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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My House and Me: One Less Ounce of Desperation Part 1

I've written about desperate dating but there are two sides to that icky-poo coin. There are the effects of desperate dating and then there are the causes.

Until recently, I never was really able to pinpoint the cause of my own desperation when it came to relationships with men. 

I grew up pretty feminist. My mom never entered me into a beauty pageant and set an example by doing home repair projects on her own. She didn't even take my dad's last name. But at the same time, my parents had pretty traditional gender roles. My dad worked. My mom stayed home and then went to work part-time when I was in school. So while I was taught that men could (and should) cook and do laundry and that women could (and should) work for a living, that was not exactly the environment that I was raised in.

I want to make it clear that I am in no way criticizing this arrangement. That was what worked for them and it wasn't based on gender as much as the fact that my dad had a good stable job and my mom was really good at fixing up houses. My dad loves routine and can deal with the day-to-day monotony of going to the same office for 20 years. My mom loves change and excitement and is a risk taker. If their personalities had been switched, I wouldn't be surprised if their roles would have been switched as well.

So, I never thought that I "needed" a man in the way some of my friends do. I've always been very independent and wanted to learn to do things on my own. I don't need a man to fix my car or take me to dinner or to make my life complete. I don't need a man to show me the way or to protect me or make me feel special. I get validation from multiple sources, from both men and women. I fix my own car, take myself to dinner and I complete me!

But under all my bravado, my whole life, I have thought that I needed to be in a relationship in order to do three things (that I am yet aware of): settle down, have financial security and enjoy life. 

The first of these subconscious assumptions began to crumble two years ago when I bought my house. I was overwhelmed. It needed too much work and I had no time and no money and I didn't have any other friends who were homeowners or a community of do-it-yourselfers to pitch in or give advice. At the same time, I was freaking out because my life pre-homeownership was incredibly mobile. I moved every year. I never had a permanent place. And while I was ready to "settle down" I felt freaked out that it was happening to me. Something just felt off, like I had forgotten to do something important. What was I giving up by settling down? I had that bad feeling you get when you pack for a trip to the tropics and you forgot to pack your bathing suit. Something was amiss. 

In buying the house, I was making a commitment. And it was a commitment that I very much wanted to make. But in the back of my mind somewhere, underneath all my independence and education and self awareness, was this idea that having a house and settling down is something one does WITH a partner. I was overwhelmed by the house because I thought I had to do everything myself. My parents had done everything themselves and only hired people to do work that required permits or expertise beyond their own. But there were two of them. And there is one of me. 

It took me a while to feel OK with paying someone to mow my yard. I mean, shouldn't I be doing that myself? It took me a while to forgive myself for taking three months to paint the living room (which has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams and required borrowing a 9 foot ladder). Why couldn't I get it done in a weekend?

And once I realized that I, on my own, could not replicate the perfection of my parent's do-it-yourself lifestyle, I could find my own balance and my own groove. It wasn't that I was missing something or defective in some way. It wasn't that I should have done things in the proper order and waited to buy as house as a newlywed. What is to guarantee that this imaginary husband is a do-it-yourselfer anyways? A huge part of my parents relationship is based on their houses. I'm not sure that I want my relationship to be based on the house. Or on dogs. Or on travel. 

But for a while, after buying the house, I felt really desperate for a man. I felt like I just couldn't cope with all the responsibilities of the house on my own and secretly I wanted some sexy carpenter/electrician/plumber/contractor/landscaper/HVAC guy to walk into my life, literally sweep me off my feet and carry me over my own threshold. But then I realized all that I would sacrifice if the house belonged to someone else and I depended up on him to do everything the house required. It would no longer be my adventure and I would not have the chance to learn more or to tackle the challenges I had so longed for. And more importantly, I realized this was the ONLY reason I wanted a man in my life so badly. I would just be using this hottie handyman for his, uh, hands *ahem*. And while that makes for a great daydream, it doesn't make for a great relationship.

This was the first of my revelations regarding my subconscious assumptions about what I can and can not do as a single. I had no idea that I had been wah-wah-waiting for someone to settle down, but some part of me was. 

I will write about my more recent experiences with finances and fun next!


Amy said...

"literally sweep me off my feet and carry me over my own threshold" - LOL. Kudos to you for recognizing desperation, where it came from AND how to get over it. I myself am completely incapable of fixing anything or even doing my own taxes without the help of one or several ex/current boyfriends. Thanks for the inspiration!

The Singlutionary said...

Amy, I am kinda jealous that you've got this bevy of ex/current boyfriends to do all these things for you!

Anonymous said...

