My parents are divorced and estranged, so I grew up with my mom’s family. And her family tree is filled with even more divorce and hard feelings. It was hard to cultivate holiday traditions when relatives could disappear or be replaced from one year to another. My mother and I tended to change residences at least once a year, so every holiday was different from the previous. My sense of order and routine came from school. Because while I also bounced from school to school, I found that it was always the same, although sometimes the kids and teachers had different names. Even the holiday activities were always the same. Decorating shoe boxes for valentines in February. Cutting out shamrocks in March. Turkeys made of hand tracings and snowflakes cut from squares of white paper. This list always included the classic “I Am Thankful for _______” essay. It was always nice–perhaps even inspiring–to remind myself that I was thankful for my mom, grandma, various pets, and the Smurfs.
Even as an adult, I think it’s great to occasionally remind one’s self of all of one’s blessings. This exercise should extend beyond Thanksgiving. But lately, I often find myself having to remind myself of all of reasons I should be happy. Once this list was only recited at times of emergency or during particularly intense bouts of existential despair. But now I have to review it before I fall asleep. My career is on fire. On the train to work. My friends are amazing. When Facebook informs me that yet another friend has gotten married or pregnant. I live in a beautiful exciting city. When I feel lonely. Sandy is growing. Ugly. I’m healthy. Fat. My hair is great. Have you seen my wardrobe? And so on.
I SHOULD be so fucking stoked all the time. Because my life IS fabulous and productive. Moving to LA really has allowed me to make my dreams come true. I’m about to start a dream job next week. The latest issue of Sandy was off the proverbial hizzy. I have fun adventures every week. I make a decent amount of money. And I really am surrounded by talented, hardworking people.
So what’s my problem? Is it the chronic ennui of the privileged? Maybe. Yes. No. I’m not really sure.
I’m fucking lonely. And it makes me really, REALLY sad.
That’s embarrassing to admit. No one wants to hear that about anyone. And of course as a feminist, I’m probably never supposed to publicly declare the drawbacks of the single life. In truth, I am a huge advocate of singlehood. It’s the best way to figure yourself out. Being single allows you to explore your interests and beliefs on your own terms. Everyone should have an extended period (more than just a few weeks/months) of singleness. My current state of sadness comes from years and years of being alone. I regularly wonder What’s wrong with me? How was I left behind?
My twenties seemed to contain a revolving door of dudes. Musicians, painters, drunks, and shoplifters. I was always in love with someone new, at least for a while. I was never single for more than a week or two. I was neither beautiful nor particularly charismatic. Yet there was always a guy hanging around. Most nights out revolved around meeting new people to kiss, even if I already had one around.
Things slowed in my early thirties. Or maybe everything just became more intense and troubling. Long periods of time were required between entanglements, just so I could sort out my emotions. I encountered less people that interested me. And sleeping with strangers was markedly less appealing. Nothing was ever simple. I dated several recent divorcees. A much younger guy that couldn’t make up his mind. An alcoholic with raccoons in his house. And most recently, a guy that was still sleeping with his ex-girlfriend while leading both of us to believe he was in love with both of us individually. Needless to say, it’s been hard. I haven’t had a secure, “real” relationship since my twenties. I’ve experienced a lot of confusion, tears, and pain in the past few years.
I’m in my late thirties. Each day I am probably less desirable than the day before. A few years ago, I overheard a terrible female employee describing me as so old, it’s depressing. I was never beautiful, so at least I’m not worrying about losing that as I grow older. But I AM worrying about missing out on the opportunity to be close to someone else as everyone else is pairing off. I feel the weight of loneliness weighing down my otherwise buoyant thoughts. Please note that I have no burning desire to get married. I’m afraid of a long term relationship, in the way that I am also frightened of roller coasters. I know that the thrill of the ride is worth the terror.
I haven’t had physical contact beyond friendly hugs with another person in nine months. And the last sexual relationship I had was horrible: awkward AND inept. I’m still disappointed about the last person I dated. I have reached a point where I just cannot listen to my friends’ problems with the people they are dating/not-dating. In fact, I resolved last night–while lying in bed alone–that I would inform my friends of my inability to participate in such conversations until some unnamed time in the future. I am disgusted by public displays of affection. I don’t want to hear about the rigors of planning a wedding. I sound bitter, don’t I?
I know that I am breaking some sort of social pact by sharing this. Single people are supposed to either admit their pitifulness and beg for blind dates or pretend that life really is a fabulous episode of Sex and the City. Yes, I own a lot of shoes. And I am constantly doing fun and exciting things. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel lonely sometimes. My acceptance of this feeling is so difficult, just because I also know the misery and loneliness that come with the wrong relationship. I would rather be lonely and free, than coupled off and downtrodden/bored.
I want to tie this all up in a nice lesson. Some sort of happy ending for the reader.
Maybe this is the happy ending: everything else in my life is amazing, and I just need to accept that I can’t have everything.
Or how about this: I won’t allow one missing aspect of my life to sour everything else.
Or even: the only thing worse than being alone is falling in love with someone who is allergic to cats.
I just don’t know. Please don’t try to set me up with your friends. And don’t try to sell me on internet dating. It’s lame and flaky. I will figure it out on my own. The first step is just continuing to remind myself of my overall happiness. And running full steam ahead with all of my projects and adventures, while remembering to appreciate and love the non-romantic relationships in my life.
If you’re in the same boat, get in touch with me. firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to hear your own thoughts and experiences.