Saturday, February 12, 2011

The comment on my last post still confuses me.  When I first read it, I felt like I should apologize for ending my post on a bit of a down note; later, I felt persecuted for not being cheery enough.  Now I feel like the comment is part of the point I am trying to make.

A big part of your life, especially when you're youngish and especially when you're single, is how you tell it to other people.  People expect a certain script, or one of a small set of scripts, and when they meet someone who doesn't follow it, they can get a little bit confused and very inquisitive.  They want to know why:  Why did I leave academia?  Why did I choose my current career, and apply for the job at my current employer?  Why do I live in New York, and why do I like it?  Why am I single?  Why don't I have a closer relationship with my brother?  Why do I tell my mother so much?  Why did I stop being a vegetarian?  Why do I run?  Why do I write, or why don't I?  People are endlessly demanding that I explain myself, and the small variations in how I express myself at given times seem to lead everyone in my life to have totally different ideas about who I am.  Worse, sometimes I can't answer their questions, and the general response to that seems to be that if I can't explain who I am, then I must be wrong about it.  I feel like this is trying to begin with, and more so because people whose lives seem easier to understand don't seem to have to deal with this as much.  But I also feel like I should not take it personally, because probably people who I perceive as nosy and domineering just want to make sure I'm happy.

And I am happy, in general.  But more important than being happy, at least to me, is being real.  Sometimes I don't have an answer to "why are you single?"; worse, sometimes I have depressing answers (I can imagine the lists my exes would give, for example; "too awesome to settle down" does not top them).  Much of the time, I don't care what the answer is.  Single is what I have been for my entire adult life with only brief t interruptions, so it's kind of like wondering why I have eyebrows.  Sometimes, I'm very glad to be single; I truly don't know how or even if I would deal with having another person just around a lot of the time, and I'm frequently thankful that at the end of the day I don't belong to anybody else and nobody belongs to me.  I do have periodic pangs of wistfulness, on a quiet Sunday when it would be nice to have someone to read the paper with or on Valentine's Day when it would be nice to treated to a romantic surprise, but these pass when I find something else to do or think about.

Still, there are the occasional moments when I am struck by the magnitude of my potential for aloneness.  I guess to an extent I buy into the fairy-tale idea, where you meet Prince Pocket Protector and you fall in love and get married and then, well, that's sort of it.  You slot comfortably into place, and your life is just, from that point on, solved.  I know that isn't the case, that married people - which includes many of my friends - have plenty of confusions and dilemmas, some the same as single people and some different, but still.... it seems like your life is classified and constrained, maybe not in a way that would actually make me happy, but certainly it sounds comfortable.  And the thing is if you don't get married you just go on, and on, and on.  With more stories and more adventures, and every phase of your life has a different cast of characters and possibly a totally different scenery and of course that's all great, but sometimes - the hugeness of time, and the sheer magnitude of stuff in my life that nobody really experiences but me - it's just a little bit... daunting.  

There is a little part of me, about the same size as the part of me that believes in reincarnation, that thinks the right man for me is out there and that I will, still, someday, meet him.*  If he exists, he is probably exactly as anyone who knows me would imagine, and we would live the life together that anybody who knows me would expect, and othen the pieces of my life will start to look like they fit a little better because, anyway, there will be one bit that people can understand.  The reason my last blog post was a little bit sad - and I think the awesomeness that is my new life can stand up to a little bit of sad - is not that only a small part of me believes that this man exists.  It's that, even if my life would be easier - more friends, more money, possibly even better health - with the right man, even if my life would be happier with the right man, more and more of me knows that this easy, happy, pocket-protected life is not the right life for me.


* Now is as good a time as any to mention that, whoever this man might be, he is not the IB.  He came, I saw him, I experienced a rare moment of clarity in which I realized that he is a decent and reliable and trustworthy person who is offering me a perfectly reasonable kind of relationship - companionship and common interests and the security of having known someone for a decade and still not being totally sick of each other - and it is emphatically not enough.  I do not think he will return.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Today I had lunch with someone I went to high school with and haven't seen since; in fact, most of my interactions with him were probably in eighth grade.  He was in New York for a few days - one of the things I love about living in New York is that so many people come here to visit - and for whatever reason, after well over a decade, we decided to catch up.

The yentas among you are now assuming I am about to tell you how wonderfully he grew up, how intelligent and interesting and attractive he is, and also how interested in me.  In fact, he seems to have turned out reasonably well, although less geeky and more oily than I would have expected.  If he were single, we might both be interested enough to pursue further acquaintance.

In reality, of course, he is not single, because nobody my age is single.  Which is not a major loss since I barely know him and until a couple weeks ago hadn't thought of him in years, and all in all it was a nice lunch and, who knows, he might come back to New York sometime and we might have lunch again.

How he got to be not-single is what gets to me.  Basically, he went to a foreign country for work, met a woman there, and brought her back.  As I understand it, she gave up her career and basically her life to be with him, and now she follows him around during his work-related travels.  Presumably this makes them both happy, but something about it bothers me.  I would like to say it is solely that such an existence would not appeal to me on either side, and therefore my narrow little mind doubts it can work for anyone else indefinitely, and that I worry that they will join the ranks of those who waste years or decades in a marriage that isn't working for them.

