Yep, I am 25 years old, and I’ve never been in a relationship. I knew I was romantically doomed in the first grade when my first crush, a boy named … Continue reading 25 Years of Being Single
I wish there were a sign I could hang outside myself, “soul out sick”. My ideas, my writing, have gotten tired, worn, gray. They used to have teeth– the things I said. I think on a loop now– somehow convinced that if I write about these themes, if I talk them out, if I purge and discharge them, they will cease to be in my head. It doesn’t work. Perhaps I’m prematurely birthing thoughts that needed more womb time, even nurtured in draft bassinets before publishing. No. I push my poems into the world like myself — way before I was ready. That’s the thing with abandonment issues– there are exits and footprints away from all the things I fathom.
I read my previous feed like I’m cleaning my closet. Looking for the clutter in cloned pieces. All the while, I know that I am writing more than thoughts. These are my fears that I don’t dare dive into, but merely landscape in flowery prose. If I barreled a lawnmower through the literary devices, what would remain? I feel complacent. I worry I’m going anywhere. I once had wings and sliced them myself so no one would be threatened by my ability to fly, ashamed that I could ever touch the clouds to begin with. I’ve tried defining my infinite-ness by subtraction, and continue wracking my brain over impossible equations. My atrophied phrases mirror the fear paralyzing me. That I might not be good enough. Am I a collection of second hand thoughts I write with my non-dominant hand? Would I still be pretty if all you had to go off of was the color of my soul?
What I post here is everything I’m too ashamed to say aloud, to know the ears of the universe heard my voice crack when I asked to be loved. When I wish hands besides my own knew how to worship my body–or wanted to learn. I worry I am un-wantable and disposable. One day, I will find my vulnerability beside the recycling, and, express with gratitude, that it will make a nice cup or newspaper in another life, never mourning that no one valued my exposure enough to keep it. It’s a hard lesson to absorb that self-love does not encompass all other loves. It’s the earth, not the trees. It’s a harder lesson to accept that I will still want and need other loves, even with a profound sense of my own. The hardest is to celebrate that I deserve to be loved profoundly and deeply and in many ways by other people. That I cannot continue convincing myself that it’s ok to be a pit stop in everyone’s story. Telling myself this as I collect the litter they leave in their wake. Moreover, I can’t define myself by another’s road map. If someone referred to the Pyramids as a pit stop, it’s not a comment on the Pyramids.
I am in a footrace with my thoughts. They always win. I touch my hair so my head feels lighter. To think differently, I need to do differently. I don’t entirely know what that is. I’m so annoyed with the items in my head. They’re only asking to breathe and be heard. I don’t know how to do that. I only know how to smother all the things I feel are weak in me. Maybe that’s why my fingers find themselves pounding at this keyboard, the same ideas with different words– because you can’t choke ache. You can’t suffocate needs. They find ways to exists, perhaps more furiously than originally intended. Sometimes, processing feels pathetic. If feels sad and lonely– and maybe I am those things while also bring the bright-burning, strong, independent woman I’ve always been. My head feels like a Rustbelt Town I can’t afford to leave. So, how do I build? Reinvent? Revolutionize?
The answer isn’t out there, but in here. It’s tuning into myself. What feels good and what doesn’t? Screw the magazine tips and wives tales, your gut is your compass, allow it to guide you. Be radically vulnerable and sincere. Profoundly uncool as it is, this is what I have to do. I’m going to get my ass kicked. There is a 100% chance I will embarrass myself and fall on my face. Guess I’ll be seeing the world from a lot of different angles. I need to surrender my coolness, my upper hand, all the ways I lull myself into security, if I want to be fulfilled. The Pacific Ocean is dwarfed by the depths of my emotions. My thoughts make Hamlet appear succinct. I got more baggage than a Southwest Flight the on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I am the headache you would never dare to wish away with Advil. And I deserve the things I want (as a person, not bs stuff like shoes. I don’t deserve fancy shoes). I have to believe that first, open in all the places I’ve broken, and allow myself to receive it. Of course, timing could totally screw me over on this one.
Rather than checking out, like the beginning of this essay, I want to check into myself again. To turn the dial to a place where my head is clear, even if I don’t always love what’s playing. Maybe the point isn’t to catch my thoughts, but let them tire themselves out by running and screaming until their presence is graffiti in my skull. After all, I can always paint over that stuff.
