Tag Archives: quirkyalone

Diminished

Have you ever heard the saying, “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle”?  It’s a beautiful quote, author unknown, that speaks volumes to me about community, helping our neighbors, and giving for the sake of it.  But that’s probably because I’m a bleeding heart who works in the non-profit sector.  

But what if we applied this concept to Love? I would argue that right now, we don’t.  The model we’re peddle from day one thanks to companies like Disney is that somewhere out there this is a magical person who is your missing other half and all you have to do is find them! There are only 7 billion people on Earth, so how hard can that be? True love awaits!  

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than 5 minutes, then you already know I think this idea is bullocks.  There are just too many people in the world and too much love to be shared to say that we each have ONE person who’s our soulmate, ONE person who will be right for us for our whole lives through and ONE person whom will provide us with everything we need.  It sounds like a fairy tale because it IS a fairy tale.  

People ebb and flow in our lives.  Some leave as quickly as they arrived, others stay in it for the long haul, their involvement in our lives varying over time as we grow up, grow apart and come back together again.  I think of parents, for example.  No one would deny the important of their parents in their lives (for better or for worse), but most of us don’t talk to them every day.  We might even have friends that are our parents’ ages.  Does this mean we’ve replaced our parents? Does this mean we don’t care about them or love them?  Of course not.  When you’re 5, you spend every waking moment with your mother.  When you’re 25, you’re probably dodging her Sunday morning calls so she doesn’t know how hungover you are.  Our relationships change and evolve over time, but they are not somehow less important because they change. 

So back to my original question… what if we shared our love freely and weren’t ruled by ugly emotions such as envy and jealousy? Why do we hold onto this concept that by virtue of sharing our love, it is somehow diminished? 

It’s a insidious little thought, one that permeates every part of our culture.  The whole concept of “purity” or virginity is based on this idea– that you should only share yourself with ONE person, and if you share yourself with more than one person, you yourself are diminished– you, yourself, are worth less than you previously were.  Well I call shenanigans on this purity bullshit and all it entails.  Whatever higher power gave me this body also imbued me with bodily autonomy.  As long as I am sharing my love, and not hurting anyone, as long as I am consensually giving of myself, how am I diminishing myself?  The more I love, the stronger I feel, it just doesn’t add up.  

So if you’re a purist or a fundamentalist, if you think a woman’s worth is directly related to her virgnity, this is simply where we part ways.  I will never believe that a person’s worth is in any way tied to their virginity, regardless of gender, and frankly I find any other assertion disgusting.  We are more than the sum of our experiences, more than a series of actions taken or acted upon us.   Human beings are beautiful, complex creatures and I can’t think of anything much more meaningless than the number of people you’ve had sex with.  Like most numbers, it’s just used to shame.  Throw it out!  Love all, shame none. This is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.  

Over the years I’ve had run-ins with polyamory, as it were.  I used to say I just kept falling for people who identified as poly, but at some point I have take a closer examination of the fact that I keep gravitating towards people who identify as polyamorous.  Note: polyamory as in “many loves,” not polygamy as in many spouses.  (Which isn’t to say I’m against polygamy, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about.  Culturally speaking, polygamy is often tied to certain religious beliefs, while polyamory is basically the creation of many thoughtful, ethical sluts.)  

Recently I met someone who just awes me in so many ways, perhaps most profoundly in how much love he has to give.  He is, indeed, polyamorous and he has complete understanding of the idea that one relationship need not take away from another.  We are force-fed the idea of of monogamy (along with the marriage and picket fence end game) and the concept of relationship hierarchy.  And this is where I see a lot of new-to-poly folks fall into a trap.  They might’ve gotten rid of the monogamy thought, but not the hierarchy, and that will cause serious problems if you are juggling more than one romantic relationship at a time.  Trust me.  

But what if we throw both ideas out?  No more hierarchy, no more “primary partner” or “one and only”, just love.  Just love given freely.  It seemed so simple when it first hit me.  That jealousy is beyond pointless.  That I can love someone and have a deep and unique connection with them– and it doesn’t diminish what we have for me to love others, or for them to love others.  If anything, you’re just making the pie bigger.  More love, no shame, no jealousy, no competition.  I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when we’ve been taught the only way to be special to someone is to segregate them from all others.  But that’s not the way.  That sounds more like keeping a pet than loving a person, to me.  I mean, heck, even my cats are allowed to socialize.  

