I’m a bit of a perfectionist by nature. School was the ideal distraction for me as a kid: I could dive into it completely and dedicate myself to learning all the rules, reading all the books, getting the highest scores on tests, etc. Unsurprisingly, math was my favorite subject. (Or maybe surprisingly, since math is always getting a bad rap and I am, after all, A GIRL. GASP!) There’s more than one way to arrive at an answer in mathematics, but ultimately there’s only one correct answer (or set of correct answers). There’s something comforting and definitive about math that the other subjects lack, and math doesn’t even have to sacrifice any creativity for it.
Direct, decisive, but creative. In a nutshell, what I aspire to be.
But math doesn’t stop there. Because you have to show all your work (or, at least, we did when I was in school; I don’t know how the state of calculator use has advanced), you can always go back and find your mistake. Find your mistake, fix it, recalculate and we’re back in business! If only determining and remedying our mistakes in the rest of life were so easy.
I was called “wise,” tonight. It’s not the first time I’ve been described that way, but frankly I don’t think I possess any special skills or insight others lack. Truthfully, if I’m wise it’s because I make a lot of mistakes. I make mistakes, I reflect on them, and I try to make different and/or better choices the next time. It seems simple because it is, this is how we learn. But as I grow older I am honestly floored by how many supposed “adults” I’ve met that are afraid to make mistakes or, worse yet, learn from them! Even my closest friends warn me against taking risks. I know they mean well, I know they don’t want to see me hurt, but the size of the reward is generally directly proportional to the size of the risk. You dream big? You’ll have to take big risks to get it.
So let me propose that the idea that mistakes are in any way, shape or form “bad” is completely ludicrous. Mistakes are a blessing. For one, we’re not actually required to be perfect, even if we insist on putting that pressure on ourselves. (I’m utterly convinced perfect would be boring anyway. The Twilight Zone fans out there know what I’m talking about.) More importantly, mistakes open the door for new knowledge and insight. Some of history’s best inventions began as “mistakes.”
If mistakes are inherently good things (which seems oxymoronic to say, I know), the best mistakes are the one you learn the most from. Which, unfortunately, often correlates with the size of the mistake… There have been times in my life where getting my heartbroken, saying the wrong thing to the new boss, utterly embarrassing myself, etc.–the things that sting so damn much in the moment–where the best things that could’ve happened to me.
Relationship mistakes are perhaps the most interesting because we don’t learn what’s necessary “right” or “wrong,” we learn about ourselves. We learn who we are, how we love, how we cope, what we want, want we can give and what we’re willing to give. And those are some of the most important things to know about oneself. So was dating my coworker dumb? Sure. Did dating someone twice my age present more challenges than I anticipated? Absolutely. Will co-dependency gnaw at your sense of self like a hungry rat? Of course. But I don’t regret a single one of these mistakes. Perhaps I wish I’d know better sooner, but I know better now. And that’s what matters.
So what exactly have I learned through my various relationship follies? Well, it sounds cliche, but I’ve certainly learned that the most important relationship I have is with myself and that self-care is not optional or self-indulgent, it’s a matter of survival. I’ve learned that while relating is important, I never want to be the most important or *biggest* thing in someone’s life or vise versa. I’ve learned that relationships are supposed to enhance your life, not become your life, not engulf your life. I’ve learned that you don’t give to get, and, at the same time, if you’re consistently giving and not getting anything in return, it’s time to move on. Often the act of giving gives back to ourselves, but if that’s not happening there’s a problem. I’ve learned that jealousy is an extremely silly emotion that usually arises from not speaking your peace. I’ve learned to speak up. I’ve learned that sex is better when you’re loud.
I’ve learned that Love is not always enough.
I’ve learned that while I cannot control the actions or reactions of others, I can make informed choices and be in control of my own emotions and reactions, which is actually quite a lot. I’ve learned that I don’t have to catch what others are throwing at me. I’ve learned that making and keeping boundaries is hard work, but well worth the effort. I’ve learned that love is meant to be shared–inclusive, not exclusive. I’ve learned that 99% of the time it’s not personal. I’ve learned to trust the person who shows me they love me without saying it, over the person who says it without showing it. I’ve learned that my heart will heal and grow back, and being bitter just keeps the wounds from healing. I’ve learned that if I love myself first, I have more to give others as a result. I’ve learned that dating co-workers is about as good an idea as living with friends (i.e. not very). I’ve learned some people will take as much as you let them. I’ve learned that you are not obligated to anyone, even if they love you. I’ve learned that communication is crucial. I’ve learned that genuine love means letting go, even when it’s the last thing in the world you want to do.
I’ve learned that there’s more than one right way to Love.
