Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is this thing on?

I'm back.  You're gone, dear reader - any readers I still had when I last posted 18 months ago - but I'm back.  I realized, just today, that I needed this outlet again, at least at this moment.  Something has happened, something good but something that threatens pretty much everything about who I am, and I don't know where to turn.  So I'm turning where I have, historically, always turned in my moments of confusion: to semi-anonymous writings on the internet, the comfort of an empty room where I can shout as loud as I want.  If you're out there, go easy on me.  It's been a while and I'm probably rusty.

What happened to me - what had already started to happen when I stopped posting here - is that I met someone.  A man.  I met him almost two years ago, on - of course - the internet, and we started dating, and we haven't stopped.  This man - I'll call him B for the purposes of this post - turns out to be perfect for me.  He's smart and funny and calm and kind, and I love him more than I thought I could love someone I hadn't invented myself.  Being adults in our thirties, we're both wary of commitment, but after two years of Wednesday and Saturday nights we've decided to move in together.  This summer.  We started looking at apartments yesterday.

If you're out there, reading this - I am imagining two erstwhile readers in particular, among the most sane people I've ever known (although one of them, I've never actually met), nodding their heads and smiling, because they are happy for me, because they hoped that someday this would happen - you are wondering what the problem is.  I haven't been able to explain what the problem is even halfway convincingly to anyone except B, and while it's great that we understand each other, he's not really the person I want to talk to about it.  The problem isn't anything concrete about him or about our relationship; the problem is all about me.  What it boils down to is - impressive dating resume aside - I had not ever really imagined myself ever finding the elusive One.  When I was very young I thought, vaguely, that this guy or that might sort of morph into being him - or, more precisely, that I might magically morph into the sort of woman who had a - apparently, this is what B says we are becoming - a life partner.  A Life Partner?  Really? Do you people know me?  If not, let me tell you - I am not the kind of girl who has a Life Partner.  I am Comic Relief Girl, Epic Screwup Girl, the Sassy Spinster.  In the movie of my life, I am played by Lizzie Caplan.

So in addition to being excited and happy, I'm confused and alarmed and afraid.  I never expected something like this to happen, not really.  While it seems like something I want - B makes me happy, our relationship is a strong one, and we've talked through pretty much every major issue - what if it isn't?  What if I'm on autopilot?  What if I only think I want to be in a relationship because it's what everyone else wants, what movies and novels teach me to want, what my parents and friends want me to want?  It's not that I'm worried B isn't the guy for me.  I'm worried there is no guy for me.  Maybe I'm someone who is better off alone.  Do you ever see Lizzie Caplan characters trotting off into the sunset with normal, stable, decent guys?  Maybe you do, I couldn't get to the end of Bachelorette because it annoyed me so much, but I can't imagine it.  I worry that if it happened, her character would stop being wise-cracking and weird and start being someone who knew how to crochet, which seems to be what happens to women when they meet men they can count on.  Am I going to magically going to learn to crochet if I move in with B?  Is it, like, a requirement?

Yes, I'm being silly.  But actually I have significant worries - worries that start to sound silly as soon as I type them - on these sorts of mundane lines.  Like, will I have to start eating proper meals with meat in them instead of yogurt and breakfast cereal?  Will I have to eat them at a table, on a plate, instead of on the couch while reading a book?  And what about these books - will I be able, when I am near the end of one, or 100 pages from the end of one, and it is almost bedtime, to stay up late to finish?  Or will I have to go to bed at a normal hour like a proper adult?  Which is what this all boils down to: the realization that, to some extent, moving in with B will force me to become an adult.  Of course he's not a dictator and I'm sure I'll stay up late reading plenty of nights, probably while eating popcorn for dinner on the sofa, but also probably living together will shift my default.  I'll actually have a dining room table, for the first time ever.  And a bedroom, for the first time in years.  Maybe it shouldn't be that settling down with another person pushes along the transition to sensible adulthood, but maybe I am one of those people for whom it is.  And maybe if that happens it isn't such a bad thing?

But still.  I don't want to be... nailed down.  Not in the sense of "I want to have date around" or even in the sense of "I want to move to Paris".  One benefit of my extended bachelorettehood was that I did date around, and I did move to Paris, if only for a month.  While there are still plenty of things I want to do, I've done a lot; of the obviously exciting, you-have-to-be-single stuff, I've done - at least, almost - enough.  

It's not about what I want to do, it's about who I want to be, and as always I don't know.  In my mid-twenties, I felt that my single status made me an outcast, not because of the actual lack of a man, but because it made me confusing.  When I had a boyfriend, people could see who I was: me-and-this-one, me-and-that-one.  It seemed to me like people could make sense of a couple, they could measure each partner against the other and size them up, but a person alone - she could be anyone.  She could be anyone.  Later on, my understanding of this shifted.  It was not that being in a couple helped other people understand your intrinsic self.  Being in a couple made you the person you were going to be.  Before you met the person who would be your mate, you were just a bunch of aspirations and confusions floating around.  After, you were crystallized, decided.  Immobile.  That was who you were, and while you could be shattered you could no longer flow.  

This understanding scares me.  I don't want to be frozen.  While I like who I am now, it's a recent development.  I haven't been this person for terribly long, and I'm not sure I want to be her forever.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't.  She's cool and all, but is she really me?  Is this look going to work in twenty years?  In two?  What if I want to change my metaphorical hair color, or scrap the whole thing - the city, the job, the hobbies - and start from scratch?  B is, of course, supportive and understanding, but still, with him in tow - with anyone in tow - the possibilities are limited.  We might move, I might change jobs.  But still, people will look at me and see me-and-B, me-and-B, me-and-B.  They will finally know me.  Who I am now is the person I will, it turns out, have been all along.  And maybe that's true, anyway, and maybe my reasonably low level of angst these days has been why this relationship has been able to work.  But, still.  Am I ready to be all figured out?