So I ask again, how is my Love diminished by sharing it with more people?  Knowledge is strengthened by spreading it around, I don’t see why Love is any different. 

Just use a condom.  Seriously, be safe.  

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End Game

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?

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Sad Singletons Go Hungry

Hey Singles,

Did you know we apparently can’t even cook for ourselves?  OK, maybe this article didn’t say that explicitly, but I don’t know what else to make of the title: Sad Singletons Go Hungry After 500,000 Lean Cuisines Recalled Because They Are Full of Glass.  The rest of the article doesn’t mention single people whatsoever, so why the cheap shot in the title? What the hell does this story have to do with being single? Absolutely nothing.  I’m guessing the author thinks she’s using some witty alliteration, but the title annoyed me so much it distracted from everything else about the article (like what it’s about).

Why am I “sad singleton”? Am I sad because I’m single? Or because, as a single person, I don’t know how to cook for myself and/or don’t think it’s worth cooking for just myself and eat only Lean Cuisine? Seriously? I’ve never even had a Lean Cuisine. I don’t even like typing Lean Cuisine.  Which isn’t to say I don’t indulge in junky food sometimes–I definitely do.  But if I’m going to buy something frozen and processed, let’s be real about it.  Don’t “lean” me anything.  I don’t drink “diet” soda for the same reason (also aspartame tastes terrible, but it’s mostly on principle).  I’m not being proud.  I definitely eat Hot Pockets when I’m depressed (and who doesn’t love the theme?), but not Lean Cuisine (fortunately– since apparently it is full of glass).

More to the point, though, what’s with the stereotype that single people can’t or won’t cook?  I know Ms. West didn’t invent the trope, but if anything shouldn’t single people have more time to cook? Fast food seems handy if you’re running late and you don’t have the time or energy to cook for 6 people.  So why the reverse that single people are just sad and depressed and either don’t know how to cook (many folks don’t know how to cook– but many still do, men and women alike) or won’t because, why just cook for yourself?

And I guess this is why the whole thing sticks in my craw so much.  I think this is an extremely important question, one I ask myself often– why just cook for yourself?  I have come to the conclusion that cooking for yourself is an act of radical self-love and is therefore one of the most beneficial things any person, especially a single person, can do for him/her/zirself.  I’m not saying you have to cook if you really hate it, or when you’re tired or just don’t feel like it.  I have just found that, occasionally,  the idea that it’s not worth cooking for just myself enters my mind.  It’s one thing to be genuinely tired or to eat out instead of eat in, but out of laziness or loneliness… that’s a problem.

Cooking is actually fun.  It’s part science and part art.  And thanks to the Internet, recipes are easy to find.  I like to read a bunch of difference recipes for similar dishes, and then improvise it in the moment.  Think of cooking like a kid would– like you’re a mad scientist searching for the perfect concoction!  You will fail sometimes, but those will always be the best stories… as long as you don’t burn the house down.  Don’t burn the house down.  (TIP: Always put food on a tray when you’re cooking it in the oven or toaster oven; things that drip catch fire.)  And if you’re concerned about the expense of fresh food like me, look around for local farmer’s markets and farm shares– they’re usually a great deal!

Most of us probably associate cooking with something our mothers did for the family (though I have a lot of fond memories of cooking with my Dad).  While it is essentially a domestic chore, we also consider it to be nurturing.  And why shouldn’t it be? Food is supposed to nurture our bodies.  I hate that so many of us wage war on food, or don’t have access to it, or have too much and throw it away.  I hate that we demonize calories, cause people to fear and love and loathe food at all once, this thing that is supposed to be just fuel and nutrients (and pleasure to some extent).  So why shouldn’t we cook for ourselves? We cook for our families, of course, but why shouldn’t we cook for ourselves also? Make our favorite dish, just because we can? Just because we like ourselves enough to put time and energy and imagination into something nurturing?

Sad Singletons Go Hungry? Nah, I’d rather cook.

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Normalcy

I’ve been thinking a lot about normalcy lately, and the fleeting desire for it.

Let’s get this straight (pun intended)–I’ve never felt normal.  And I’ve probably never been “normal” by anyone else’s standards either.  I’m part hardcore, bibliophile introvert, more likely to be seen with a book than a buddy, and part “Dyke Diva”– with the right genderbending attire, I’ve been known to strut and even swagger.  But none of it makes me normal, except insofar as my proclivity for emotions is just as human as anyone else’s.  But let’s face it, there is a difference between human and “normal.”  After all, we made up the latter.  Social construct–it’s all relative, yadda yadda yadda.  You know the drill.

