In my youth I knew nothing of the tenderness the passion and the burning love. I knew only of the awkward, the obligatory and the butterflies in my heart that seemed to justify anything and everything as long as the boy wanted me. These were the butterflies they spoke of in the rom-coms, the young adult novels, the pop music that came with flushed cheeks twirled hair and nervous giggles. The ideal became one with the real and thus formed the legend of love that lived on in the permanent scar on my heart. This real-ideal made it possible to romanticize the tragedy of my first love as the butterflies flounced around us. The inconsistent, the inauthentic- the ups and downs of romance. The unknown the unspoken- the enigmatic Prince Charming. The silent yearning, the repressed needing- the necessary suffering for true love. The pining and window-watching, the tears on my pillow, the I can't breathe until I see him again- the I must be a girl in a movie. I never paid mind to the other side of the narrative because I was in love and I was picked by a boy who had butterflies in his hair. So I remained ignorant of his selfish, his indifference his cruel his discard his reshuffle his pick another and another his hand always full. His I want you for now but not for too long but stay just in case or I'll shed a single tear without you. The butterflies fluttered around all that he did and said and it was enough, because it was what I was told to aim for. I had it. I secured love. That was my real, my deep, my romance. My first love defined it. He set the standard, and it repeated in others and reinforced my normal. The manipulating, the undermining, the objectifying, the controlling, the witholding, the abuse, disdain, disrespect, disregard. I never knew that love was not supposed to hurt because hurt was all that there was. I never knew I could demand more because I never knew that more existed and if it did did I even deserve it? And when self-love and self-worth and self-actualization came around on a regal white horse it felt like it was too late, because I'd already been accepting mediocrity for years. Habits are hard to break. Standards are difficult to raise, especially as the breaking and raising seem to infuriate those who benefit from a low bar. My pattern will take time and hard work to undo and recreate. But I now love myself enough to see the real-real and discard the ideal and define romance for myself and demand it. Because I know the virtue of a romantic, butterfly heart. Tender, empassioned, and burning and never one-sided because reciprocity is no longer a foreign concept. Because to hold a heart as gentle and love as fierce as mine you must match them. Now that I have the chance to know and proclaim this truth, it can be. Thank you for reading! What did you think? Leave a comment below. To support my work, consider buying me a cup of coffee!