I am 23 years old. I’ve never had a significant other. If you’ve read my other posts, my unease I feel with this is palpable. It’s not a hope to be halved and had by someone else. More that, I am trying to reconcile my fierce independence with my human (and natural) craving for romance and affection. I’m embarrassed for thinking about this as much as I do. I feel like I’ve compromised my “strong woman” status with these knotted sentiments: half of celebrating my freedom, the other half curious about a romantic relationship. Even my curiosity is proud– refusing to settle, in harmony with my gut at all times. When my intuition tells me it’s not right, I can’t allow myself to continue pursuing a person. I wish I could, but bending isn’t something my will enjoys.
I had my first crush at five– in kindergarten. The following year, he declared before our first grade class that, not only did he not like me, but I was the ugliest girl in the world! I moved on in third grade. Although, I quickly squashed my chances by fracturing his jaw in a game of crab soccer. I met attraction as a shameful and always-distant beast. My first two crushes set the stage for a series of unrequited almosts that have followed me ever since. The cocktail of unachieveable affection and my addiction to romantic narratives (Jane Austen, Love Actually, Jane Eyre– you get the gist) sculpted my perception into an hourglass. I was waiting for romantic love for my life to begin, never realizing that I was already living.
And every time, I expected love to save me . When I attempted suicide, when all I wanted to do was run and I noticed anchors at my heels, through abuse and assault and harassment, on the rough days and in crisis– I half-heartedly hoped some beautiful soul would mend the messy parts for me. But it was just me. Me, alone in the chaos of the tempests I created. I didn’t–and still don’t– have a lifeline to pull. As a white, middle class, able-bodied, cis-woman, resources are abundant to me. In dissecting my singlehood, it’s also important to point out my privilege. The world wants to protect fragile, pretty, young white women, and in many ways, my privilege has been my lifeline. When the system is designed for your protection and success, it’s easy to sound triumphant. Were I born somebody else, I would not be so fortunate.
But since no romantic other is here to do the heavy lifting, I get my hands dirty. I am brazen about self-advocacy. There isn’t space for fear in saving yourself. You have to dive in and figure out if you have the chops to make it as you go. More often than not, I realize I have what it takes when I remember that I am worth saving.
I’m not saying that I don’t feel lonely. I’m not saying that there aren’t moments when I resent my singlehood. There are. They come often. However, I am certain that the regret I’d feel from wasting time and emotions and energy on a lackluster relationship outweighs my loneliness. Moreover, I’ve learned to self-soothe.
There are days I feel like the puppy at the pound nobody picked. I watch each one as they’re wanted and carried home. And holy hell how I want to be picked. I question if I am lovable, if I am pretty, why none of this has happened yet. But, that scenario hinges on being selected out of pity. It frames love as a sales pitch and me as a product. Love doesn’t work like that. I don’t know much about relationships or how they work, but I’m certain it’s not through pity. It’s a mutual choice every day to prioritize this relationship over other options you have. I think relationships work best when it isn’t a necessity that both (or more than two) people stay together.
Women, especially, are told that no relationship is higher, more important, than the one she has with a romantic other. Men are paramount, and sisterhood is secondary. This idea is not only absurd but heteronormative and sexist– assuming the only romantic other a woman can have is a man. I’m not saying the relationship with your partner isn’t profoundly important. What I am saying is that one person cannot be everything to another person. A human body cannot configure itself into a life preserver. Contrary to the beautiful and harrowing scenes of Hollywood, romantic love and sex are not your savior. It’s you and connection that will rescue you.
I tell myself this a lot. I convince myself that self-love can substitute for everything else. Humanity is vulnerability. Our ability to need and want connects us to other living things. But, somehow, I would sooner engulf myself in flames than allow you to blister my thumb. Denying my wants and needs is a pipeline to internalized shame. My ego perpetually wars with my humanity. The truth is, I want to know what it’s like to have a romantic other. I don’t know how to allow this want to exist without shame, without my pride storming in to bludgeon myself out of wanting or hoping. Lashing out at myself is easier than embracing the desire to be loved.
This year, 2016, I put myself out there more. I actively dated. I attempted the app game. I thawed. The result was relatively the same. I wasn’t that into most of the people I dated, and the ones I did attempt to pursue weren’t into me. My attempts at dating were in conversation with my attempts to unravel myself from all the “dating rules” women are fed. You can’t text him first or call him first and you can’t sleep with anyone until you’ve been seeing each other for 90 days. How the hell am I supposed to be authentic when I’m supposed to be keeping track of all of these rules?! But the other part of me says, “what if you don’t follow them and end up alone?”
