Friday, August 14, 2009

Cliff Diving

If I'm completely honest with myself, I'm dangerously close to that cliff all single women will eventually fall off. All my friends are either married (or will be within the year) or shopping for engagement rings. And that in itself isn't bad--I am notorious for loving weddings and wedding planning--but the real problem is I'm still rotten at this whole dating and love business, that I'm still man-less, that I'm a little bit of a mess in these days when everyone else has put themselves together brick by brick by brick and built themselves up out of their own messy pre-settled existence.

And I still suck at love. I mean it. I suck. There is apparently something about my relationships that turns grossly unappealing after a year because that's about how long they last before burning up and out. Seriously. One year. After that, the guys grow tired and drift away--Keith, for example, went off with another girl; the Boy From Work found it difficult to call me every day after we'd been together a year.

I'll be even more honest: I've done myself a disservice in the past by dating or falling for or following around some idiot men, the most notorious, of course, being the Wily Republican, who made me a mess for three years of grad school. And all the good attention in the world--from sweet boys, from the very beautiful New Boy or, later, BFW--couldn't really fix the things the WR had rearranged and tossed into the ugly corners of my heart and brain. Some of those things are going to rattle around in there forever because there's nothing anyone can do to fix them, find them, right them.

There are times when I wake up feeling like I'm always going to be this way, that I'm always going to be defective. And the worst part of this all is I know I'm becoming boring to my friends.

Everyone is on their way to the next stage in their life--they're off to be wives and mothers. They're certain and settled. Some of them are even trying to have babies. It seems like overnight they forgot how things used to be when we were younger, when we didn't understand what we were doing, when we were getting messed up in relationships that we had no business being in. When I tell a story now, a story about my screwed up relationships or the current tactics I'm taking to find a good man so I, too, can start settling down, start moving on to the next stage--because, let's face it; I'm tired, I'm sad, I'm ready to meet a good man who's ready to stick it out--my friends seem bored, half-interested, like they're on the verge of telling me, "Oh, Jess, when are you going to grow up?"

I'm not saying they're being mean. I'm not saying they aren't supportive. I'm not saying they're rolling their eyes in my face and saying, "You're too old for this." I am saying--and maybe no one else has realized it yet--that they're starting to look at me and think, "Jesus. I'm so happy that's not me anymore."

I think we're at the point in our life--not by age, maybe, but by stage, since everyone else is moving on and I'm not--where single girls are scary. They are they Other. They are the Used to Be. They are the God, Do You Remember When?

And let's face it: being single is exhausting. After the BFW informed me, during our attempt to get back together, that he had lost interest in moving up to Maine and had gained interest in making out with some girl from work, I went to bed and slept. A lot. I would wake up in the morning wanting to go directly back to sleep. I was tired all the time from thinking about starting over again. Starting over is awful. It's awkward, it's ridiculous, it's a lot of trial and error, it's facing all your neuroses from square one. Again.

And my friends have had to do this with me often. It seems like I'm always starting over, that I can't quite get anything right. And I'm doing it again, now. Again. Again. Again.

I'm on the edge of the cliff. All my friends are sitting on a porch somewhere, sipping lemonade and talking about wedding dresses and engagement rings and houses, and some of them are talking about what positions they're trying while they're trying to get pregnant, they're talking about what's working and what's not, and there I am, the last one, the only one still hooking my toes over the edge of that cliff and praying I don't fall. I'm now Single Friend, and it's only a matter of time before I start making people seriously uncomfortable.

When I was home last month, we were discussing weddings and wedding planning with the girls who are getting married this year, and, for the sake of comparison, I brought up the cost of the Wily Republican's wedding--which he said was going to be obscene--and at the mention of the Wily Republican one of my friends said, "Oh, not THIS again!"

In that second, I found it hard to breathe. It felt like I was a little girl again, that I was stretched out across the length of my sled, and I was speeding down the hill down my house, unable to get control and then slamming into a tree. I'd never been so scared in my life. The crash had knocked all the air out of me, and no matter what I did I couldn't make my lungs work. That's how I felt when those four words came out of my friend's mouth. Oh, not THIS again! Just the mention of my ex--and not even in an oh woe is me... he broke my heart! kind of way, just a hey, listen to what this idiot is spending on his wedding way--elicited that kind of reaction. Those four words meant, Jesus, I am bored with this. They meant, Oh, get OVER it already.

That was the first time it really hit me. I'm so different from these girls now, and it just about breaks my heart.


Joshua said...

dude whatever. You know what I do before I jump off cliffs? Close your eyes, take one guess, then scroll down.

The solution is simple: drink heavily and often.

The divorce rate is high. I'd look forward to that when comparing yourself to married people!!

Jess said...

You're just miffed I didn't write something funny.

It was either this or the grandpa-doesn't-know-who-he-is-anymore story, which isn't funny either. Sigh.

Kristin said...

It'll happen one day Jess. You will not fall off that cliff. You will have an amazing wedding and reach that point in your life in your own time. Don't judge by everyone else's time.

I was totally in your shoes. I thought I'd be single forever, I'd fall off that cliff, or I'd have some kind of meltdown that required me to be institutionalized. But I hung in there and just lived. Lived for me. And it just so happened that me, who sucked at love, met someone.

I'm not trying to give advice. I'm sick of advice that people are giving me lately and I definitely don't want to give any myself. But I do not for one second think you'll be the forever single girl.

You aren't boring. You aren't defective. You are Jess and you are fabulous. Don't you f*cking forget that:)

Jason said...

Existentialists call it "absurdity." Buddhists call it "dukkha," which translates loosely as "suffering." What it really is, though, is the human drive to want what isn't.

Nothing new about it. I thought I invented it, too. I wish advice would help you, but--like Kristin said--it won't.

You don't lack anything, Jess. And you know that. I know you're writing about the moment and the feeling--not some floppy essential truth--but some of us envy you.

The Hilmeister said...

I don't actually know you, I found your blog through a link on a friend's blog (from Fredonia) and have followed it since because I really enjoy your writing. Just had to say that this post really hit me because I've been feeling the same way all summer (and through much of my 20s, for that matter). The part about friends' seeming to forget "overnight" how things used to be is so unbelievably spot-on. It really seems sometimes as if girls find the loves of their lives and then seem to have everything figured out in a heartbeat, and it makes me wonder, why does it seem so quick and easy for them? You're not alone in this, believe me.

(I will say, when i see some people this age getting divorced after a couple of months or years, it does make the single life look more appealing...)

Joe said...

Revel in the freedom. You're young, and so are your friends.

Speaking of those engagement-ring-shopping-baby-having friends,

They are about three to five years away from serious relationship cracks and fissures, during whihc they will come complaining to you about their spouse, and you can say, "OH NOT THIS AGAIN."

You will start to see the first crop of divorces in about ten years.

Marriage isn't the be-all, end-all, by any means.