But it is also, of course, partly, the very old and very worn annoyance that in my simplistic mindset of beatific equality, intelligent, interesting, geeky men are supposed to end up with intelligent, interesting, geeky women, women who of course are not me but with whom I might feel some commonality, and of course they rarely do.  Intelligent, interesting, geeky men, like all other men, are not interested in intelligent, interesting, geeky women; they are interested in beautiful and nonthreatening women, and railing against this is somewhat like railing against dogs for playing in their own shit.  It's how they are, and it works for them, so while I might consider myself intellectually superior if only because I actually realize that physical beauty and human merit are not equal, at the end of the day it is still they who are playing happily in shit and me who is cleaning it miserably off my shoes, so who's really putting their brains to work here?

Overdone analogies in which I unfairly compare relationships to canine excrement aside, this is an old story and an annoying one, and it wouldn't go any further except it reminds me in a way of myself.


I'm still seeing my gentleman caller, the much-younger one who plays the guitar.  He continues to be wholly inappropriate for me. We had a conversation very recently in which basically we determined that (1) it does not seem to be running its course as quickly as either of us had expected, but (2) due to differences in age and lifestyle, there is a limit to how real it can become, which is rapidly being approached.  We also determined that (3) we each have some sense that we would be holding the other back and preventing the other from having the experiences we should be having if we continue seeing each other for too long, but also (4) neither of us wants to stop just yet.  So that is all wholly inconclusive, although in reality there is only one way for it to go, and it will go there pretty fast I think due to newly-relevant scheduling issues.

But I'm not sorry about it.  He's been good for me, in part because of the differences in our age and lifestyle and in part because of who he is.  He's made me happy.  He said, once, that he hoped he would renew my faith in love, which clearly he has not, but I think he's come as close as might reasonably be hoped in a few months of this sort of thing.

I've also learned a lot about the people in my life from being with him - or, rather, from seeing their reactions to my being with him.  Most people have been supportive; if I'm happy, even if I'm doing something silly, they're happy for me.  But a few people have been critical, and while I can't say I'm surprised at exactly who, I was surprised at the strength of some reactions.  Two people have cut off contact with me entirely, basically because they believe I should not be wasting my rapidly-waning moments of plausible appeal, in which I ought to be trying to attach someone more suitable for permanent capture, with someone who is clearly neither suitable nor desirable as a long-term partner.  Another is barely speaking to me, for basically the opposite reason - she thinks I should live a life of absolute solitude rather than pursue interactions with anyone who does not absolutely meet all my (read: her) most unattainable standards.  And none of these people, believe it or not, is my mother, whose heart I have refrained from breaking by telling her about this affair.

The real reasons, as usual, for these people being upset with me have very little to do with me.  They are trying to live their own lives in certain ways that they have decided are correct, and to the extent that it is a difficult or frustrating or regretful task they are taking it out on me.  But I have also noticed - from long, miserable experience - that there is no use bringing it up to them.  Some people will always disapprove of me, a list that is apparently growing to include not just most of my family but also some of my formerly-good friends, and if it is not because I am dating someone I am not going to marry, then it's because I'm dating at all, or because of my career or where I live or how much or little I work out, or my height or my weight or my shoe size, or what time I get up in the morning, or the order in which I eat my m&m's.  Nothing is too big or too small for people who are in the business of making themselves feel better by objecting to other people's lives.

Which of course brings us back to my objections to my former classmate.  If he's happy, and she's happy, then who am I - a person who doesn't really know either of them - to roll my eyes?  Even in the semi-privacy of my own blog?  Their relationship cannot possibly be any more doomed or self-destructive than mine.  And anyway, why should it bother me even a little bit that a person whom until now I never thought of has found happiness with a person whom I have still never met?

The obvious answer is the one I already alluded to, that men like him should be marrying women like me, but that begs that question, because how do I know this wife of his isn't actually an awful lot like me?  Which brings us to our answer: I know she is nothing like me because if a man - no matter how intelligent and interesting and geeky - appeared from a foreign country and wanted to take me away from my life and my career and marry me, I wouldn't go.  If a man appeared from next door and wanted to take me away from my studio apartment and marry me, I still probably wouldn't go.  Nobody marries women like me, because women like me do not get married.  Instead, we date the most inappropriate men we can find - men who can't deal with commitment, or with women, or with their own laundry - and when we accidentally, despite all our best efforts, find someone who might have a shred of potential, we start conversations about whether maybe we should break up because otherwise it might or might not turn into something.  

And so the moral of the story is what is rapidly becoming the obvious answer to what is rapidly becoming everyone's favorite annoying question to me: Why am I single?  I'm single because that's who I am, and I'm not interested in being the person I would be in order to attain, maintain, or retain a relationship.  Anyone who doesn't feel that way is, male or female, is fundamentally dissimilar to me, and I suppose there friendships that are simply not going to be able to span that gap.