(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)
My parents say that when I was little, people thought I looked just like Cindy Lou Who (Loo Hoo? Lu Who?) from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This was before the live-action movie came out, mind you, so I take this to mean that I looked like an oddly-shaped cartoon with blue eyes too large for her head and a weird haircut. For reference:
Honestly, they could’ve done better. For the purposes of today’s story, though, I’m going to share how I’ve felt much more like a Grinch. Feelings about Christmas aside (big fan! Most wonderful time of the year!), I relate greatly to the Grinch’s moodiness, his aversion to people, his tendency to isolate himself from the outside world. Much like the Grinch, as well, all it took was a Cindy Lou Who to show me another way to live. My Cindy Lou Who’s name is Stephen.
Ah, a metaphor! Thank goodness this was going somewhere cheesy! So yeah, stop reading now if you’re not interested in a literal Stephen Appreciation Post™.
I mention Stephen fairly often in my blogs, and that’s only because I JUST LOVE HIM OKAY HE’S SO GREAT?!?! But really, he is a huge part of my life and why I am the person I am (read: blame him if you hate me). Basically, I am so lucky and thankful to have him and feel like taking a little space to talk about our relationship.
Stephen and I met through mutual friends when he was 16 and I was 17, so in another iteration of this metaphor, he is Liesl and I am Rolf. I don’t associate with Nazis, though. He apparently had a huge fanboy crush on me from afar for several months. It was so big and widely known that when I got his phone number from my friend and texted him out of the blue (an uncharacteristically bold and characteristically creepy move), he thought it was his friends playing a joke on him by pretending to be me. We dated very briefly in high school, then were ‘just friends’ for a very dramatic year and a half in which I went back and forth between “ugh he is the worst person I never want to see him again” and “he is my soulmate and we should be together forever.” Tumultuous. High school-y. Then in our freshman year of college, we reconnected through another mutual friend and the rest is history.
Almost seven years after meeting, I can barely remember my life without this person. To be fair, they’ve been seven very formative years and we’ve both grown up a LOT. And we both know that we still have a lot of growing and learning to do. But at this point in our relationship, it’s very clear to both of us that we are a unit, partners, and want to do all of that together, which is actually the greatest feeling ever.
I say that Stephen is the Cindy Lou Who to my Grinch for several reasons. The first of these is that he is infinitely more fun than I am, which is totally okay and I think makes both of our lives better. He laughs at my weird humor, but I think he’s funnier than I am. He is super playful and child-like, which makes my little brothers think he is their best pal and personal entertainment and makes me get possessive. Okay guys, you’ve made Stephen do enough flips off the diving board now, he’s my friend not yours and he has to come hang out with me, bye. This also means that he has gotten me to let loose and do all kinds of things that I wouldn’t normally do on my own, especially since we’ve been living together. While I would happily spend every weekend laying on the couch reading my books, Stephen plans spontaneous trips to national parks, takes me on boats and to beaches and cabins and even got me to go camping once (though that was four years ago and I haven’t been since. Can’t win ‘em all). We try new restaurants, see bands play, get milkshakes and chocolate cakes at 10 p.m. on a weeknight just because. He’s reintroduced me to my childhood love of puzzles and Legos, and we spend a lot of time doing both. We can both be serious and in our own heads at times, but Stephen is good at looking on the bright side and bringing me there with him. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, it is and probably always will be 10 times more fun with him.
On the topic of being fun, my brother-in-law once described Stephen as a cartoon character. I think this is because when you talk about him, he sometimes sounds fake; this person cannot possibly be real, he is too fun, too weird, too cool, too interesting. Just when you think you know everything there is to know about him, he joins a barbershop chorus. I love this guy.
