Columnist Joanna Buoniconti: Learning to be content with me

  • Joanna Buoniconti FILE PHOTO

Published: 3/6/2023 2:57:10 PM
Modified: 3/6/2023 2:56:57 PM

I am 23 years old, a graduate student at wit 4.0 GPA — while maintaining multiple internships and jobs — in a prestigious program at one of the top liberal arts universities in the country. I have been on one date, but I have yet to be kissed.

I wrote a previous column, almost two years ago, that started in a similar vein to this one. While a lot has changed for me from both a career and professional standpoint since I wrote that last column about my personal life or more accurately, complete lack thereof, my love life has remained — to sum it up in a word — bleak.

Everyone who has read my columns, at one point or another, can probably surmise that I’m a very open person. But it’s not always easy to open up to you all about the topics currently weighing on my mind and my heart. In fact, sometimes it’s borderline excruciating. And let me tell you, this was one of the hardest I have ever written.

Because the fact is, I am not writing these words in a diary; they are going to be printed in the Gazette and published on its website, where they will exist for some semblance of eternity. And, sometimes, that is terrifying to me.

But through the past few years, I have slowly come to the realization that if the words are painful to say, then it is even more necessary to say them. Because my entire column is based on the truth that no one talks about — the many facets of the disabled perspective.

So my decision to talk about these hard truths is because I once heard one of my favorite singer/songwriters say, “the more personal you are [in your writing] the more people will be able to relate to it.” I wholeheartedly believe in this philosophy because every worthwhile connection that each of us forms in this life is based on transparency. And as painful as it may be to write some of these columns, there is never a doubt in my mind that writing them is worth it.

Also, there’s a cathartic release that comes from putting my thoughts down on paper for the world to see because they’re no longer trapped in my head, and they’re no longer mine anymore. By the time they reach you, they’re yours.

So here goes nothing. To fill you all in on my love life over the last two years, I guess I should start at where I last left off.

In late April of 2021, a few weeks before I graduated from UMass, I went on my first date with a guy I met on Tinder. His name is John. We had been messaging for several weeks when he asked me out. He was really sweet and brought me flowers, which was incredibly gentlemanly of him and something that I appreciated. However, there was no chemistry between us whatsoever, and he stopped messaging me the day after our date.

Even though I was well aware that our relationship was never going to develop into anything, that blatant rejection so soon after meeting him still stung. And it was easy for me to assume that the reason for the rejection was because he was intimidated upon seeing the full extent of my disability. In all fairness, it could’ve also been a result of our lack of chemistry combined with the fact that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teenager, so he likely just didn’t know how to let me down gently. But my mind has a habit of assuming the worst.

A matter of months later, I met another guy named Matt also on Tinder. He was nice and we had palpable chemistry, which I didn’t take all that seriously at first because I was talking to a few other guys at that time. But as those conversations dwindled with the others my connection with Matt became clearer. I began to think there could be something there.

We had planned to meet up in the spring, when the weather got nicer because I wasn’t wild about meeting him inside somewhere in the winter. But as spring grew nearer, and I began to suggest meeting, he became cagey and refused to give me his number. I had begun to suspect that he was catfishing me. We stopped talking at that point. Months later, when he attempted to reach out to me again, my suspicions were confirmed.

We had talked every day for almost eight months. We had talked about everything; a future together, marriage, children, all of it. It was the closest I had ever come to a relationship and it wasn’t even real.

This hurt me deeply and made me wonder if any man is ever going to genuinely like me.

But I’m only 23, and I don’t want to be already jaded when it comes to love.

Above all else, I want to keep an open heart.

For a long time, I have been ashamed about my inexperience when it comes to relationships — because it does often feel like I’m behind everyone my age.

And while I choose to be optimistic that my love life will look up at some point, I have come to the realization that I am content with boys in romance novels being my companions, at this stage of my life. Because boys in books are so much better than boys in real life.

Gazette columnist Joanna Buoniconti is a freelance writer and an editorial intern at INCLUDAS Publishing. She can be reached at

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