Thanks to prolonged peer pressure from some of my coworkers, I finally caved in and watched Orange is the New Black, which I highly recommend. For those who are unfamiliar, the show is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman about her time in a women’s prison. The show itself is rife with prison and lesbian drama and while I certainly wouldn’t call it a comedy, it has it’s lighter moments.
Towards the end of season one, Piper asks her on-again-off-again lover what exactly the “end game” of their relationship is. That is, are they going to move to Vermont and have a baby, or will they hop around the globe from one fabulous party to another, free-falling through life? These are but two lesbian stereotypes in an ocean of possibility, of course, but the point is clear: Most of us date because we’re in search of a particular end game. And, for many of us, that looks like monogamous marriage with kids and, yes, a white picket fence.
I’m not knocking marriage or monogamy, but I don’t know what the rush is to get to the end of the game. I mean, the world we live in is such that many people live into their 80s, 90s and beyond– so why the rush to pop out a kid by 25? Why the need to plan your wedding when you’re not even engaged? Why the insistence on labeling a relationship (and the associated expectations) so quickly? What ever happened to living in the moment?
I reconnected with someone a few weeks ago who’s company I’ve been thoroughly enjoying. I guess it would be fair to say we’ve been enjoying each other. It’s rare, at least in my experience, to find someone you’re just comfortable being with– where silences are just silences without the awkward, where looking at one another is endlessly engaging, where you’re free to be yourself, whatever that looks like. But that’s how it’s been with us. We sincerely like each other, we enjoy spending time together, and beyond that their are no expectations.
I think it’s kind of perfect, actually. I love adding interesting and passionate people to my life, so why not do so without worrying about labels? Why not enjoy the company of those around you without concerning yourself with where you’ll all be in ten years? Not everyone sees it that way, though.
One of my closest friends is getting married next Spring, and unlike me she’s all about the wedding planning. But she’s also all about monogamous marriage and sincerely doesn’t seem to understand that I am not worried about the long-term right now. My last relationship was all about the long-term, empty promises and sweet nothings. I don’t want any more of that… but the idea that maybe I changed my mind, that maybe I was wrong about what I wanted (a long-term committed relationship, for example) and just want to have fun in the NOW is very foreign to my soon-to-be-bride friend.
To use an analogy, our conversations feel like this lately:
Me: Oh wow! Look at this delicious cake! I’m so going to eat this cake!
Friend: NO! Don’t eat the cake! You might get diabetes in 10 years!
Me: Yeah, but, I want cake right now and right now I don’t have diabetes.
Friend: But you have to plan for your future!
Me: … *shoves cake in her mouth*
I know she’s concerned that I might get hurt (that’s a risk you take when you put your heart in anything, I’m prepared for the consequences), and that she’s concerned because she cares about me but… it almost feels like concern trolling. Even worse, it feels like she’s condescending to me. I tell her about how happy I am and she says things like, “That’s so nice” as though what I’m doing is some kind of quaint placeholder until I wise up and go on a husband (wife?) hunt.
But what I’ve realized is that I don’t need to hunt– I don’t need another person to complete me or make my life work, and my life is full of dear friends who love me very much. While sometimes it’s hard to separate the peer pressure (thanks, Facebook) from my actual wants and desires, I’m finally starting to accept that maybe I don’t want what most people seem to want, and maybe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, I have a lot of love to give, who says I need to give it all in the same place?
I came across this comment on an article recently and it really resonated with me: “As mentioned above, I’m older. I do NOT want to get married or have kids. The best relationships that I’ve ever had consisted of sex and dinner a few times a week, peppered with intense conversations and some social outings as a couple. I’m fairly self-sufficient, and don’t really WANT someone who is too deeply ingrained in my daily routine. I’ve been accused of everything from being a heartless bitch to a total evil slutsicle for articulating this.”
Well, I’m “younger” by many standards, but otherwise I feel very similar. I don’t want to get married, and while I do want kids someday, that’s something I’m really not going to start thinking about for at least 5 more years. I love having my own place and I don’t want to move in with anyone or infuse myself into their daily routine. But I do want fun and great sex and intense conversations with someone with whom I share a sincere connection… yeah, I guess that does make us sluts, Internet Sister. At least by the standards of the penis-barers. (This is one of many reasons why I only sleep with feminists, no joke.)
Suddenly, English is failing me yet again. How does one even refer to the types of connections I’m talking about? The rhetoric we have surrounding dating and relationships reinforces the idea that the end game is, should and shall always be marriage, kids, house, dog, fence, etc. If you’re “dating,” it’s for the hope that you’ll turn out to be great life partners and decide to get married. I could effectively say I’m dating right now, since I’m going out on dates and having fun, but my end goal isn’t a long-term relationship and that’s the expectation with “dating.” It’s a kind of courtship, at least it’s assumed to be. So how do I say I’m non-exclusively dating and not looking for a spouse? What a mouthful. No wonder I’m a quirkyalone.
My friend says, “I’m just concerned that there is potential for you to fall madly in love with someone who won’t give you everything you want in life.” and I can’t help but laugh out loud. Is this a common sentiment– that we’re supposed to get “everything we want in life” from ONE person– one person who isn’t even ourselves? It’s just so ludicrous, I have to laugh. If I’ve learned anything from my last relationship, it’s that making yourself happy is crucial and it’s nobody else’s responsibility but your own. When we depend solely on others to make us happy or “give us what we want,” we’re not only setting ourselves up for failure, we’re being outright unfair. I don’t know any psychics so I’ve always found it good practice to ask for the things you want or need from others, rather than waiting for them to figure it out and pout passively in the meantime. But I’m single and unmarried– what could I possible know about relationships?