Another way Stephen is like Cindy Lou Who is with the things he does to my heart. Like giving me heart palpitations when he does something dumb and dangerous, which is semi-regular. But what I actually mean is the making my heart grow three sizes a la Mr. Grinch. As I’ve mentioned before, I have depression and anxiety. Even before getting those diagnoses, I always had the sense that I just felt things differently than a lot of people do. Things that make other people cry wouldn’t make me cry - whether happy or sad tears. I’ve actually never cried any sort of happy, good tears in my life. I could go weeks after the death of someone close to me without crying, but cry in frustration when I misplace my rain jacket. It makes no sense. (Stephen, on the other hand, will cry while reading a moderately poignant children’s book. Character foils.) Additionally, and especially since I started medication for depression/anxiety, I think my emotions are just duller. I don’t feel many things very strongly. I’ll feel sad, excited, afraid, mad, but it’s all just…weak, which is kind of the point of a lot of depression meds in order to stop you from feeling strongly like a piece of poo. But the weird and interesting thing I’ve found is that the care and love I have for Stephen is the strongest I think I’ve felt about anything. After all this time, I still look at him and feel nothing but love, gratitude, and positivity, and that is just surreal to me. We’re not robots; we’re both very flawed and we do disagree on things and get on each other’s nerves from time to time. But it never lasts and the ‘love’ card comes down and overrides everything else every time. I can’t stay irritated or upset with him, nor can he with me. Do you know how weird that is for me? I still hold a grudge toward the girl who called me ugly behind my back in middle school! I’m used to being a bitter person! Rarely forgiving and never forgetting! But he somehow makes me this little mush ball who just loves his whole existence too much to let petty things linger. My favorite joke is whenever we ‘argue’ over something stupid (i.e. Stephen siding with Kanye West over my beloved Taylor Swift) to say, “Are we having our first fight?” Stephen laughs every time, and it’s not even a pity laugh. He’s the man. And he’s made my weak, unfeeling little heart grow a bunch of sizes.
We have gone through some of the toughest times of our lives together. It’s been really, really hard for both of us at different points dealing with illness, trauma, loss, grief. But it’s made us so strong as partners and has never made me question whether we can stay together. When something difficult comes up for one of us now, it’s never, “Can I deal with this?” but instead “Okay, we are going to deal with this.” When so many things in life are scary and uncertain, I’m thankful to know I have this person on my team.
So basically, in my humble and unbiased opinion, I think that our relationship is the best relationship that ever relationshipped. But also, I hope that everyone finds their Stephen (because you sure cannot have mine XOXO jk but really). He is kind, selfless, sensitive, loving, smart, hilarious, generous, and genuine. He’s also super handsome. He makes me feel like a happier, lighter, more carefree version of myself. He is a Lego connoisseur, a budding barbershop singer, an outdoorsy adventurer, a brilliant and creative idea-man, a big dreamer, and the best boyfriend/son/grandson/brother/friend. Everyone who knows him is so lucky.
Now, you may be thinking, “But Kaitlyn, Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch were not in a romantic relationship,” to which I say, who knows what happened after the book ended? Whoville is a wacky place, my friends. Just kidding. You and I both know my weird metaphor is about how they changed each other as people. Or as whos. Whose? Grinches?
In the middle of writing this post, I went to go pick Stephen up from his rehearsal. Turns out we both had surprises for each other when he got in the car. He brought me a bouquet of flowers. I brought him two cheeseburgers. Love in its purest form.
Also, upon getting home, we realized that we don’t have a vase for the flowers, so they are currently submerged in a blender full of water. When life throws us lemons, we make blender flowers, ya feel me?
I almost forgot my book recommendation! For this post, Stephen would like to include his book recommendations, which are Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I haven’t read either, but the first sounds like the most depressing thing ever and the second seems funny and weird. Go with the second. MY recommendation is going to be on the theme of LoOoOoove - Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. The protagonist is a man, Lincoln, who is hired at a newspaper office in the late 90s to monitor employees’ emails. The internet is new-ish to them, and the office wants to weed out any non-work-related activity happening on email. Lincoln starts reading exchanges between two women in the office and rather than reporting them for using work email for personal conversations, he lets them keep happening and he keeps reading them, and finds himself getting more…attached. Wink wink. Sounds like he is totally creepy from my description, but I kind of fell in love with Lincoln. A lot of the story is told in the email exchanges, which are hilarious, and it’s just a sweet, funny book. I’m a big fan of everything I’ve read by Rainbow Rowell.
So I think that’s enough of a glimpse into our lives for one day, and I bid adieu, adieu, to you and you and yoooou.
Do do do do do do do dooo,