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Monday, October 25, 2010

Singlutionary's 30th Birthday Eve

I am writing this in the last 45 minutes of my 20s.

Over the past few years, I've gone through a wide range of emotions about turning 30, especially while single. Some of these feelings surprised me: I didn't know that certain insecurities or desires existed until I felt like the chance for them was drawing to a close.

Two years and some odd months ago, I was in a relationship which seemed like bliss for about two months and then unwound into months of turmoil. During the good times, I remember thinking: "I will be married by the time I'm 30 after all." I was surprised by how relieved and proud I felt. In marrying before 30, I would be accomplishing something that everyone could understand. Through marriage, I would prove to the world and, more importantly, to my family and friends near and far that I was worthy of undivided love, that I was attractive, sexually vital and successful in the most basic human way. I would be a good person, a good woman and by extension, a good friend, niece, daughter, cousin.

I had never realized how alienated I had felt from my friends and from most of my family because of my typically single status. I never realized how much people people worried about me, even pitied me because they felt something essential was missing in my life. I had no idea how much I had internalized this feeling.

When I thought that I would be married within the conventional timeframe, I felt, for the first time ever, that I had some kind of magic ticket to normalcy that I had always yearned for but had never been given.

At that time I was still only 27.

Since then, I have mulled over my fear of turning 30 and have come to face this new decade (now only 31 minutes away) with excitement and relief instead of fear and angst.

My late 20s were not easy. They were full of career failures, financial struggles, personal loss and general confusion. In many ways, it won't be hard to say goodbye to the consternation and frustration and grief of recent years.

And I'm not 20 anymore and I know things about the world. I have experience -- lots of it. And experience is something that can never be taken away from me. I've survived things that I never thought I would have to face.

I had a crisis just a few months ago when I first began to consider setting out on the long road towards a PhD. I realized that by choosing to commit the next 7 years to academic life, the opportunity to have biological children very well might pass me by. At the time I was slightly involved with a man who very much wanted wholesome biological children raised on milk and wheat bread. I mentioned my potential PhD aspirations to him during our last real phone conversation. Two weeks later he flippantly bowed out of our travel arrangements and said something about incompatibility. And that was it.

In the past 10 years I have learned that in choosing one thing, I am also NOT choosing so many others. Spending most of my 30s in school may very well end up being a choice against having a kid that carries my genetics although it doesn't eliminate my chance to be a parent.

And I am OK with that. If being pregnant and giving birth to my own spawn was super important to me, I would have chosen so many different ways to spend my 20s. I've always wanted to adopt older children and I've always known that by doing so, I can buy myself some time against the generation gap: If I am 40 and adopt a 7 year old, the generation gap isn't quite as huge as it would be if I gave birth at 40.

I am no longer afraid of being an old maid. I know that I will have companionship. And I know that it will be unconventional. I've lived my life out of order and upside down and I can't expect to suddenly grow up and start doing everything the typical way. The typical way has never made sense for me. Its not going to start making sense just because my looks and fertility are starting to fade.

I have a rich life and many talents. And I am going to use them. If nothing else, I am going to live life on my own terms. My 20s were about figuring out what I wanted to do. My 30s are going to be about doing it.

To actually realize my dreams instead of just dreaming them is at once exhilarating and intimidating. But that is where I'm headed.

I've got 9 minutes left. And then I'm ringing in the next decade of wonderment.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Singlutionary Situation

I have one good friend in my city who is also single. Or WAS also single. Lately she has been going to and from another city to visit a man she recently met. Of course it is all my fault that they met and I have only myself to blame for the situation.

I have the bad habit of immediately starting to push friends away once they begin to get involved with someone. It isn't so much that I push them away but that I begin to expect less of them. And in a way, its an appropriate reaction. Having someone new in their life means that they have to make room for another person and I can't expect my friend to be as available as she once was.

By the time I was 22, all my best friends were married and very much involved in their relationships. At that time, there wasn't any space for me and my friends to have a relationship outside of their marriage. If I wanted to see my friend, I had to tolerate the husband. Since then, the husbands have become more tolerable or have been replaced with less obnoxious substitutes and my friend's have become less entangled socially and are receptive to "girl time" activities.

But for most of my early 20s, I felt like I needed to have a partner in order to enjoy my friends again. I felt that if I had a partner then we could couple date my friends. My partner would take on the horror of my friend's husbands and I would get to actually have an enjoyable visit with my friends. My friends, I think saw it the same way and provided me with healthy doses of advice on what to do to find a man so that my man could play with their man.


What partner of mine is going to want to put up with THAT crap?

"Will you be my boyfriend just so that I can take you to my friend's house and you can watch videos of my friend's husband's community theatre production and then watch him try on his costume and recite Shakespeare's sonnets?"

Eventually I gave up on finding a blow-up-doll-boyfriend-who-loves-amateur-Shakespeare and became Singlutionary.

But as people couple around me, I would like to have someone to depend on. Not that my coupled friends are undependable -- they are all very loving and wonderful and if I were to call them in any state of panic or emergency, they would be very much there for me. But their daily lives are taken up with their family, their work and other obligations. Any extra time they have, they want to spend with their spouse.

I suppose that now I would like someone to depend on socially and for the long haul. And, in the way our society is set up, with coupling being the norm, it seems that in order to find this, I might have to couple. Friendships, even the strongest ones, are secondary to spouses and families especially in the way people spend their day-to-day time.

It seems that just as soon as I find myself in a solid, lasting, stable friendship -- the friendship is altered by the presence of a romantic relationship.

Part of my situation, I think, is that I am very much a one-on-one person. If I have a good friend, it is because I enjoy our interesting conversations and her unique perspective. Even if her new partner is super cool, that doesn't mean that I'd enjoy hanging out with both of them as much as I would enjoy the one-on-one. And typically each friendship has its sacred activities -- with one of my friends it is eating good food, and another it is running. Sometimes the new partner doesn't have the same appreciation for the things my friend and I share and it kinda ruins the fun.

This is not to say that I won't stay friends with my friends who couple. I have stayed friends with ALL my friends who are coupled. I made the adjustment and learned how to be friends with both of them (sometimes more gracefully than others).

But I am tired of always looking for new available friends as others become unavailable. And maybe, the easiest thing to do would be to find a new best male friend and begin that whole monogamous endeavor called "a relationship".

Or I could just cultivate a ton of male friends so that if one of them couples, there will be 10 more waiting in the wings to share an order of yam fries and help decorate my backyard with empty toilets.