of things, when too many pieces had broken to be fixed by the perfect moment with the perfect soundtrack.

I stopped waiting for “Prince Charming” a while ago, and I’ve stopped worrying about fitting my relationships into neat little boxes so I know when I can change my Facebook status. For the first time, I feel comfortable where I am without having that to fall back on “Prince Charming” as a crutch… it’s a new, sometimes scary, always exciting place! I’ve learned that grand romantic gestures are kind of like glitter: most effective when used sporadically to enhance rather than comprise whatever you’re making. I am comfortable with who I am and what I bring to the table, and I don’t seek the validation I thought I needed from a “Prince” destined to save me. I do not now nor did I ever need to be saved because I’m not as lost as I once thought I was (and even if I was, I can read a map for myself, thank you very much).

Spending time with Tree Boy doesn’t make me obsess over the perfect clips of cinema magic I thought I wanted, because the imperfect moments of being there to carry each other through the tough days and dance together through the good are much more valuable to me. Right now, I’m not thinking too hard, I’m just enjoying my little weekly holiday that is Tea Day– a moment made grand because it’s with someone I kind of like and will definitely be keeping around. I don’t worry about whether or not he cares about me, because all of our every day moments speak for themselves. Wherever it goes, I highly doubt he’s destined for a rain-soaked emotional apology, but that’s fine by me because having your first meeting end in an elbow scar is pretty much cinematic genius at its finest.

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