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.