I used to joke with friends about how I’d prefer a boyfriend who lives far away: the less hassle and more independence I can retain in a relationship, the better. I was imagining a boyfriend who lived maybe a town or two away, ensuring we could see each other for a cuddle and what-have-you on weekends, but I could still keep the majority of my weeknights for early nights with a book or watching The Real Housewives...oh, um, I meant high-brow documentaries. Ahem.
However, it turns out Cupid was listening and took my long-distance relationship idea a little too literally, as he pointed that bow slightly too far to the west of Northern Ireland. About 4,500 miles too far.
I am currently madly, helplessly and very-much-probably stupidly in love with a man who lives in Ohio, America.
Thankfully, Cupid has a good aim along with his wicked sense of humor, and said man is very much in love with me, too. So we’re both as impractical and heart-led as each other. At least we have that going for us!
Falling in love with someone who lives so painfully far away was never part of the plan, and when I say painfully I mean it: it’s painful on our bank accounts, painful on my body (10 hours on planes are not fun for the long-legged, never mind for the long-legged with fibromyalgia and scoliosis), and the emotional pain of leaving him and missing him is physically palpable at times.
This part of my story should come with a cliché warning; I’ll get it over with quickly like ripping a plaster of platitudes covering the sappiest cut of all time.
I wasn’t looking for love.
I can hear you groaning, but I promise I really, really wasn’t. I’d experienced a barrage of dreadful dates, including a second date that turned out to be an attempt at a surprise threesome (note: it’s never a good idea to throw an extra girl into the mix at 3 a.m. with no prior warning,) a guy who brought his own lime for no reason at all (I appreciate a bit of Boy Scout-ness about a man, but there’s a “WTF” line and it was crossed), and the catfish that actually showed up and expected the date to proceed as normal, without explanation nor the slightest reference to him being a completely different person. Although they make for amusing anecdotes, I was tired and, in the end, I was frankly bored of the process. I had made my peace with my single status and was bobbing along solo quite happily.
*Brace yourself again; artery-clogging levels of cheesiness incoming*
Then there was him. We had met a while ago, completely randomly (I’d say it was serendipitously but I don’t want to make you vomit) through our love of music. He’s a musician and I work in events.
We were friends. We chatted about our lives, our cultures, our opinions on the world.
But very quickly, I realized there was nothing more interesting to me than hearing about his life, his culture, his opinion of the world. Very quickly I realized I was falling in love.
Sporadic text messaging through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger soon moved to frequent voice messaging, which developed into voice calls and, in turn, daily, lengthy video calls. By the time he was my first and last messages every day, we were each other’s first and last thought every day, and we both knew we were in love, without really having much say in the matter.
Once more: Shit.
Unfortunately, our Cupid and his wings didn’t take into consideration the cost of relying on actual plane wings. At roughly £500 per round-trip, those cuddles and what-have-yous with my boyfriend aren’t exactly “I’ll see you on the weekends-“ friendly. There’s a lot of scrimping and scraping money together to make sure the next trip can be made. But if every night-out that’s sacrificed gets me one step closer to (another) night in with my boyfriend then it’s worth it. (Okay, I’ll pass the sick bucket around now.)
Fortunately, modern technology helps to keep us together. There are websites like Rabb.it that enable us to share our browser screens whilst video chatting, meaning we can watch films together. We video call as often as possible, sometimes just leaving the video running while we get on with mundanity. I’m sure watching me clean dishes is extremely fascinating for him...we even fall asleep on video call together most nights (Seriously, take the sick bucket).
When we get to spend time physically together, it’s worth every second of missing him. I loathe to use the term “quality time” as I feel I’ve already long passed the acceptable cliché limit, but that’s really what it is. From the moment I see his gorgeous, fresh, 10 p.m. face through my bleary, blood-shot, 3 a.m., jetlagged eyes, to the heart-wrenching walk back into the airport, I get to enjoy time dedicated to just being us.
No confusing time difference conversions. No frustration at disconnecting modems. No more asking “what’s CNN showing on your TV now?” when we’re trying to watch the same news or White House press conference together. (Yes, we know we’re sad but we like politics and news. Someone has to.)
There is an added bit of fun — and sometimes confusion — with living in two very different places. Sometimes it is bigger differences that take some adjusting to, such as the open-carry of guns, for example. Sometimes it can be the small and ridiculous dissimilarities; I once spent about 30 hilarious minutes trying to explain what an oven cooker was, and that grills are very much attached to our oven indoors, and that I wasn’t making cheese on toast in the garden on a BBQ. Seeing stables for Amish people to, um, “park,” I guess, their horses in whilst they pop into the supermarket was definitely a bit of a learning experience.
Although the backdrop behind us may be very different, for the most part, everything about who we are and what we like doing is the same or complementary. As well as our shared interest of trying to keep up with today’s WTF-has-happened-now political landscape, we’re both writers, like scaring ourselves shitless with films, we’re learning languages together, take pizza and donuts very seriously, and have the same silly sense of humor that often leaves us crying with hysterics.
Someday in the future, we hope to close the distance between us and I’ll be buying a one-way ticket to America — if it isn’t walled off entirely by then. Until that day, I’ll continue to resist delightful-but-expensive Dominos takeout, brave American airport security guards, and put up with squished knees and screaming babies.
And be a little more careful with what I wish for.
Elcie Burrows is a writer and campaigner from Northern Ireland
Top photo: Flickr Creative Commons/fdecomite
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