So what IS “normal,” anyway? Is it routine? Is it commonality or majority? Or is it simply whatever is familiar? We like to talk about “normal” as though it’s some fixed, universal principal, but in reality whatever seems “normal” to us only seems that way because it is familiar to us.  What’s “normal” in the West is unlikely to be the “normal” in the East (though, globalization is quickly chipping away at that via television, business and the internet).  Leviticus, which people so love to cite to bash gays, is really just a list of normal practices for Jewish tribes back in the day.  Leviticus is the rules that separated them from outsiders.  Nowadays, though, eating dairy with your meat and getting haircuts are commonplace.  “Normal” is anything but fixed and universal.

So why worry so much about being normal?  Well, I must say friends, there is some comfort in normalcy.  There is comfort in being able to fly under the radar unmolested.  And as someone who’s spent much of her life as a painfully confused wallflower, normal seems pretty appealing. It’s the chance to not have an entire room stare at you and not having to pretend you don’t hear them talking under their breath about you.  (Though, I’ve taken to inventing my own dialogue when I hear people talking about me– “Oh Jade, she’s so cool! I’m so jealous of her cool, collected nature.”  It works better than you’d think.)

The “normal fallacy,” as it were, can be quite tempting.  Heck, I even fell prey to the assumption that I was normal during puberty.  As a queer person, I get asked about my coming out quite often.  And, frankly, it’s a little embarrassing.  When did I know I was gay? Well, it’s a bit murky.  I knew that I was attracted to women by the time I was 15, but I didn’t make the connection that said fact meant I could date women or that, heck, I might be gay, until I was 20!  Ridiculous, right? But it truly never occurred to me that (1) my attraction to women was out of the ordinary or (2) that it said anything about my sexuality.  After all, we’re all born straight! Right? Right..? Wait…

I even went so far as to date boys (rather, a boy) for nearly four years before I finally had to admit to the world that I was a raging dyke (and so many other parts of my life suddenly made sense).  I could not have been more oblivious at the time.  “Well, yeah, of course girls are sexy! Have you met my boyfriend? He’s pretty, isn’t he?”  The desire for normalcy is powerful and blind.

And so it is with relationships too.  That is, sometimes I wonder if my occasional longing for a relationship isn’t just a longing for the path more traveled.  In some ways, being a part of a couple is like getting into a special club.  You can go on double dates with other coupled friends, you get a plus one at weddings and special events, heck you have built in company for just about any event, and you can even bring your partner to a class reunion as a big middle finger to those asshats who said you’d always be alone.  Especially as you get older, others expect you to pair off, and reality becomes ever starker as your friends gradually pair off and you remain the ever-vigilant quirkyalone, who receives pitiful offers from friends to “live with me and my husband and kids someday,” as though all I ever wanted was to be a gay, glorified nanny for my straight friends.

None of this even mentions the financial or emotional benefits of being in a couple, just the social ones.  Sometimes it just seems like it would be easier to be part of a couple (which is ironic since any worthwhile relationship actually requires a lot of work and commitment!).

But there’s some trouble with normal… The Trouble with Normal… I kept  uttering this phrase to myself this morning until it hit me– I have a book with that title! (As a bibliophile, I often go on book-buying-binges when I’m depressed, and hence have a lot of books I adore, but have yet to read.)  I ran to my bookshelf and yes! There it was! The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner.  I just started reading it, obviously, but I am so excited about this book.  Mr. Warner promises to present some seemingly radical ideas–like that marriage is itself unethical and there’s a principled defense for pornography–and I’m really quite giddy about the concept of dismantling sexual shame.

The culture has thousands of ways for people to govern the sex of others–and not just harmful or coercise sex, like rape, but the most personal dimensions of pleasure, identity, and practice.  We do this directly, though prohibition and regulation, and indirectly, by embracing one identity or one set of tastes as though they were universally shared, or should be.

