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.