FEATURE IMAGE: RAPTURE ALLEY Cover Art
Amsterdam-based writer Wen Hsiao's dating & relationships column: "I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing."
Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
I hate hearing “I told you so” from my friends. While they have indeed “told me so,” it went in one ear and out the other, so clearly, the rebuke is meaningless.
Those who have known me since high school know that, up until a year ago, I used to almost exclusively write about my personal life (read: relationships). Whenever I found myself between a rock and a hard place — before I could even process my own emotions — I would go running into the arms of my editor with a pitch. I took the whole “write what you know“ thing quite literally.
I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing.
This column is one of those pitches rushed off to an editor, conceived to capture the lessons we learn the hard way, with a little help from my friends.
I met Hazel during freshman orientation.
She was a sharp-eyed mentor, I was a wide-eyed mentee. She soon became an integral part of my damily (there are only so many puns you can make with Amsterdam…), becoming an almost-mother figure to me — despite being three months younger than me, a recurring discussion of irony.
Like misery, Hazel loves company. She always knows what to do, where to be, and who to meet.
But sometimes you meet the right people at the wrong time, and the wrong people at the right time.
What feels like a lifetime ago — at the beginning of the pandemic, Hazel was going out with Daan. Daan was a pulp fiction trope: “tall, dark, and handsome,” in Hazel’s own words.
She always knows what to do, where to be, and who to meet.
Daan was a lot of things, but interested in a relationship, he was not. Hazel wanted Daan, but she also wanted a relationship. She walked away knowing they were fundamentally incompatible in this way -- thank God.
But a year went by, and Hazel had gone on a handful of dates. None of them, she felt, matched up to Daan.
There was always something happening, somewhere to be, and someone to know.
As summer rolled around, everyone let loose alongside the restrictions: no matter what day or time of the week, there was always something happening, somewhere to be, and someone to know.
On one of our many pub crawls, I waved the white flag and called it an early night. From there Hazel followed a few strangers into an Uber and found her way into a house party. Just as she wastrying to figure out whose house she’d arrived at, she met Liam.
It was a scene straight out of the movies, their eyes met across the crowded room, and then never left each other.
He offered her a drink and followed it up with dinner. By the second time he saw her, he couldn’t stop telling her how she was the love of his life. (Remember what I said about love bombing?)
Though they initially moved full speed ahead, Liam suddenly hit the brakes, after an oblivious mutual friend noticed the latest addition to his Instagram following list.
“You didn’t know? Hazel used to date Daan.”
Illustration by Hannah Kang
It blew out Liam’s fuse. He went to see Hazel that night, demanding an explanation. There was no juicy explanation, the story was literally one and done: she met Daan then, and it didn’t work out, but she’d met Liam now, and this could work out. She didn’t even know that they knew each other, let alone know that they were friends.
It didn’t matter to Liam. He began talking a million miles an hour, his words tripping and tumbling onto one another.
Hazel stood there and suddenly she couldn’t see him. All the anger, disgust, and jealousy had distorted his face.
In the height of his emotions, Liam spat out those final words:
“I know what kind of girls Daan goes for, and I didn’t realize you were exactly that kind of girl.”
A past. We all have one. We live and we learn.
In a perfect world, we all want to meet “the one” and call it a day. But without a past — without one heartbreak or too many, we wouldn’t be the people we are today.
Retroactive jealousy is a psychological condition of obsessive fixation with your partner’s sexual and romantic history. While jealousy is nothing out of the norm, retroactive jealousy sends people into the deep end. People who are stricken with retroactive jealousy lash out at their partner, some even becoming violent.
It’s childish to want to pretend your partner — or even you yourself -- doesn’t have a past. Even if you don’t want to be confronted by your partner’s sexual and romantic history, it’s not your partner’s responsibility to manage how you may react.
It was a hurdle Liam could not overcome. Even with his eyes on the price, he could not help but let Hazel’s past blur his vision.
Why should Hazel — or anyone else for that matter, be judged for who they were and who they were with -- especially when *checks notes* IT DIDN’T EVEN GO ANYWHERE?!