I never say “I love you” first. I always say it in reply to someone else. This is probably for a couple reasons.
I fight falling in love. I fall too quickly, so the logical part of my argues with myself. “This can’t be love.” Eventually, it tuns to “Well, it’s not going away. Maybe this is love.” Eventually I resign myself to the fact that I am in love. “Fuck. It’s love. Now what?”
There’s also a safety in being the second person to say those three “little” words. I’ll let you bare yourself first, thank-you-very-much. Because waiting for someone else gives me time to figure myself out. It also means I don’t have to be vulnerable first. While I want someone with whom I can be vulnerable, I’m ultimately more afraid of rejection. If I let you go first, it’s okay to say “I love you.”
This all ties into the fact that I come off as reserved when it comes to things that I love. Music, movies, TV, games.. it’s all the same. You wouldn’t know that I am OMG obsessed with something unless you know me really well. I keep my cool. I keep my cool because it helps me retain control or, perhaps, the illusion of control. Because I can’t control anything else, only the way that I react. So I’m not going to throw myself at someone. At least, I’m going to try my very best not to. And when I find that control slipping, I feel angry at myself. So if I’m going to lose control and have a frivolous, emotional outburst such as “I love you”.. it really has to be a safe place.
This is partly due to the fact that I have expressed love — of people and things and ideas — and I’ve been made of for it. I’ve received flack from people whom I loved, from the very people who I expected that I wouldn’t have to be reserved around. Nothing hurts quite like the hurt from the person to whom you said “I do.” And maybe it’s not necessarily healthy or helpful to keep my cool, to hide parts of me. When I say it like that, it’s obvious that it’s all some sort of defense mechanism.
Even now, I think I owe the bartender an announcement of “I love you,” but I can’t quite put my finger on “Why?” and I certainly haven’t figured out the “How?” It all seems so sudden, so abrasive when I have to say it first.