And who says they should be?  I’ve felt like a total weirdo, sore-thumb sticking out, my whole life.  Or, almost my whole life.  Times when I didn’t feel weird? At NYC Pride.  At a drag show.  At queer dance parties.  I don’t feel like such a freak of nature when surrounded by my LGBTQ friends and allies.  In these queer safe spaces, I’m not constantly hearing about what an abomination against God I am, how I’m flaunting my sexuality just by being true to myself, or how the way I Love is “unnatural.”  And that makes all the difference.  We are what we fill our heads with– and when our heads are constantly filled with damaging messages about how we’re freaky, or weird, or flat out immoral just by being who we are… it’s easy to see why we sometimes feel like “normal” is right and we are “wrong.”  Pile this on top of all the other messages we’re bombarded with–about gender, about race, about creed, about body size and type–it’s perhaps a wonder that we aren’t all huddled in a corner in the fetal position.  There are so many qualifications to be “normal,” and none of them guarantee you happiness.  Just ask Ashley Riggitano.

Friends, I end this entry with a call to action:  Do not be satisfied with normal! Do not be satisfied with what you already see in the world (especially on television/in movies)! Go out, create, be true to yourself, be what you feel in your heart, and confidence and happiness will eventually find you.  I commit to this, too.  That I will embrace my “Dyke Diva” side instead of my social anxiety, and I bet you that “normal” will quickly lose it’s shine.  More reviews of The Trouble with Normal to come.

Oh, and I’ve said the phrase “Dyke Diva” enough times that I’m now required to show this:

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Great Expectations

(Cheesy title, I know, but it’s my favorite Dickens novel and it fits the topic perfectly!)

As much as we all know we shouldn’t be held to anyone’s expectations in our pursuit of happiness, except perhaps those we impose on ourselves, the expectations exist nonetheless.  I had a wonderful, impromptu conversation with a coworker the other day who shared with me some of the pressure she regularly gets from friends and family about the progression of her relationship.  In anything new this usually happens: the people who care about us want to know every last detail and sometimes they do more harm than good in their relentless quest for details and updates.   And in relationships, there’s even an expected timeline for relationship progression.

Don’t believe me? You must be under 18.  Otherwise, you’ve lived long enough to notice that even if you don’t jump on this timeline personally, your friends will, and they’ll do it in waves.  Between 18 and 25 you will attend more weddings than you knew you had friends and relatives.  From 25-40 you’ll be invited to so many baby showers that you’ll take up knitting just to cut costs.  And after 40? The divorce wave cometh.

My aforementioned coworker is married, and she and her husband have been together for nearly 8 years.  However, they’ve only been formally married for a little over a year.  Despite never having been married, I know what this means, at least in terms of expectations.  The public likes hot romances and fast families.  That is, we consider it fairly normal to marry someone if you’ve been dating for anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.  Beyond that? “What are you waiting for?” “When are you getting married?” “When is he going to propose??”  Personally, I have a much more conservative timeline.  I wouldn’t marry anyone I hadn’t lived with, and I wouldn’t move in with someone who I haven’t been dating at least a year (I know, I’m shattering all your lesbian=Uhaul stereotypes!).  Then after you get married, you have exactly ONE year to get yourself knocked-up or family and friends give themselves the liberty to comment on your reproductive choices and lack of reproductive promptness.  Think of the children! Literally.

We laughed as she went through a sampling of the torrent of comments she receives: “When are you going to start your family?” “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” “Are you trying very hard? You know the longer you wait…” “Tick, tick, tick! That’s your biological clock!” “You should try [insert sexual position or type of medical intervention here, along with a personal anecdote]!”

Do you see it? How there’s also an assumption with the expectation?  Never has my coworker been asked if she even wants to have children, that is just assumed, but people have no problem asking if she’d prefer a boy or a girl before she’s even pregnant! Audacious doesn’t begin to cover it.  But the truth is, our friends and family absolutely think this is not just their business, but their sworn duty to ask.  Without pressure from our social circles, I’d wager some of us would never get married or have children.

The other thing that strikes me about this is how incredibly sexist it is.  My coworker noted that while she receives these kinds of burning inquiries on a weekly basis, her husband has received them… never.   Some questions are absurdly offensive, like “When are you going to start a family?” as though two people who love each other do not make a family already!  And some of the questions, like “When is he going to propose?” just make no sense.  Who says he’s going to be the one to propose?  If he is proposing, isn’t it likely a surprise?  What if they haven’t discussed marriage yet?  For some a lack of interest in getting married is viewed as an unwillingness to commit and a dealbreaker, but to others it’s just not that big of a deal.  I could go on.  Even still, these are the questions women receive and men do not.  In the case of lesbians, I’ve found that when one partner is more masculine (like me!), they’re often treated like the man in the relationship (which, ironically, is rarely the case in my experience; butches are like Cadbury Eggs, we’re tough and chocolately on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside!).  Or, to quote a friend of mine, “There is no man in the relationship! That’s why we’re lesbians!” For gay men… I have no idea.  (Twinks, Bears, Gay men of all varieties– Enlighten me!)

