Ashley Ford’s previous columns for The Butter can be found here.
I know it happens. I’ve read books and watched movies, and I know. Whenever kids say they’re bored, I say, “That’s because you’re being boring.” I’ve lived my life according to that belief. If I’m bored, it’s because I’m choosing not to entertain myself, not because there’s nothing stimulating enough to occupy my time.
But relationships don’t work the same way. We may not run out of ways to entertain ourselves, but we definitely run out of ways to entertain other people, right? What do you do when someone’s heard all of your funniest stories, knows all of your insecurities, and has seen you naked so many times they can spot a new mole from across the room? I’ve never been highly invested in being interesting to anyone but myself, but now there’s a person—a man!—who’s around all the time. I don’t want to bore him. Especially not when he knows a much wilder version of me.
On our first date, Kelly showed up in a tan Ford Ranger pick-up and took me four-wheeling. We were covered in mud the first time we kissed. It was like an early Taylor Swift music video, but with a black person (me). He even held my hand on the way home when “Brown-Eyed Girl” came on the radio. On our second date, we went to the gun range and shot rifles. There was no mud the next time we kissed, but we got just as dirty.
About four weeks later, we found out he’d gotten an internship in New York City. We were into one another, but though starting a relationship just for him to leave in a few months wouldn’t be the best move. Still, we decided to be exclusive until then. Well, exclusive-ish.
It was our last year of college. Kelly was a bit of a party boy, and I was trying on bad behavior for size, still wondering what kind of woman I wanted to be, or what kind of woman I already was. I rented a green mansion in the downtown historic district of our college town with three of my writer friends. We threw raucous parties, over-decorated every nook and cranny, bought too many records, and smoked cigarettes on the balcony. Kelly called my house “The Victorian”, and it’s where he taught me how to get in trouble.
He was eager with me, and for me, in a way I hadn’t previously experienced. He made me feel wild. I was desperate to have fun and not be so in control all the time. Sometimes he told me what to do. Sometimes I listened. Once, I stepped out of the shower right as he was calling me. My phone was attached to a speaker playing music. I answered and told him where I was. He replied, “I’m coming over. Don’t put clothes on. Don’t even dry off. Wait for me.” Because of who I was in that moment—and really, who I wanted to be—I walked to my room without covering myself, sat on the bed, and waited.
We did a lot of stupid things because youth doesn’t always know what to do with an adventurous spirit, and in Muncie, the pickings for activities were slim. Still, nothing you could do worse than being boring. We officially broke up when he moved to New York, but remained friends. He moved to Seattle, I moved to Indianapolis, and we spoke on the phone occasionally. We changed. I changed. Simpler things became much more satisfying, and the girl who was exploring her bad side was gone, which meant the party boy was no longer enough.
I began practicing solitude, and loving myself well. One thousand miles away, Kelly was growing up in his own way, and coming to terms with being deeply in love with me. Two years after our initial dating experience, he showed up outside my condo in Indianapolis, kissed me, then told me he loved me under my favorite tree. Obviously, I fell for it. Every bit of it. But I needed him to understand what he was getting into. I was different. I was tamer. I couldn’t date the guy he was when he left. He insisted he wasn’t that guy anymore, he was different too, and this was the version of me he wanted. I thought he was lying.
For the past year and a half, we’ve entertained each other. When we were long-distance, it was holiday packages, love letters, cheesy playlists, and reading the same book at the same time so we could discuss our thoughts. Now, we cook, we fuck, we bring home little gifts, we read to one another out loud, and we go on long walks in new parts of the city. Even reading in silence, sitting beside him is compelling. It’s always my intention to just enjoy the experience, and in some ways I do, but in other ways, I instantly lament the inevitability of boredom. How long until we’re staring at one another across the breakfast table, eating cold cereal, and trying to think of something—anything—to say to the other person?
The other night, while walking back to the train after seeing our brilliant singing neighbor perform, I heard jazz coming from a little cubby of a bar. It stopped us in our tracks, and though it was past our “usual bedtime”, we decided to pop in and listen to the rest of the band’s set. After we found a place to sit, Kelly went up to the bar to get us a couple of drinks. The band wailed on, and we sad next to each other, mostly quiet but riveted by the music. It was so hot I opened a few more buttons on my shirt, and he pulled his hair into a ponytail. We sipped and swayed, and at one point, he pulled out his notebook to write what I assumed were a few potential lines of poetry. I leaned in and told him that jazz cleared my head. He had no idea I liked it.
In moments like those, I have hope. I don’t know if hope is the right word, but we’ll go with it. Yes, I worry about boring my partner. I worry about him boring me. I worry about having too many routines, too many nights at home, and not enough orgasms. Then, there’s a warm night, good jazz, and cheap beer. There are sleeves rolled up, hair pulled back, red lipstick, and exposed collarbone. There’s watching an episode of Parks & Rec and laughing harder than the love of your life has ever seen you laugh, there’s cutting up a mango in your bare feet, and getting caught licking the juice off your fingers.
Different combinations of these small interesting things, if I let myself look for them, will keep boredom at bay. We won’t run out of things to talk about, or reasons to love each other. I hope we don’t give up. I hope there will always be new ways to get wild.
Ashley Ford does cool things at the Harnisch Foundation during the day. She's a former staff writer at BuzzFeed.com and a current serious yacht rock enthusiast. She’s also working on writing a book (or two). Born and raised in Indiana, Ford now resides in Brooklyn, where a good Sunday means a long walk in Prospect Park with her boyfriend, Kelly. A GREAT Sunday includes a doughnut.