This is an incomplete list, by far, and I know I still have much to learn. The things I’ve learned are not necessarily universal truths, though some might be. They’re what’s true for me, what I want in and out of my life. I think that’s why there are so many mistakes we have to make for ourselves. Not because we’re stubborn and won’t listen, but because we’re all unique people, so we’ll learn different things through our mistakes. We’ll learn what we value, what we love, and what hurts the deepest.
As long as you’re willing to take a risk, the rest will follow.
Starin’ down the stars
Jealous of the moon
You wish you could fly
Just being where you are
There’s nothin’ you can do
If you’re too scared to try…
I’m just a little flabbergasted. Apparently we need to brand single people now so you know they’re single (like how you totally know someone is unavailable if they wear a ring their left ring finger).
There are two major problems I see with this concept:
(1) Despite Facebook’s insistence that you’re either are, were or wish to be married, there’s actually a lot more nuance to relationship statuses, even if you’re single. I mean, heck, at the moment I’m “single but seeing someone,” what color wristband would that be?
(2) It’s downright degrading!
Jezebel’s coverage of the issue is actually pretty thorough, and I appreciate the seething sarcasm. They certainly cover the problem of nuance, “seven colors cannot possibly contain the multitudes of relationship statuses within singleness.” True story.
Perhaps the creation of these isn’t as insidious as I suspect… Creator Rob says: ‘Whilst working at my previous office of 3,500 people, I realised that I saw hundreds of people each day that could potentially be a suitable partner, yet there was no way of knowing their relationship status.’ Then again, maybe it is.
Really, Rob? NO WAY of knowing? So it’s safe to assume you cut out your tongue to win a bet and that’s why you can’t simply TALK to people to find out what their deal is? REALLY? I mean, it’s not even hard nowadays: you can talk, text, skype, chat, tweet, post, like, etc. etc. The ways we communicate keep expanding, but you need a special colored wristband to know who’s single so, HEAVEN FORBID, you don’t accidentally have a conversation with someone who’s romantically unavailable but may, nevertheless, make a great friend? I call shenanigans.
I really do find this degrading. Maybe that seems a little out of proportion. Granted, it’s hardly the same as the pink triangle, and it’s still a form of branding. Branding a person to reduce them to a single characteristic and separate them accordingly.
Not only is it degrading because it reduces me to my status as “single” and nothing else, but it also springboards off the assumption that there’s simply no way I would willingly choose to be single.
“The new MY Single Band bracelet aims to take some of the complication out of looking for love, enabling singletons to easily spot each other.”
Clearly, I am a “singleton” against my will, but thanks to this nifty colored wristbands (that happen to look exactly like the colored wristbands people wear for causes or those “shag bands” kids were into for a minute) will solve all my problems! All I need to do is find someone wearing the right color wristband– no need to waste time talking or getting to know people!
Sinceriously– it’s degrading. And they absolutely reinforce the idea of there being ONE TRUE LOVE out there, waiting for you with baited breath. “The silicone wristbands are embossed with the words fate, destiny and future.” I think I might gag. If “fate” and “destiny” were REALLY at play here, then why would you need a stupid silicone wristband to find each other???
This idea does vaguely remind me of a quirky film I saw on Netflix called “TiMER.” The concept is that science knows who your soulmate is and you can get a timer installed in your wrist which will tell you when you’re going to meet them! It’s an interesting idea, and despite my general cynicism I actually adored this movie. Why? I thought it did a fabulous job of challenging the traditional narrative about how you’re supposed to fall in love and raises some interesting questions. In a world where you can know who your soulmate is, does dating have a purpose? What if you meet someone you like, but know they’re not your soulmate per the timer? What if you meet someone you like and they don’t HAVE a timer? Ultimately, the point I took home is that there isn’t a right way to love. There’s just love.
So, in response to disgusting wristbands: No thanks, I’d rather continue having meaningful conversations and getting to know people without being focused on their relationship status. Cool?
Last night was yet another amazing evening spent with my new beau. I was recounting some of the night to a close friend of mine, telling her about how happy I was, how a meteor could fall on my head right now and I’d still have a smile on my face, but inevitably “the future” came back to haunt me.
“Don’t hate me,” she began, “But what does this mean for the future?”
I get it. I understand the path we are taught to take always ends in marriage and kids and this one doesn’t. But why is that so scary?
“Uh, lots of hot sex with someone who adores me as much as I adore him?” I responded.
But of course it’s more than that. Of course I’m emotionally invested (meaningless sex really does it get me off, but power to the folks it does!) in this relationship, non-tradition though it may be. And of course a relationship has to go somewhere. Even if the habits stay the same, even if one doesn’t progress towards marriage or living together, being together for a long time will inevitably lead to a deeper connection– and that, admittedly, is something I do desire.