All in all, these are intensely personal decisions that, for some reason, people feel entitled to inquire about.  Obviously, it depends on the relationship, but there are some friends with whom I truly have no desire to discuss my relationship plans.  But the sad truth is we do have an established structure in our society.  It approximately goes: Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, send your kids to school (cycle starts over with them), then work until your dead or can afford to retire.   Nowhere is it written that this is how you have to lead your life, but people will expect that this is what you want and eventually what you’ll settle on, if you haven’t already.

Gosh, it almost seems bleak.   But let me say what I said to my coworker:  “You’re allowed to not want children.”  Likewise, you’re allowed to not want to get married, you’re allowed to not actually get married, you’re allowed to not have children, you’re allowed to forgo a “regular” job for one of your own creation, you’re allowed to buy a boat or a hot air balloon instead of a house, heck, you’re allowed to run away to the nearest island and eat papayas all day.  It’s all about what makes you happy.  You are not required to live up to ANYONE’s expectations, no matter whose they are or how great they may seem.

As for single people, we have expectations too.  But the question we get is the same every time… So what’s new in your love life?!” 

Of course, I assume when I hit 40, it’ll change to, “When are you going to adopt another cat?” or “Have you purchased your grave-site yet?”

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Forever

Let’s be transparent about it: I’m wary of relationships.  Anyone who’s been alive more then 3 years probably is.  After all, people hurt each other.  And, as my best friend says, “A big front has a big back.”  In the case relationships or love, the more you invest and the more pleasure you get from the whole experience, the greater devastation you’re risking yourself should it come to an end.

Or when it comes to end, I should say.  All relationships end.  Some do make it “till death do [they] part,” but most relationships will end much sooner than that for any number of reasons. Some ends are amicable, others complete blood baths.  I’ve had my share of both.  Nothing I’m saying here is remarkable, we all know it, right? Then why are we risking our hearts? Assuming we put heart into it– which is frankly the one way that seems at all worthwhile to me. But we do it anyway.  Time after time, failure after failure, we keep looking and trying and, more than likely, losing.  And it was never entirely our fault or entirely the fault of the other person.  Though, more than likely, we underestimated our power to change the relationship. Some are just bad ideas from the get-go.

But why? What, exactly, are we looking for? It’s not the risk of heartache that makes me wary of relationships.  Pain doesn’t scare me.  It’s that many of us are looking for “forever.”  Which is asking A LOT.  I’ve promised forever to some people.  I love them still, that’s true, but it sure as hell didn’t last forever.  I don’t really see it in the nature of relationships to last “forever.”  Even if it’s death that has to part you.  The Earth will still be spinning long after humans are extinct and all traces of our existence erased (save fossils), so what kind of absurd thing is it to say “forever” to someone, regarding your feelings and your relationships? Humans aren’t known for their stability of emotions, for one. But I guess “right now” or “as long as it lasts” isn’t quite as romantic as “forever.”

We turn again to Facebook.  Now, I know I talk about Facebook a lot, and it’s because I think Facebook is a fascinating place to study relationships.  I have my relationship status turned off because I hate that everyone has something to say when/if it changes… but it’s intriguing to watch how it plays out on other people’s profiles.  This image is just brilliant to me.  I couldn’t have made up something better:

So, the person who’s toasting to his “forever love of forever” has been dating this gal for about 18 months.  Year and a half… forever, same difference, right? It’s why we let 18-month-old’s drive cars.  But the string of responses just amused the hell out of me.  The first couple of responses are folks chiming in with their own relationship fodder–anything to talk about ourselves, right? But then my kindred spirits come out of the woodwork, and I’m comforted by the few folks gagging and making “Your Mom” jokes to combat the 40+ likes this post already got.

Oh well.  I hope this friend isn’t disappointed down the road of whatever is to become of his “forever love of forever.”  But I’m going to do my best to focus on what’s right here, right now.  I have to let my Love fuel me.  Whether I’ve convinced myself it’s the mystical “forever love” or any of the other, equally as worthy forms of showing Love towards another person, I’ve got to give all I can now and not worry about who I’ll have to Love later.

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Single vs Alone

Have you noticed that when describing people (be it yourself or someone else) who are not in a committed relationship or currently dating, we use the words “single” and “alone” interchangeably?  Everyone does it.  Don’t believe me? Read any column about dating or the quest for marriage and you’ll find that those two words are, in fact, used as though they had the same connotation.

