For the majority of my twenties and early thirties, I wore a steady uniform of black jeans, black Chelsea boots, and a long, drapey jacket that would sometimes be subbed for a blazer. I’d line my eyes with black and paint my nails based on my mood, serving as ten mini shields to compliment my otherwise obscure demeanor. Without realizing it, I had cultivated a daily look of “I’m good on my own over here, don’t worry about me,” otherwise known as energy that says to society: I’m a One.
My Oneness started early as an only child where I learned both the art of entertaining myself and ambivalent sharing. I didn’t have the concept of other people’s needs and wants until later on, when making friends in high school.
Over the years, I mastered being a One. I armored up in my habitual attire taking in a movie, concert, and any-time-of-day meal alone. I did my own thing at work, and on the weekends I had no problem going out at night solo. I kept music and cigarettes close and everything (and everyone) else just at arm’s length. For all intents and purposes, I was looking out for myself and subconsciously protecting my heart.
I found myself in dating situations that had no potential of ever becoming a Two and could only have an end result of me staying a One. For almost ten years, I was hooked in a Female Mr. Big like cycle. Whenever we were “off again,” I only dated those who were admittedly unavailable, loners with no real interest in being a Two, or lived three thousand miles East or West of Los Angeles. Eventually, I found myself at 33 years old layered in a denim defense with no consistent relationship experience, surrounded by friends who just kept getting married.
The thing is this: Deep down, I really wanted to be a Two. I knew inherently that if it was ever going to happen, I was going to have to change. After some serious soul searching and Brené Brown reading, I decided to flip my script.
When you live in Los Angeles long enough, you know the best way to manifest anything is to head to the desert. So I put a smokey quartz in my pocket, drove to Joshua Tree and under the Full Moon made a list of everything I wanted in a partner. With intentions set and my energy shifted I went back to the city ready to attract healthy love into my life.
Soon after, a woman I was certain was a descendent of Cleopatra sat down across from me during a coffee date I was having with one of my best friends. It just so happened this Cleopatra woman was my friend’s other close friend, and for whatever cosmic alignment reason our coffee dates overlapped and there we all were sitting outside together at Cafe Figaro. At some point, our eyes connected and she unlocked that vulnerable part of me that had been hiding behind a door.
After coffee, I couldn’t let the feeling just sit there and midway to my car, I turned around to find my friend who was now shopping in the corner thrift store.
“Oh, hey,” my friend said looking through vintage flannel, “What’s up?”
“Um,” I said to her, “Your friend is everything.”
“Oh yeah, she’s definitely your type,” she said referring to my tendency toward girls with a certain look.
“No no,” I insisted, “She is so much more than that. She’s beautiful, funny, stylish, and talks about the healing power of Chinese herbs. I mean…”
“Yeah. She’s pretty amazing,” my friend agreed. “Too bad, she’s not available right now.”
“Right. Ok, then please don’t put me in the same room with her again,” I said. “It’s just cruel.”
Life went on for a few more months with no mention of her again until one Sunday night, while I was casually reading The New Yorker alone in bed, a text came in from my friend: “Cleopatra is single now and wants to hang out.” While I wanted to text back prayer hands emojis as a symbol of my gratitude for universe’s Divine Intervention, I was in fact still a One and kept my response restrained: “Set it up.”
A group dinner commenced back at Cafe Figaro and when she arrived, I did what any One who was nervous to become a Two would do: I ignored her the whole night. Luckily, she is a straight forward woman and after dinner she followed me to the parking lot and we set something up.
I wanted our first date to be perfect. Cleopatra’s style was so dialed and I had to make sure I looked cute. For hours I stressed over which t-shirt I would wear under my drapey jacket. We met for coffee downtown and within fifteen minutes of us getting together, my jacket came off and I was all in. Very early the next morning there was a minor earthquake and she was the first person I thought to text.
“U ok? Earthquakes in LA are normal, right?”
“Yes, totally normal. :) You ok, too?”
Even though it was 5AM, we were checking in on each other and with this, we both knew we were going to be a thing. From that moment on, my Oneness was sent adrift.
All new euphoric feelings aside, it took me a second to get into the logistics of being a real Two. For one, this was the first time a relationship had lasted more than a consecutive eight weeks without a break and even still today it surprises me that she is still here. Second, I wasn’t used to talking this much. Being a One is a somewhat solitary existence and I had to up my conversation stamina if I was going to be a strong Two. Additionally, when you’re a One for so long, taking care of your own needs becomes deep-rooted. To exist in an honest Two, you need to be flexible to the other person’s needs and schedule. While I’m getting better, I’m still learning how to ace this part.
In this particular Two, it was also the first time anyone had ever questioned my outfit.
“Why do you only wear jeans?” she asked one night.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I’ve always only worn jeans.”
“You’d look good in something else too, let’s mix it up.”
“You know, if you’re successful with this, you’ll be the first person to ever get me to not wear jeans.”
“Well, it’s time, you’re just hiding under all of that,” she said pointing out my various layers.
I love that Cleopatra can see right through me. And she is so open with me, I can see her too. I find the synergy of being a Two genuinely fulfilling and relish in the little things you miss out on when you’re a One. Taking turns making the coffee, being the only ones laughing in the movie, splitting up travel must-see-spots and on-the-ground navigation duties, imagining future scenarios together, complimenting each other’s strengths, and nurturing each other’s weaker spots. Also, and probably most crucial, is the unexpected treasure of being the go-to person for her important questions like, “Babe, can the shampoo hose at the hair salon give me scalp fungus?” It’s beautiful.
The thing is, the closer we became, the more I wanted to protect our Two and the more I wanted to protect it, the more fear I had of losing it. I was pretty good at keeping this feeling at bay from our daily life but during simple disagreements, it would show its face. In the past, I was used to having a disagreement on any level of complexity end with someone packing their bags and canceling future plans. Thankfully, she had long experience in knowing how to be a Two, the patience of a saint and the gift of knowing how to communicate.
“Do you want me to leave?” I’d ask her right before the resolve.
“What?” she’d laugh. “No.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Listen, we’re two different people. We’re going to disagree. Couples disagree and then we talk about it and then we get closer. It’s a good thing.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes. This is how healthy relationships work, ok?”
“Ok,” I said confidently.
“Elizabeth,” she said making sure I heard her, “I’m not going to leave.”
Bingo. She had my number. The core drive for my years of Oneness was revealed and I unraveled. Now dressed in cotton blend pants with nude nails and bare feet, I stood there emotional, letting all the gremlin thoughts fly out.
“Don’t worry about any of that,” she said. “You don’t have to protect yourself anymore.”
Then she said those three little words that continue to bind our Twoness: “I’ve got you.”
Elizabeth Baudouin (pictured on the left) is a writer/producer/creative who lives with her partner in New York City and Los Angeles. She is currently completing her debut book of essays. You can follow her on Instagram here and read more of her work here.