But let’s pretend, for argument’s sake, that he were single and monogamous. It really wouldn’t change where we are right now: enjoying each other’s company, figuring out each other’s quirks. We’re still new to each other, and at this stage, we’re having fun and learning. All relationships start this way, regardless of where they end up.
So I can’t help but wonder, what’s the rush? What’s the rush to see it “evolve”? And why does evolution only look one way (i.e. marriage)? I think Darwin would be disappointed by the suggestion. Yes, my options would be different, but so what? Even if I had options like marriage and kids and living together, is that something I even want? Right now I can definitely say, “Hell no!”
“Wouldn’t you eventually want to live with your partner?” asks my concerned friend. “Not necessarily,” is the answer, but more the point, who says I couldn’t? I’ve seen some very creative polyamorous households, for the record. But really, I don’t know. I’ve never actually lived with a partner (unless you count that semester from hell back in college, I don’t) and I don’t know that I’d want to. I very much enjoy having my own living space, and even if I did agree to move in with someone, it would be with the caveat that I had at least a room that was all my own space. A place to escape to, in case of emergency.
“But don’t you get jealous?” she asks. A fair question, and I tell her honestly, “Yes, sometimes. But actually it’s good for me to get confronted with my jealously. When I stop to think about it, I realize there’s really nothing to be jealous of. When I’m with him I feel loved and sexy and desirable and heck, even important. Each relationship is unique, and when I’m aware of this comparison begins to seem so foolish!”
I really appreciate how open my friend is being, I know it’s hard for her to think I could be happy without getting married. “When you do believe that marriage and babies is the path that people take and the structure you believe in, its scary when people you love step outside of that.”
“I guess it’s just dawning on me now, truly, that marriage isn’t the ONLY path to happiness, to family, to love. It’s disorienting, to be sure, but freeing too.”
But really, what I can’t get over is what’s the rush? Honestly, what is it? Is it that my biological clock is ticking? Don’t worry, my ovaries never let me forget. Is it that everybody else is doing it (I’m at that age, I’m going to at least a wedding a year)? Or is it that life is short?
Well that’s the irony, I suppose. It’s because life is short that I DON’T see the rush. Why am I going to plan for 5 or 10 years down the road when, in reality, the world could explode this evening? I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I could win the lottery, I could get hit by a bus, I could find a baby goat on my doorstep and be tasked with raising him to be a proud, badass adult goat. I don’t know! And that’s the beauty of it.
So yes, I’m staying in the here and the now as much as possible. I’m focusing on all the amazing things happening in my life right at this very moment– the future will come soon enough no matter how (un)prepared I am. So why concern myself with the amorphous FUTURE, when I can spend my time being grateful for everything already present in my life?
THE FUTURE, as far as I can tell, has already arrived.
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?
I wonder if this is what Peter Parker feels like when he goes home to MJ and finally takes off his mask.
After a sincere, year-long attempt at a relationship, I’m actually pleased to be returning to single life. Breakups always suck, and this one is hardly an exception, but singledom feels so natural to me– truly being the master of my own life, my schedule, my activities and, perhaps most importantly, with whom I spend my time.
I’ve never understood how some of my friends could hop quickly from one relationship to the next with barely any time in between to find themselves again. I always find myself needing more alone time than usual after a breakup, time I often refer to as “recalibration.” It’s not only that you need to figure out who you are independent of the relationship, but you need to figure out who you are after the relationship. Every relationship we have, no matter how short, changes us. Some teach us what not to do, some inspire us, but either way we are changed, even if in only subtle ways.
I’ve learned a lot of what not to do this time around, but I also feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself, and that, being the “free spirit” I am, maybe the standard courtship mold doesn’t work for me. After all, I really love living on my own, I don’t know that I want to move in with someone else, get married and start a family. Maybe down the road, but right now I want to just meet interesting people and have great connections. I don’t need a marriage end game, even though it’s a lot less illegal for me now. (Bye, bye DOMA!)
Anyhow, it’s good to be back. I’ve missed blogging a lot, and I felt so out of place not being my single self, even though it was nice to feel a little bit “normal” for a hot minute. And I can’t forget the love I’ve shared, even though things were hardly perfect most of the time. I try to hold on to the good and let the rest fall away, but it takes time.
Cheers to Single Life!
Fabulous video! “Dear Straight Allies– Thank you! More please.”
I’ve been over my slam poetry phase for a while (I still think it’s a wonderful endeavor for budding poets), but this was too good NOT to share. Enjoy!