And perhaps we do live in a time and place where some, very ignorant, people consider being alone and being single the same thing.  Well, I’m here today to tell you that they’re not.

“Single” mean you’re not dating/seeing anyone, whether by choice or otherwise.  “Alone,” literally speaking, means you have no one else.

Now, I would think it should be fairly obvious that no one is truly “alone” in this day and age.  I think one would be hard pressed just to find one’s self in a room without a television or a computer.  We are not alone.  Be it because of friends, family, coworkers, fellow weirdos on the internet–whatever–none of us are alone… even if it feels like it some days.   Knowing this fact, we’re forced to assume one of two things: Either no one actually understands what “alone” means, or using “alone” interchangeably with “single” is actually a judgement statement.  Unfortunately, I think the latter is far more likely.

This rhetorical misstep sends a clear message to the public, whether they realize it or not: Being single is “wrong,” if you’re single you’re actually all alone, singledom is an indication that no one wants you.  After all, usage of the word “alone” automatically implies that this is a negative, something that needs to be altered.  NO one wants to be alone!  “Single” doesn’t have quite the same impact, since “single” doesn’t inherently mean you’re not supposed to be.  What a load of crap, huh?  Well that’s how we talk about relationships in this country.  To quote Kelly Clarkson on this, “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.”

Here’s a fun fact: I get lonely, sure, but rarely when I’m actually alone in a room.  Being alone recharges me as an introvert, and it’s often when I’m most productive and creative.  Alone time for me is fuel.  No, I’m more likely to feel lonely in a room full of people where I don’t know anyone, or if I do they’re entertaining or some such.  I get lost in crowds, and I know I’m not the only one.  I’m the type that prefers a few close friends rather than a huge network of acquaintances.  I would suspect that even extroverts feel lonely from time to time.

But I can’t help thinking how absurd the idea of “being alone” really is.  I mean, on the one hand, we’re all alone– we were born alone, we’ll die alone, etc. with only ourselves having the knowledge of the inner most workings of our minds and hearts.  Sure, that’s true.  But on the other hand, if you are “being” in the world, there is no way for you to actually “be” whilst “alone.”  Even if you’re alone in your room, there are people still all around you outside of said room.  The world is a big place!

It’s an effective scare tactic, though.  “Hurry up and buy our products so you can land a wo/man or else you’ll be sad and alone forever!”  Riiiight.  Listen up, advertisers: I’m single by choice and I am NOT alone.  I don’t need your products, or a partner, to complete me or make me more palatable for you and your agenda.  Unless you’re selling vibrators… in which case I’ll take one of those. 😉

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Casualties of Love

Love is a many splendored thing.  Love lifts us up where we belong.  All you need is love!

…Right?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Love is a wonderful thing, and I truly believe that only ideas and actions based in Love can be truthful.  But somewhere along the line, especially for us English speakers, it seems that we all forgot there’s more than one type of Love.  It’s not just Love is what you feel for that person who gives you a raging boner– after all, that could just be infatuation.  No, there are so many different kinds of Love.  Love for your country, Love for your family, Love for an animal, Love for Ingrid Michaelson (or any musician– but how can you not love her?).  The list goes on and on and on and on.

But we get particularly caught up in this idea of romantic Love.  And I get why.  Who doesn’t love that new relationship energy, when everything is puppy dogs and kitten rainbows? And, as someone who’s libido is straight up going to waste at the moment, I get the sex part too.  But Sex is NOT Love.  I think sex can be super, extra special if it’s with someone you Love, but sex is just sex.  You don’t have to fuck someone to Love them, and you don’t have to Love them to fuck ’em.

But, hey, if we’re all consenting adults, what’s the big deal?

Perhaps there isn’t one.  But this entry is dedicated to all my fallen comrades.  To the once ostentatious dreamers, who have  given it all up for the chance at domestic bliss.

I first started to realize I was actually losing friends to Love back in college.  I moved in with a new roommate, and one of my close friends quickly fell for her.  It was messy, their get together, since she was in a long distance relationship at the time, but after a lot of angst they became a couple.  And suddenly I only saw my roommate every other morning, when she came by to pick up clean clothes.  This phenomenon, the first way in which we lose people to Love, is something my friends and I have coined “Girlfriend/Boyfriend Island:” that period of time when a relationship is new and you can’t get a hold of your twitterpated friend, by phone or any other method, and they literally seem to have run away to an island somewhere.

