There are fairy tale romances—and there are real-world romances. You know, the fairy tale love affairs: the ones where the two are a perfect pair for one another. The ones where both parties are welcomed and accepted by each others’ families. The ones where your friends are enamored with your significant other and everything is shiny and picture perfect and people wish nothing but the best for you and your partner. But real life is not a story book. And my happiness is not molded by societal norms.
I’m in a relationship with a signifigantly older man. I wouldn’t have hand-picked the circumstances, but they are what they are, and if altering the circumstances that surround our relationship meant never being with him, I wouldn’t lay a finger on them. You love who you love.
I began working with Vann as friends. We wrote music. More importantly, we connected over music. He is very handsome and I became increasingly aware of that as we bonded and laughed. I enjoyed his company and found myself happier than I had been in a long time. Months later, we began seeing each other as more than just friends collaborating on projects. The first step was telling our families. Naturally, my parents were concerned. However, after meeting Vann and seeing that our intentions were pure, they immediately welcomed him into their home and treated him as a part of the family. I wish the rest of my family had been as receptive. A few members shared the same sentiments as my parents. Unfortunately, many others felt differently.
I was threatened. I was harassed online via photo comments and direct messages. I was given the cold shoulder. I was uninvited to family holiday parties. I was spoken ill of and called names behind my back. I was told to stay away if I had intentions of bringing him to events with me. One of the family members refused to even make eye contact or acknowledge him when I introduced him. I was mortified. I'm still mortified.
Yet, when we told his family, they welcomed me into their homes and hugged me and loved me like I belonged. They treat me as an extended member of their family. They were happy because we were happy.
When news spread to social media sites, I was ridiculed—as was he. I was suddenly the “girl with daddy issues”, or in it for the money, or out to find a sugar daddy. It was hurtful to hear these things about myself from the mouths of those who had only ever interacted with me over social media. Let me say that my friends, our friends—the ones who truly had our best interest at heart—showed nothing but support. Those people were my rock when I felt beat down or discouraged. The poisonous comments and remarks only ever came from the “friends” who prioritized keeping up appearances. Let me tell you a secret. People who only check in when they need an inside scoop on something are not your true friends.
Our friends didn’t see the numbers. They saw the glow on my face when he called me beautiful and the way my eyes shone and sparkled when he effortlessly made me laugh. They saw someone who loved me and supported me at my lowest points. They saw love.
'Do you love him?' I’ve been asked before, but have shied away from publicly answering. I needed time. Not to make up my mind, but to try and piece the words together in a way that could help everyone understand how genuinely wonderful he is. Yes. I love him. I love his hands and how intentional and gentle he is when they reach over to hold mine. I love his laugh. I love how he tenses his jaw and becomes entranced while he’s trying to analyze music. I love his ray bans, white button down and blue jeans days. (Those are my favorite.) I love sitting on the counter while he cooks and taking turns telling each other about our day. I love how he sends me funny videos of foxes and dogs because they cheer me up. I love when he sings to me. I love the way the sun shines down on him while he’s driving and how he coyly smiles at me when he catches me stealing glances of him. I love that he can scarf down his ice cream faster than I can eat half of mine. Yes, I love him. I love his soul. And he loves mine.
At first, things were hard. I wanted others to see him as I saw him—someone whose soul complimented mine, someone who treated me with adoration and respect, someone I could share my happiness with. I cried myself to sleep many nights because of the backlash and hurtful comments of others. But I needed to write this to say this: even if I never get the approval of others, it was still worth it. It is still worth it. It will continue to be worth it. We know how old we are. We know what our futures could hold. We know that tomorrow is never guaranteed and happiness is worth fighting for. We know that our motives in this relationship are pure and genuine and that’s enough for me.
Imagine it this way: you’ve been searching for something. You have this image in your head of this perfect thing and you spent years looking for it. And suddenly, you happen to stumble across it. It’s everything you’ve waited for and it makes you happy and you love it. Now imagine that the only thing that was wrong with it was that someone else thought it was different or strange. You loved it but someone else told you it was weird. Would it make you want to throw it away? Would you stop wanting it? Of course not!
So, here’s my advice: Don’t be swayed by the opinions of others and don’t be discouraged by their disproval. Your happiness doesn’t have to be validated by social media ‘likes’ or nods of approval. Love is a rare thing and it is worth fighting for. Because at the end of the day, you can’t help who you fall for; you love who you love.