When you have been loved, fiercely, and for years at a time, it is difficult to re-imagine yourself as the sort of person who waits impatiently for a post-first date phone call. The humiliation is almost unbearable, and more so because it startles you out of the dream state in which you, attached, imagined the single you as perpetually pursued by a flock of handsome suitors. Imagine the horror: there is no flock. There is a lone bird with a broken wing and it is flying, however lopsidedly, in the opposite direction.
I am embarrassed by my own vanity, because that’s all it is - pure, ill-founded vanity. It is the dark, insidious source of my depression at waking to find myself another day older and more average than the last. I am not, in fact, Zooey Deschanel, which continues to surprise me. No one ever warns you when you are young how exhausting it becomes to be the same person day after day.
Rejection, and apathy, and the unringing of phones are part of the excruciating domain of being single in your mid-twenties. Intellectually, I suppose I know this. But there seems to be a sort of culturally agreed upon lie that women - or, at least, those who are not repulsive hags - have merely to snap their fingers to conjure a queue of potential lovers, tongues lolling eagerly. And so I find myself in the realm of the repulsive hags, quietly doing our dishes and talking to our mirrors and begging our parents over the phone to stop tagging us in candid facebook photos.
People like to tell you that confidence is sexy. And to that I say: well, of course it fucking is. But no one has an answer for what to do with a head full of unsexy thoughts. I am fully aware of just how terribly turned off you are by my self-doubt and insecurities. I am turned off by these things, too. We are encouraged to pretend ourselves into a frenzy of giddy independence. And, as if that was not enough, we are then expected to believe it. This is why I dread job interviews and first dates, which unfortunately, are never more abundant than in your twenties. Twenty-two to twenty nine are a sort of endless series of situations in which you have to prove yourself to people you just met, and you’ll probably do all of it in something ill-fitting and too hot.
The trouble is, adulthood is not at all what I was promised. I imagined that after sixteen years of rule following and DAREing to keep off drugs, there would be some greater reward than working ten hour days, struggling to pay rent, and navigating the emotional minefield of the dating world. What am I to do with these SAT scores now? There should be a banner erected in every elementary school: DOING WELL HERE MEANS NOTHING. I’d like to slip little fortune-sized notes in the schoolbooks of middle schoolers: Stop being so good, and Do whatever you want. Just do it with confidence. To high school kids I will simply sidle up behind them in math class, lean forward and whisper “Give up now.” Didn’t they promise us success? I am wretched in my indignation - another unsexy emotion, in case you were wondering. (The sexy emotions? Confidence, exhilaration, contentment, and elation.) When you’re young, they call it angst. When you’re old, they call it cynicism. But it’s actually a sort of lifelong guilt for being dissatisfied with mediocrity and loneliness.
And so here I am - older than my mother was when she married my father and still ordering takeout and letting my laundry pile up until it overflows. I can’t remember a goddamn thing about history, geography, or calculus, but I could give seminars on the art of interpreting the passive aggressive text message. Maybe I’ll quit my job and write children’s books: Who’s Paying For Dinner? and Are You My Fuck Buddy? and Oh, The Places You Won’t Go Because You’re Still Paying Student Loans.
Sometimes I think finding love is really about finding the perfect person to commiserate with you - someone who shares your grievances and hates all the same things you do. Commiserate is a great word, by the way. It makes me think of two miserable people, arms linked in solidarity. Misery loves company, and I’ve heard that all you need is love. It doesn’t really even sound so bad, when you think about it. I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve settled for less.