Guest Writer: Tommy McPhail – All In

Guest Writer: Tommy McPhail – All In

As we stood in the freezing roller coster queue on my first date ever, I thought “either we’re getting married one day, or we should just break up right now.”

7th grade was a very confusing time. Amidst all the ridiculous accessories, “figuring myself out” over dark poetry scribbled in notebooks I thankfully threw out long ago and friends I can’t remember, a sense of limitlessness prevailed. With each new first came an immediate whirlwind of memorizing as many details about the scenario as my frenzied brain would allow, with hopes that my experiences would give me answers about who I wanted to be (and who I wanted to be with). This was among my most vivid.

As we inched towards the twisting, towering fluorescent track, all entertainment of my slightly defeatist thought became distracted by the chase. Obviously, we’d either break things off at some point or stay together forever, but isn’t that the risk we take? By handing over our heart, by putting our trust in another flawed human being with real fears and embarrassing stories of their own, aren’t we agreeing to be let down at some point? Whether your partner forgets your Taco Bell order or breaks your heart entirely, letdown is bound to happen. That’s no reason not to try. We shuffled onto the ride, and these curious thoughts gave way to dreams of a kiss that wouldn’t come for several months. I let the chase win, and she became my girlfriend, even though I wasn’t all in from the start.

With every partner I’ve had since my first, I’ve had that same thought – though never in the same way twice. Never on the first date, but at the most ordinary and surprising of times. Holding hands as we traced the aisles of a bookstore reading erotica out loud, laying nuzzled on the couch while Gilmore Girls reruns blared in the background, chatting with family members about the hot news item of the week, only to realize how temporary and circumstantial our conversation was. All of a sudden, I’m forced to consider my intentions – are we going somewhere, or is this all we’ll ever be? Are we getting married, or is this it?

..and every single time, I haven’t been brave enough to walk away at the moment when my resolve was most true. I copped out. I wasn’t all in, and I wasn’t honest about it.

When we put our trust in someone we love, we go all in. We can’t half-ass it. We can’t take days off. We can’t justify unexcuseable behavior with ideals loosely etched in Facebook photos and optimism. We owe it to these people we care about to be honest, even painfully so at times. That means honoring our emotions, being upfront with one another, and not being the asshole that spends an extra four months wallowing your way through guilt sex just because you couldn’t rip the big scary breakup band-aid.

I don’t know if there’s always a spark. I don’t know if magic will forever exist. But what I do know is that our gut instinct, the literal core of who we are, counts for something… and if that something can automatically recognize the total absence of excitement in one evening, let alone a lifetime of evenings, I’d be downright delusional to ignore it.

When I say I love you, I’m saying I’m all in.

Can you say the same, or will you spend forever waiting to get on the ride?

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Tommy McPhail

Tommy McPhail doesn't sleep much. Follow him on Twitter @tommymcphail

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