I am beginning to learn that love—romantic or platonic—is accepting someone’s imperfections, because you are not “perfect” either. Affection does not follow perfection, or at least not some airbrushed idea of what another human being should be.

I used to believe that if someone did something that offended your sensibilities, your love for them would be sullied somehow. Learning about someone’s so-called imperfections kills their mystique, and mystique is an important part of that elusive thing called “cool.” “Cool” people have a tightly controlled self-presentation that makes it seem as though nothing touches them. When you learn more about them, they don’t seem so cool anymore. It is the same way with fictional people and famous people (who may as well be fictional people, because that is what they are in our imaginations)—which is why it is so easy to develop crushes on film characters and musicians and other distant people you will probably never speak to. The vision of them in your head isn’t marred by those qualities that make them fallible. You don’t know if they make grammatical mistakes or have strange taste in wallpaper. And they never look you right in the eye. Having real-life relationships with people can be hard, because they are deeper than an image on a screen.

I had always assumed that I had to be faultless in order to be loved. My faults include snorting involuntarily, watching embarrassing daytime TV, spending too much time on the internet, and having a period of my life when leaving the house felt impossible. I thought these unflattering idiosyncrasies had to be hidden, that they constituted a blight on my person. I would worry about them being known because it was like a slip in my masquerade, an unflattering angle on the image of myself that I so much want to have control over. I wanted to be someone infallible, impenetrable like a fortress. Ideally someone hard to know, so that I had to remain accountable to only myself. I have had to learn, to accept, and to remind myself frequently that it is all right to loosen my control over my image, and that doing so is necessary in order to form real connections with other human beings.

Having feelings for someone real can be scary, because you are not sure how deep or wide or long or high they will reach. They seem potentially limitless. When you look someone right in the eye, you don’t know how long it will be until you can look away. The eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, and now I have a new understanding of why: If he looks into my eyes for long enough, which he does, it is impossible for me to hide anything. But he already he told me I don’t have to. It was when we were waiting for a taxi. We were standing about 20 metres from the club; I can’t remember if we could hear the muffled thumps of the music inside. He managed to make this scene feel cosy, like some parts of each of us were cuddled up somewhere by the glow of a log-lit fire. We were standing by a wall overlooking a small part of a canal. There were tiny slugs sticking to the damp stone walls of the cold, flat buildings, and we followed their trail and counted all 30 of them with a strange childlike glee. It has gotten to the point now where I lose count of all the things I like about him. ♦