Being vulnerable is a scary thing. As my relationship with Kevin began to blossom, I thought about Koopa. Remember Koopa Troopa from early Nintendo days? Mario would hijack his shell and use it as a skateboard (a dickhead move) and then Koopa would run around totally vulnerable in his undershirt. As I started to fall in love with Kevin, I more and more began to feel like a shell-less Koopa.
As comedians, we pride ourselves on the ability to observe a situation and find the hidden jokes. This involves two steps: one, you have to mentally remove yourself from the situation (like, Oh this is a scene from a movie. Let me think of the funniest line here.) Two: to get the real joke, the “game” of the scene, you have to find the beats and heighten them. This is a great tactic to writing a funny scene. This is not a great tactic to nurturing a relationship.
I was a late bloomer when it came to dating. I didn’t date at all in high school (not of my own volition you guys, fledgling playwrights just aren’t cool). I had short-term relationships in college, save for one with a very nice boy who I didn’t love back. I felt like such a jerk for ending that. Since then, it had been in short relationships involving no real feelings. I prided myself on recounting how my dates went, with the concluding line, “but it probably won’t work out.” I thought I was special because I really didn’t care, like indifference was a super power.
So, when I met Kevin, I was struck by how right the situation felt. I had never had a relationship unfold so naturally. When more than three months had passed and things were still working, I thought of Koopa. Exposed, shell-less, no longer of the upper hand.
The best lesson I learned at community college is that the person who cares less in the relationship holds all the power. I remember hearing that in my Interpersonal Communications class and thinking, hot damn that makes sense! And that did make sense, for a while. When I didn’t love somebody, it was easy to not care.
But when I started to fall in love, I no longer got to be cool and coy (was I ever that cool? I hope so). Suddenly I found myself enamored and tripping over my own feet to be around him. Basically, I lived out all the dumb clichés about new love.
I’ve been dating Kevin for almost a year and a half, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. I’m so grateful that he knocked the turtle shell off my back. And even though it’s wonderful to feel something new, everything I feared about being exposed and losing the upper hand is all still true. The stakes go up when you care. But, maybe it’s okay to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s okay to run around in your undershirt? Maybe that’s part of being alive.