Friday, April 3, 2009

Why I like Paris in the springtime

I've never been the kind of girl to say X number of weeks/months/years after her break-up, "Gosh, I thought I would have found someone by now." I may have harbored secret hopes that the next guy would materialize sooner rather than later, but to assume that I would find myself once again in a relationship within a time frame of my choosing, well...I knew better than to tempt the dating gods like that. It is only when you're single that you realize that, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as the "relationship type." If you notice, all the people describing themselves as such are already in relationships, thus leaving all us single people to believe that the reason we aren't in a relationship must be because we aren't the "relationship type." It's circular logic, cause and effect each futilely chasing the other's tail, and yet it's a disturbingly common argument. It's like rich people believing that poor people must want to be poor. Admittedly, after four and a half years of two nearly back-to-back relationships, I was as big an offender as any smug, coupled-up twenty-something. Yes, this is me, I thought to myself, then. I am the relationship type. This is me at my best: sending love notes, cooking French toast on weekends, laboring over homemade scrapbooks for Valentine's Day, scrubbing someone else's toilet, sharing soft whispers in the middle of the night. But once the house of cards fell, with it went my very identity. How could I be the relationship type without a relationship? What could I focus my energies on when there was no longer someone else's life to tend to, to try to make better in some way? Now I was just a grad student. Now I was just a 27-year-old.

Now I am just a 29-year-old. Now I am just a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly through life. Not that this is all bad; there is pleasure to be had in wandering. There is a freedom in having no responsibilities or obligations, and a certain small satisfaction in living far removed from the rat race of business and competition and what the world defines as success. All the same, there is a part of me that craves the security of a regular paycheck, of health insurance, of living in the same place for more than six months at a time. Of someone to come home to, of planning for the future.

At one time I had this. All of this, and a 401k. Picture frames and area rugs ordered over the internet and delivered in cardboard boxes to my front door. Vacations planned months in advance, weekend trips to the beach, birthday dinners. When you're in it, it's easy to think you deserve it, somehow, that's it's your due. You're a good person, after all. But only when it's finally over do you realize how tenuous all of it really is. When it ended, with nowhere else to direct my energies (because to actually spend time caring for myself reeked of new age-y garbage), I threw myself headlong into the world of online dating. At first the goal was less to find someone to replace the man who had until recently been the love of my life (the very thought of which actually made me a bit nauseous), and more to distract myself from the searing pain of the newly opened hole in my heart. But still, at first I wasn't without hope. Things had fallen into place for me before, and perhaps they still would again. But then one dead-end date turned into five, then ten, then thirty, and then I stopped keeping count. Whereas being in a relationship meant that someone thought I was smart, pretty, and fun to be around, it didn't take long for the voices in my head to tell me that the fact I was still single all these months and years later must necessarily mean that I am dull, ugly, and undeserving of love. Pretty and ugly, fun and boring, are subjective terms, however, and for every person who laughs uproariously at your dumb jokes, there will likely be someone else who thinks you're as dull as beans. And that's ok. The trick is, I think, to find the people who find you charming and beautiful and brilliant and surround yourself with them. Deserving of love, however, is something else altogether, and I can't decide what I think about it. Are some of us more deserving of love than others? Or is love a basic human right, like food and shelter and education and free speech? As long as we're not Hitler, aren't we all deserving of love? And if this is the case, then why do I, and so many others, spend so much of our time thinking that because we're single, it means that we don't deserve to be loved?

Two years of singledom later, and there's one thing I have finally figured out about myself, and about love: being in a relationship has nothing to do with deserving love, or not. After all, there are millions of plain as toast, happily coupled women, and then there are women with Pantene hair and perfect bone structure who sit at home on Friday nights. There are shrill harpies and sadistic
├╝ber bitches who wear down the spirits of the poor men they suckered into marrying them, day by slow day, and then there are single women who spend their weekends volunteering in soup kitchens and sending money to orphans in Africa. Being in a relationship has nothing to do with being pretty or plain, or hilarious or dull as beans, and it has nothing to do with being the "relationship type." Instead, it's all about timing, and stupid, dumb luck.