Fortunately, this stage usually wears off, but it can take up to a year and for some, it doesn’t seem to wear off ever.  But once you’ve gotten your friend back from the Island, you start to notice that they spend more time hanging out with other couples than they do their single friends and, as a result, you’re seeing a lot less of them.  This is where you actually start to wonder if your friend has been body-snatched, because something just isn’t right.

The length of this Couples-centric stage depends on the person.  For some, it’s transitional like the Couples Island, but for others it’s a lifelong shift into the world of coupledom and coupled privilege.

But none of this scares me.  None of this is why I think there are true “casualties” in Love.  Remember the couple I mentioned before that got together when I was in college?  Well, they’re still together, got married last year, actually.  I went; it was a lovely ceremony and I was genuinely happy for them.  But it was a mournful day, too, because of what they both gave up in being together.

A few years after they’d gotten together, after college graduation, we were all living in the same city and the lovely couple invited me over for dinner.  We had a nice time, but I noticed something… off, about them both.  Namely, neither of them had anything to talk about.  I must’ve gotten asked 10 times over the course of three hours, “So what’s new with you?” I was confused.  Sure, they’re both responsible people, working to save money and, in her case, working towards her doctorate.  But something was missing in both of them.  A certain spark I didn’t see anymore.

He used to be the biggest dreamer of them all.  The stage, the lights, the audience– he was going to be a star.  Now he’s content to sell furniture to snobs downtown.  Her love of school was always legendary, but being a foreign language student, she once had plans to travel all over, live in different parts of the world, soak up the culture.  She’s abandoned all of that now, because her husband doesn’t speak anything besides English.

I was torn.  Here were two people who I cared about very deeply, and they seemed to be truly happy together, just being domestic.  Yet, I could still see the tattered dreams under their feet, and I sincerely am not sure whether to be joyful for them or to mourn was has been lost, possibly forever.  Both of these once vibrant people had become mellow, predictable and, at times, kind of boring, as a couple.

I know Love comes at a cost.  I know because I’ve had to make that kind of choice before: Marriage or my future?  Before I came out, I was dating a straight guy.  It was long distance, and we were together for four years, but I ended things towards the close of my freshman year in college.  It wasn’t for lack of Love.  It was because I saw my future shriveling up before my eyes.  He wanted me to move to another country and marry him as soon as I was finished with undergraduate school.  And while I Loved him, and wanted nothing more than to be near him, I couldn’t make that leap.  I couldn’t throw away all my possibilities.  Without him in the picture, I could do anything after graduation! I could join the Peace Corps, or go to graduate school, or travel the country making money as a street musician– anything was possible.  But with him? My destiny was set.  I would get married, be a mother, and settle down.  No changing the world, no Jules Verne type adventures, just predictability.

To this day, I still Love him, but I chose Possibility.

I say this all with one of my best friend’s weddings looming before me.  In a few short months, I’m supposed to give a fabulous toast to their Love.  But what do I say when I feel like I lost my friend to the relationship he’s in?  Back in the day, when it was just him and I, we were going to take on the world together– and change it.  We sat on the subway talking about every grand thing we were going to do, and there was no ceiling as far as our dreams were concerned.  He was exuberant and opinionated, to the point of being bossy at times,  but I loved that he was just unabashedly him, and no one could stop it.

Or so I thought… Then, one day, he disappeared to Girlfriend Island.  Two years later, he still hasn’t come back.  What kills me, though, is that he is not the same person.  Where he was once loud and proud and in charge, now he’s meek and accommodating.  I’d call him a house-husband, since he does all the cleaning and the cooking and caring for the house, but he’s also supporting his fiancee with his full-time job while she dicks around in graduate school.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s been house broken.  Where he once spoke of changing the world, now all he can think of are linen colors for the wedding and babies for afterwards.

And then they went a got matching tattoos.  Not little ones, either.  Enormous, colorful, sure as hell expensive, matching tattoos.  I mean, for one, this is but one way to guarantee it won’t work out.  Relationship tatts are generally a terrible idea.  But I think what got me is that, once upon a time, my BFF and I said that after we’ve known each other for 10 years, we’ll get some kind of inside-joke, correlating tattoos.  We’ve known each other for 8 years.  He and his fiancee? Not quite 2.  Suddenly, I don’t want that tattoo anymore.

