love and the monotard

since i was diagnosed with Mono a month ago, my measure of success has changed drastically. today i left the house for a whole hour and, upon returning, felt completely satisfied with a full day’s worth of work. to consider: only a short time ago i was lying around. lying around was a break from sitting around, and sitting around was a nice change of pace from sleeping. yesterday, my boyfriend told me the story about a co-worker who incorrectly identified a “unitard” as a “monotard” and upon hearing it, i decided “monotard” was the perfect way to describe myself. retarded by Mono.

i am three months into a relationship and i have been unable to kiss my boyfriend for almost half of it. there are so many times we have almost forgotten, and one time – upon waking – when we both looked over at each other at the same time and accidentally touched lips. i’m not sure if you can imagine what it does to your self esteem when kissing the man you love is immediately responded to with furious wiping of the mouth; but i can assure you it’s not exactly encouraging. i have begun to feel poisonous–toxic almost, as if my kiss will be the death of him–and it has gotten to a part of me that i never supposed existed. as it turns out, kissing is a very intimate part of a relationship, and without it we seem like…chums. the kind of chums that shake hands upon seeing each other–that can still sleep with each other, but under no condition kiss.

“i feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman,” I joke, when i notify him of my new sex without kissing policy.

he considers what i’ve said for a moment before shrugging: “i don’t get that reference.”

joel has been ridiculously supportive throughout my entire convalescence. i mean that mostly in that he hasn’t left me for another able-bodied woman. “what do you think i’m going to do?” he asks me, “abandon you and say ‘call me when you’re better?'” If it wouldn’t break his heart i’d answer him honestly: yes.

when i told my mother my worry of being a horrible monotarded girlfriend, she reaffirmed my worry saying “well, it must get old hearing ‘i’m sick’ or ‘i don’t feel well’ and talking about vomit all the time.” but for the most part i have tried to keep my complaining to a minimum, and i assure you i only brought up “vomit” once (excuse the pun).

my first week of being sick, the worst week of all, joel was lucky enough to be at home in Massachusetts visiting his family. i was so ill i couldn’t take care of myself. i didn’t have it in me to make myself a meal or pour myself a glass of water. so instead, i didn’t eat and i didn’t drink and i got much, much sicker. so eventually, my parents had to drive all the way out to the city to come pick me up and take me home to feed me and make tea for me and nurse me back to health.

on the drive north, though i tried desperately to contain myself, i apologized to my mother, then to my father, and then poured my stomach into a plastic bag by way of my mouth. the only thing worse than having to hold a bag of your own vomit (though i suppose holding someone else’s would be even worse) is for some of it to have gotten on your pants. and the only thing worse than that is getting a nose bleed immediately post-evacuation. four days unshowered, and i was one hot mess; but the best part is — the absolute best part – is that at that very moment, plastic bag in hand and tissue lodged in nose, i received a text message from joel telling me that he thought i was beautiful, and that he loved me, and that he missed me.

my boyfriend reminds me a lot of my father: sometimes too intelligent for his own good, but excessively good and kind and generous; and while the comparison might be considered disturbing to some, i am mostly troubled by how much this relationship has made me feel more like my mother than ever intended. Love has enhanced the english in me. it is the part of me that becomes awkward and self-conscious when he tells me that he thinks i am beautiful when i’m feeling my worst, or the part of me that diffuses unease over confessions of love with an easy joke (like responding to that text message with: guess who just puked in a bag until her nose bled? your classy girlfriend.) joel has taught me many things: what a real man acts like, what a loved woman feels like, what it means to let what has, in the past, broken your heart open it instead; but i have also learned that i have spent most of my life wearing my heart on my sleeve, and my sleeve under a thick wool coat buttoned up to the neck.

but like i said: since i was diagnosed with Mono a month ago, my measure of success has changed drastically. now, every time i say “i love you” back, or graciously accept his compliments with an earnest “thank you” instead of asking “why?”, my heart does a victory lap around my life, and that wool coat begins to come unbuttoned. because the truth is the hardest part about happiness is all of the obstacles we usually give ourselves to avoid finding it; and life has enough of its own obstacles without our help. like how to convince your boyfriend that your Pretty Woman reference was actually funny, or how to stop yourself from kissing the one you love when your heart — the amateur — is bursting at the seams.

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