I've been in exactly two relationships in my life, and they both started in May. I only recently realized this, but it seems to perhaps be significant, especially in the light of recent events. My relationship with these men didn't start in October, when the leaves start falling off the trees, and they didn't start in January when people pass each other indifferently in the street, everyone wrapped snugly in their own protective shells. These relationships, both of them, started in May, when the sun comes out and people unfurl like flowers, and everywhere there is the promise of new beginnings. They started in spring. And now, as I find myself once again at the beginning of an unknown something with a new someone, I think about this. We met in October, and spent the fall and winter talking and getting to know each other, each week becoming a little braver, bit by bit. Constant discussion of movies eventually turned into a shyly mumbled invitation. But nothing actually happened until now, until spring. And while it all seems like such a shame, in a way, to have waited this long when who knows how much longer I will be here, and when I will have to go back home (I do know, and it's July), I also know that it couldn't have happened any other way. All of which is to say, of course, that yes, he kissed me, or I kissed him, or most likely we both kissed each other at exactly the same time, which really is the best way, after all. (There may have even been Doritos involved. Not that it's any of your business. Nosies!)

I've always liked spring. To me it's always meant my birthday, Spring Break, and summer right around the corner. And while I may have spent the last two years battling self-doubt and slowly losing all hope, at the moment anything seems possible, in Paris in the spring.

12 comments:

  1. I love this post. It's beautiful. And so are you.

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  2. Oh, Dawn. You're like the exact opposite of the mean, bad voices in my head. Thanks for being my anonymous cheering squad from the internet. :)

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  3. ...this post reminded me of last early fall when someone actually said to me, "i dont know how you single girls do it...i'm such monogamist person." my head exploded and i almost administered my first punch. my philosophy now? be the person i would want to date, and enjoy doritos while they last.

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  4. Tal- Yes! I was totally thinking of you when I wrote this, and getting mad about it all over again. People can be such smug, self-absorbed assholes, sometimes.

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  5. I agree with Dawn
    I loved this post, it was totaly poetic
    Dating is soo difficult and even though I am only a junior in high school I spent my sophmore year in Bordeaux working on my aunts vineyard and it seems being single in France is even worse than being single in America
    I mean there people being romantic and lovey dovey everywhere!!! and France is just like sadly sooo romantic no matter where you are in France
    it just radiates love and is quite depressing
    but especially in Paris
    i hope you find love in Paris, that would just be so great, wouldn't it?

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  6. This is exactly how I feel about spring/summer. You just gave me so much hope.

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  7. beautiful post.
    I've been in a relationship for almost 2 years and I still struggle every day with whether or not i deserve love. Doesn't make his job very easy, does it? Thanks for helping me see that. I hope your spring is amazingly romantic. Enjoy!

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  8. Everyone 'deserves' love. And it the most beautiful thing in the world.
    It is a smile, a touch, a friend, a childs kiss, a trust, a sunny day, a rainy day.........

    There is no one concrete definition of a relationship.

    And it really is timing and dumb luck.

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  9. Nice post and a nice example of that old chestnut: "life happens when you're busy making plans"? Enjoy being yourself and everything else finds its own way.

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  10. Oh I love this post! I really enjoy how honest you are with your readers, and how the rawness of whatever you're experiencing is shared so graciously. When reading this post, I was struck by the notion of stability, comfort and setting up shop. I think you're in an amazing place to begin that for yourself! Begin to take some time imagining the life of your dreams and what steps you can take to see it happen. Your partner, whoever he is, will come soon enough. Healthy, well rounded people are attracted to wholeness and I think it would be amazing to see you embark on a pursuit of wholeness during this Spring. And Paris is a perfect city for an adventure! Bonne chance :)

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  11. Yes, that was really beautiful. And so 'right' - timing and dumb luck! I like it! Anyway, all the best with the new relationship. I was in Paris for the weekend and it sure is the place to have a wonderful time!

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  12. The only thing better than having others think you are "charming and beautiful and brilliant" is to believe in your own heart that you are "charming and beautiful and brilliant." I read something a long time ago and, even tho I still have to struggle to convince myself of it, I try to keep it close to my heart... "No man can make you happy; only YOU can make you happy." So, I say, wander to your heart's content! If a guy enters the picture, enjoy him while the moment lasts, then wander some more; enjoy every moment and consider it all fuel for your memoir (which I KNOW you will write AND sell many copies of one day)!!

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