So on the surface, my friend seems happy.  And if he’s happy, I’m happy for him.  It’s just a little hard to swallow that he’s happy and everything is utterly perfect when, for one, all his friends are her friends and he doesn’t have any of his own where they’re living now, and, more the point, he is literally a vastly different person since they got together.  I mean, he went from extrovert, always being the center-of-attention, to being some kind of doting, lovesick wallflower.

And so I take this moment, to pause from the seemingly endless celebration of coupledom, to mourn our fallen comrades.  To mourn the opportunities lost, the dreams abandoned, and the personalities forever altered in pursuit of “The One,” a fictional concept there to push the idea that you’re not perfect just the way you are.

Well let me tell you–you’re perfect and complete, exactly as you are.   Whether you’re single or in a couple, don’t give up on yourself for another person.

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Beauty and the Beast

My childhood consisted of what was probably the height of Disney’s great animated feature length films.  The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and, of course, Beauty and the Beast.

BATB was always my favorite.  I told people it was because I was Belle.  You know, brown hair, brown eyes, lovely singing voice, sense of adventure, wore a dress my favorite shade of blue, and was the quirky, bookworm outsider.  There were certainly parallels.  But I am not the most beautiful girl in town.  The gal the town jock is trying to win over? Hardly.

It was a lie.  Belle wasn’t the one I identified with… it was the Beast.  And not “the Beast” as in “Prince who got transformed into a monster,” but as in a Beast.  Misguided, sure, but a Beast nonetheless.  And the line that always stuck in my head?

Who could ever learn to love a Beast?

In that story, the answer is Belle.  In mine… I’m not sure.  Admittedly, I haven’t done a great job of Loving myself.  In fact, that benchmark is kind of high.  I’d settle for not hating myself most days.

Likewise, Phantom of the Opera has always been a love of mine.  The Broadway play is my favorite, but the book is good too, though very different.  Of course in both you have the Phantom, the talented, yet hideous, creature who lives beneath the Paris Opera House.  Seeing a pattern here?  All these creatures with supposed “hidden beauty,” looking for Love.  The Beast actually finds it–Go Figure!–but the Phantom is not so fortunate.

I guess real life isn’t as dire as fiction.  I might not be the leading lady, but I do have a nose and I’m not that hairy (even without shaving).  Yet, like these characters, I’ve never really felt like the real me was all that visible.

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Please Bring…

Last week our department hit our 90%-before-the-end-of-March fundraising goal.  Obviously, we were all pretty excited! But the department VP asked that we keep low-key about it for the moment.  Today, I received an email invitation to a celebration party.  Our VP’s husband is a chef, so she’s inviting us all over to her house for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  Sounds great, right? Good food and a reason to celebrate! But I’m not sure if I’m going…

Well, why the hell not?!  The invitation was short and sweet.  It said:

Now it is time to celebrate!!!

[Date, Time, Location]

Please bring your significant other and join us for a few hours to celebrate hitting 90%!!!

See the problem? It’d be one thing if she said, “Feel free to bring your significant other,”  but this “please” business has me confused as to whether or not I am actually invited to attend should I NOT have a significant other to bring.  Seems far-fetched, right? It is a work event… but even if we dismiss that notion, there’s still the fact that every other person there will have a significant other with them, and I am straight up not sure if I will even have anyone to talk to!  The last thing I want to do is be mopey in front of my co-workers, but if I go and I’m the only single person there, that’s a very real possibility.

To clarify, here’s a quick breakdown of everyone in my department at work by relationship status: 8 of them are married, 3 others are in committed relationships, and one is single.  You already know which one is me.  To be fair, I’m also the youngest person in my department, but not by a heck of a lot!  The two co-workers closest in age to me (they’re a year or two older than me) are both married.

It’s not like this is a new problem, it’s just one that’s complicated by work.  I’ve routinely not been invited to events or suddenly was not able to spend as much time with a friend because I don’t have a significant other to bring to said events or double dates or whatever it is couples do with other couples.   I’ve never really understood couples-only events, to be honest.  Are your single friends less interesting? Do you have less in common with them? I just don’t see what there is to be gained by excluding people on the basis of their relationship status.

So here we have an event I might not even be invited to if it weren’t for work, again, on the basis that I do not have an S.O. to bring to the party.  So what do I do? Go alone? Skip it? Bring a friend? Bring my cat just so we can all be super clear about who the spinster is?

This seems like an unnecessary amount of heartache for what would otherwise sound like a fun Sunday to me.  Excluded before the party has even started.

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