1. A girl
2. My age
3. Physically present in my life
and most importantly
4. Would always always ALWAYS get where I came from without my having to explain it because she too was single, didn’t want to be and came with her baggage of body image and weight.
Here was someone who would instantly understand the history behind a statement, and never ever say to me with the best of intentions and all the love in the world ‘I wish I had your life’ ‘You don’t know how painful it is to be married’ ‘God I miss being single’ ‘Don’t worry you have time’ ‘You have such a great job’ and all the other kind, well-intentioned and infuriating things most of my friends and well-wishers who fit the criteria of 1,2 and 3 usually say to me.
Of course there is a complication, which is largely my own fault but more on that another time. The point here is to articulate what it is I find so immensely frustrating about talking to my peers about my life, and what’s not in it.
I started rereading Venetia today, a favourite Heyer of many aficionados I know, but one that has never captured my imagination. But somehow it did this time. So I wrote to my only school friend, with whom I bonded over Heyer after all, and who LOVES this one, to tell her I was reading it and it made me wonder if I’d ever find my Damerel. And she, who has her own host of problems and trouble of course, wrote back to say that Damerels don’t exist, and we women are raised to think we need men, but only she’s beginning to think we don’t need them–they just exist to make us stronger. And for some reason that straw broke the camel’s back and I proceeded to rant all over the poor girl.
You see, I was raised to think that I didn’t need men at all–only I discovered that I do. And I’m not talking about boinkaboinka. Then I struggled with guilt for years for daring to be so weak and pathetic, before coming to terms with what I wanted, and understanding that everyone wants different things. Sometimes what we want is because of what we’ve got and haven’t got and sometimes we just don’t get what we want, and sometimes we get what we want and it’s painful and horrible and not nice at all, but there’s no way of knowing how it will turn out for anyone. My sister and I often end up unable to say anything to each other because she is immensely frustrated with her career, but she has a house, a husband and an enchanting child I never get to see enough of, and I have a life where I don’t have to come home exhausted after a frustrating day at work and deal with tantrums and not have the option of eating Maggi cos I can’t be arsed to cook and instead have to think of a healthy nutritious meal that I can put together in the time I have with the ingredients I have.
Maybe if I’d gotten married at 23, or any of my married friends who tell me this had gotten married at 31, we’d all have entirely different perspectives. Maybe we’d be happy if we switched lives, because of the people we are and have become. Maybe our discontents are a result of what we want and don’t have making us ignore what we do have, and maybe they are to do with the people we are and what we really want from life. We’ll never know. But I do know that the loneliness and emptiness of my life is painful and horrific and often too much to contemplate without losing it. Thinking that I might never have children, that when my parents die all my family will be 15000 miles away, that at the end of the day my bed will always be empty and I, the most physically expressive person I know, will live a life with very superficial physical contact–these things are not about needing men. These are about things that come with the package of relationships. If I could be gay I would try. It’s not about a man. And its not about friends because one by one their priorities change–and I can’t blame them for it either. How can you make time to just waste with someone when you barely have time to sleep because you’re dealing with work, in laws, kids? Just like I can’t blame those guys I was ranting about for suddenly not having the time and headspace for me, because they rightly devote them to their new relationships. How can I demand you don’t hurt me this way when you are not hurting me; it’s happening passively? And how can I wish for you to stay alone like me when I know what comes with it? But how can I not be hurt by it once again not being me and by once again being released into wider community than the close knit circle we were?
It is an innately human impulse to seek companionship, to settle down as it were, and the older I get the harder it is to deal with what feels increasingly like my inability to do so. I don’t know where it stems from–me, society, dumb luck–I don’t know how I can know; all I know is that it IS and I have to deal with it. And its harder to deal with when I can’t be around couples (as has happened to me now) or I can’t talk to people about it without having to defend so many things. I end up spending all my time with other single people, who are four years or more younger than I am, and that comes with its own attendant stress.
It’s not easy to deal with the things one has to deal with in a relationship. But it’s not easy to deal with my life either, unless you genuinely want to be alone. Which I don’t. And sometimes it hurts me and frustrates me deeply the way people dismiss this difficulty, when I am well aware of and consciously acknowledge the difficulties in their lives. And it also hurts me how I am so bitter, how I can no longer feel unadulterated joy for the happiness in other people’s lives, how pictures of my super juniors’ babies on Facebook make me want to smash the screen, when I am truly happy for them.
EDIT: This song seems to help in a stopgap way =) Ironically OA introduced me to it so it, also, carries mixed feelings. Which makes it very apposite for my life after all…