So...you're the 28 year old who is relieved that blow jobs still happen after 30...and 40 and 50 and 60 ...beyond that I couldn't tell ya.
Great blog you have here. Hey, if you ever wanna give up your single status and not be "singlutionary" (did I use that correctly?) I have a very sweet, kind, good looking 28 year old single son.
Keep smiling...
Carol www.PoorWidowMe.blogspot.com

Special K said...

I asked for an oil change from someone from Christmas! Acts of Service may be one way a relationship could contribute to your life...just because you desire something doesn't mean that you are less fulfilled without it. Think of that desire as desert...not necessary, but damn, makes life sweet.

Special K said...

On my list is going on a blind date! I am set-up-able!

Monique said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is hard sometimes, especially when we have to manage all these things on our own. I’ve always wanted to do every thing on my own for a while too, but I’ve learned to ask for help. My male friends are always eager to lend a hand, as well as my Martha-Stewart-girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent and v. interesting/compelling post -- and an important distinction you've made, between effects and causes of "desperation." I am so very proud of the few things I have done on my own, without the help of significant others (such as painting my bedroom in my one-bedroom, rented apartment) that I am literally ASTOUNDED by your painting capabilities! maybe we should hook up sometime! ;)

-- L

singal said...

you made an assumption that a man would be the solution to all the things you couldn't do yourself in your new house .... well, most men I know don't do the things you are avoiding either!!! you just have the "benefit" of having 2 incomes to pay the expenses - that's all.

maybe you could look at it as "rewriting" how things get done. there's no "hard and fast rule" that says that things have to be done in a certain way.

have you got a neighbour that you can "swap" or "exchange" services? for example, a man that can do your mowing, in return for you doing something for their family/house.... know what I mean? or else pay a student from the local high school to mow it for a cheaper amount.

hey girl - you can do anything you need to do ... you might have to change the way you think, that's all!!!

maybe write a list of the things you have to do that you're not quite used to doing and see if there's a "creative" way to either do it yourself or get another person to do it.

YOU CAN DO IT NO PROBLEMS!!! if others can, you can too!!!

(now i'll stop doing the "tony robbins" routine .... i'm just sorry that you're lacking in confidence at the moment!)

Go for it!!

:-) :-) :-)

(i'd love to know what you think about what i've said ....)

Welsh Girl said...

I am so with you on this one. There are certain things that I always think must be easier and perhaps nicer if there was someone to do them with - buying a house being a big one! It's a constant battle to not feel like a freak for being able to do this on your own, and (most of the time) enjoying it.


The Singlutionary said...

These comments are AWESOME! Wow.

Amy: you are welcome for the inspiration! I guess when it comes down to it, we learn to do what we have to do and wouldn't give any of my "lessons" back!

Carol: Send your son my blog and tell him to comment! Any son of yours is bound to have a great sense of humor. Plus, how cool would it be to be able to ask your mom-in-law for technical advice on BJs? And yes, you did use "Singlutionary" correctly although I wouldn't have to give it up because anyone anywhere can be Singlutionary! Its a way of thinking, not a status!

Special K: I am excited to hear about your blind date and thank you for the wonderful advice.

Monique: Yes, its important to ask for help. Of course, depending on your circle of friends and their schedules, there might be help when you need it or there might not. When there isn't help I've learned to let the project sit a while and not feel bad about it. Or, if its urgent, hire someone. Its good to feel OK about asking/waiting/paying for help!

Lisa Onely (I am convinced that you and Christina both have the last name of Onely): We should totally hook up sometime. We could do a paint-off. I'll go visit you and help out with some project and then you can come here! Or we could go get coffee/margaritas.

Singal: I totally agree with you. I think that you and I are essentially on the same page. In the past, it was just this glitch in my thinking which made me feel overwhelmed by all the things I had to do. I thought that I needed a partner to rescue me but then I realized that all the stuff on my to-do list was stuff I had WANTED to do my whole life and I didn't want someone else to save the day and do it all himself. I just needed to take a deep breath and accept that I couldn't do things as fast solo as I could partnered. Its not like my house is going anywhere, so I have plenty of time to do all my projects!

Welsh Girl: Buying a house is so much easier on your own in many ways! You still have friends to give you advice and pep talks but there isn't all the compromise. I used to be a realtor and dealing with couples was SO annoying! One would like the house, the other wouldn't. They would tell me opposite things all the time and I had to try and figure it out. I felt like I was some sort of relationship mediator. But it does seem intimidating to take on a big ole mortgage without a 2nd income as a safety net.

bobbyboy said...

In a way you are lucky that you got to see a woman (your Mom)who was not so "typically" dependent on a man. And, that a man (your Dad) could be perfectly fine with it.

The house part of the story reminds me a great deal of one of my staple sayings for a successful relationship: Know who you are and what you want, who they are and want they want, communication between the two.

Thanks for sharing this with us :)