"I think I've figured something out," I said to him. The market was hot and loud and full of beautiful things. Every booth demanded attention, especially the jewelry one at which we'd found ourselves.
"What?" he said absently, running his fingers over a bright gem.
"I think it has to do with me being an Oldest and you being an Almost the Youngest," I continued, scanning his profile for attentiveness. "but I have to show people things in order to have fun. Like, if I see a cool piece of jewelry like this," I pointed to a Celtic cross. "I want to show it to you. I want you to be excited about it and think that it's beautiful. If you're not around to see it or you don't reciprocate my enthusiasm, then it loses its beauty to me."
He made a thoughtful sound and kept looking at the merchandise. I continued:
"I guess it's because when I was little, I always had a younger sibling who I could 'perform' for, who wanted to see what I was doing and like what I liked. But you were the youngest, so probably no one would pay as much attention to you. You had to figure out how to have fun completely by yourself."
"Are you listening to me?"
"Yes!" He made eye contact. "I'm processing. I think it has to do with being Extroverted versus Introverted, too."
"Yeah, exactly! My experience of fun is dependent on other people. I can't enjoy myself in a vacuum. If I don't have someone to share things with, I honestly might as well not go at all. It's kind of frustrating, because you have fun so independently." I swallowed hard as I lost his eyes again. "You can pick up something pretty or fascinating and enjoy it 100% by yourself. You don't have to tell anyone about it or show it to anyone. But I can't do that. Nothing is fun or worth it to me unless I get some kind of validation."
I didn't know if the conversation would change anything. I didn't know if I was wasting my breath. My revelation was just another example of something that was useless without affirmation.
Maybe since I'd noticed the weakness of my codependent enjoyment, I could do something about it. Maybe I could learn to enjoy things by myself, without having to show another person.
But I couldn't imagine that. I wilted inside as he wandered away, to another booth where he would find cool things and not show them to me. Where I would seek out cool things and try to show him, but he'd have moved on.