Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Notches on the Heart

A number of years ago, a young friend of mine, who was then a college student, was pouring her heart out to me about hew newly-former boyfriend, who had been her first boyfriend…ever. She had never dated in high school. She had never been kissed…or anything else…before this guy. And because of this, she was now going through all the breakup angst for the first time at an age when most people have already gone through it two or three times already, and sort of knew how to deal with it. And because this boyfriend was so “late in life”, she had a lot pinned on this relationship.

Then they broke up.

And shortly after that, she heard that he was now sleeping with someone else.

She was both heartbroken and livid. She told me that he was only trying to collect “notches on his bedpost” (the first time I’d ever heard that term) by sleeping with this girl. I diplomatically suggested that maybe that wasn’t quite the case. I suggested that maybe she was looking at him…and by extension, all guys…way too narrowly, and seeing us as much more shallow than we really are. I suggested that what she saw as him trying to collect notches on his bedpost might really be a case of him trying to collect notches on his heart.

Let me explain. Contrary to what many women think, I believe that most guys really aren’t all about how much sex they can get. But rather, whether they know it or not, sex is very tied up in emotion. We just don’t [want to] show it the way that women do. I suspected that after the breakup, the guy needed to feel loved by someone, anyone, and so he slept with this new girl…not to simply get into her pants and add a notch to his bedpost, but to feel loved, to give love, and to put a notch on his heart.

No matter how misguided that attempt might ultimately have been.

Now this “notches on the heart” thing may or may not make sense to you, depending on your religious upbringing (or how much of a previous religious upbringing you’ve escaped from), but it makes perfect sense to me. And, that being said, I think it’s a wonderful thing to have as many notches on your heart as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a wonderful thing to have had sex with as many people as possible, but rather, that it’s a wonderful thing to have loved and been loved by as many people as possible…even if it didn’t work out in the end. Sometimes the best expression of that notch is from “naked playtime” and sometimes it’s just from just being able to hold each other close once or twice.

Sometimes it’s something as incredibly simple as just being able to let the other person know that it would’ve been nice, hearing it back, and having nothing else ever happen after that.

Am I making any sense here?

Sometimes you look back at a relationship and realize that it didn’t put a notch on your heart at all; and sometimes you look back at friends you had of the opposite (usually) sex and wistfully say, “Damn, I wish I’d had a chance to love them just once, so I could have that notch on my heart.”

Contrary to what my friend thought about what she saw as meaningless, casual sex, her former boyfriend’s horizontal foray with this new girl didn’t necessarily cheapen what they had previously done together, nor did it mean that he didn’t “properly value” sex. Quite likely, it meant that he valued it more than she could possibly imagine through her hurt.

He was trying to gather…and give…love.

To be certain, there indeed are quite a few guys out there who are only about seeing how many notches they can carve on their bedpost (and lets face it, there are women out there who are the same). But we’re not all that shallow. But I also maintain that there are an awful lot of guys who are concerned about notches on their hearts.

As we all should be.

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