I operated under the collector’s mentality up until this point– this idea that if I preserve myself from a distance, that I never make a fool out of myself or dare to be messy and human– I will always have the upper hand. But it’s the upper hand because nobody is holing it. And this “rules” driven strategy only yields regret. I’m writing this essay because the words have been stewing for nine years– new content with the same sentiments. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to feel the same way anymore. I can’t individually change my relationship status, but I can change my attitude about dating, opening up, and allowing it to be the terrifying mess it is. So, damn it, I’m going to Rihanna, Chelsea Handler, Samantha Jones my way through 2017.
I still feel like the puppy who wasn’t picked, who goes to bed alone in the pound after everyone else has found a home, hope somehow still gleaming after the disappointment. I’m still prying off all the armor– shaking through the process. I wonder if this will never happen for me– romantic love. I hope I read this again in five years and howl. I hope it’s a riot, not because I am in a relationship, but because of everything else that happened– because I am so full and bright that I make the Chrysler Building look like a piece of lint.
Posting this is as vulnerable as it gets, but I felt compelled to talk about it. I am taking ownership of my feelings and actions. I’m 23. Always single. Always independent and strong. Always exhausted from the exteriors I’ve erected. I wonder what it would mean to be something besides a series of always– to be inconsistent and messy and maybe unwanted, but at least, unwanted up close rather than from a distance.
EDIT: I greatly appreciate the comments and feedback. I want to be clear about something– I am not lamenting my single status. Rather, I am unleashing the candor about the loneliness, lack of certainty, and internalized shame I feel with it. Normally, I do not to curate my posts. I want others to draw from them what they value. This case is the exception. Please do not let the lesson of my words be: I want a boyfriend. I am emphatically whole. Wholeheartedness hails from vulnerability– in admitting instabilities, inconsistencies, the aspects of our celebrated facets that we do not throw confetti onto. These words were begging for a body, and I gave it to them. I refuse to outline how I love myself to prove this point, as it is possible to both love myself and question these things. Please, feel free to comment. Feel free to interpret. I just needed to contextualize this piece, as my point could not be further from, “being single sucks”.
I am landlocked between ravenous starvation for affection,
An incomparable ache for romantic love,
And a refusal to settle on who gives it to me.
You will regard her
as an option
Until she is someone else’s priority,
Until you realize you would have had to want her
to get her.
I have bad taste in guys.
I chase men running away from themselves
And convince myself they are retreating from me.
You spend your life under construction,
But it’s your twenties when there might not even be a foundation claiming your space–
Just rocky terrain and a deed tethering you to the rubble.
I have bad taste in guys.
Not bad guys,
Not Flesh tainted in tattoo ink,
Breath doused in the aroma of whiskey.
No, my sabotage is more subtle.
I’d rather ruin myself softly than make a scene,
Would rather my end be embers than flames.
I have affection for shadow men,
who only appear at certain times of day.
My head reels from mobilizing defenses for games I never wanted to play.
Breathless, I weave intricate webs around stark thoughts,
Persuading myself a thousand stories before sleep seizes my surrender.
I stumble upon closed doors and knock as if the locks will unhinge for me.
They didn’t lock to spite me.
His defense mechanisms predate our meeting.
It isn’t that he isn’t into me,
It’s that he is so absorbed in his own universe
He cannot see me past his own chaos.
I tred light years ahead of the intimacy he cannot provide.
He isn’t trying to hurt me,
Only to salvage himself.
I have bad taste in guys
I don’t want to reorient my geography when learning to love my landscape.
Because I am so addicted to being unloved that love is the most terrifying of beasts.
Abandonment is my expectation,
It stings to fathom anything more.
The familiarity of hollow arms,
Mushy insides dyed black and blue by betrayal,
Question marks as placeholders for experience,
It feels better than the anxiety of losing the body wrapped in my embrace.
I have bad taste in guys,
It think it’s because I haven’t acquired a taste for myself.
I wait for and on no one.
No calendars or alarms are reserved for them.
I would rather be so cool I am a blizzard
Seeking other men’s winters
Than risk hoping that there is a spring who wants me.