Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In the After

Nothing like an overwrought cliche to bring me back to this blog. What began as a point of - let's call it frustration? - expanded in my mind to a bigger existential woe than usual. And I'm overdue to write something anyway. It may as well be angst. I seem to have more words when I'm angsty.

So, let's cut to the chase. This is a post about Valentine's Day. Sort of. It's not a tirade against the institution itself (though me from a decade ago would have happily obliged to that request, and perhaps if you dig far enough into this very blog you'll find what you are looking for in that respect), but rather the helpless explanation of why this particular day bothered me so much this year. Perhaps it's inevitable, like repeated water drops onto stone that eventually wear it away into a canyon, only accelerated, because feelings are much more malleable than stone and it takes much less to cut them open.

When I was younger, I always professed a vehement hatred for Valentine's Day; my ridicule of the day was largely a shield from having salt rubbed in the wound from not being the object of anyone's affection. I was never anyone's valentine. So instead of being depressed about it, I rolled my eyes and declared the whole spectacle to be a waste of time anyway. Deflect, deflect, deflect. As I got older, I just kind of went with the flow and politely ignored the day. If other people wanted to celebrate it, fine. It wasn't my bag, but I would gladly eat the leftover chocolates. Even on the intermittent occasion that I was coupled up for the event, it was never a big deal - in fact, it was awkward for me, because I'd spent so much time blasting the pink-and-red heart circus that participating in it made me feel like a giant hypocrite. In my most recent relationship, it was only four days off from our anniversary, anyway, so most of the attention went to that instead, and that was fine by me.

This year, though, I am single again. Which drastically changes a holiday built upon celebrating love. You can dress it up with as many clever gimmicks as you like - Single's Awareness Day, Galentine's Day, etc - but the fact remains that if you dare to go online (because what else would you do, having no one around), you are going to get punched in the face with endless pictures of flowers and gestures and people waxing poetic about their significant other and how wonderful they are, and the whole thing just sort of reaches a critical mass somewhere around mid-afternoon and you can't help but be like, okay, I get it, keep rubbing it in, universe and the world's biggest lemon squeezes all its juice into the papercut of your soul. Or, something. If the schmaltzy facebook posts weren't enough, there's the fact that there's basically nobody to hang out with instead, because everyone has plans with their aforementioned status update, probably eating an overpriced dinner while staring fondly at their overpriced flowers, because for some reason Valentine's Day is the last legal frontier for price gouging. There was really nothing to do but sit and stare at a wall and contemplate ordering a pizza but since your pants already don't fit, you can't even take joy in that. ALL IS SHIT. Here, have a salad.

It left me feeling empty. Not jealous, not bitter, just... deflated.


The other variable at play is this: my current state of singleness is both semi-recent and yet feels like it has spanned a miniature eternity. Some days it feels like it's new, most days it just feels like an ordinary thing that has always been. We at war with Eurasia, we have always been at war with Eastasia. It is what it is. Tomorrow would be the third anniversary of our first date, the one that lasted for seven hours and closed down both a coffee shop and a bar. When the relationship ended, we parted ways on good terms. And if he hadn't moved to a different state to pursue a dream job, perhaps there would have been a relapse or two. But the clarity of hindsight confirms that the relationship was doomed; we weren't compatible in the ways we needed to be compatible. Someone would have had to change significantly, and it probably would have been me. And I'm glad I didn't have to. For all my shortcomings and flaws, I like being who I am, and the fact that there were times that I wasn't comfortable in my own skin was probably a sign I should have paid attention to sooner. I was trying too hard to be something I wasn't. It's a trait that sometimes gets me into trouble; I've always been a people-pleaser. Square peg, round hole. No matter how you force it, it's not going to fit. And the peg got sharper and the hole got smoother and then it didn't fit at all and there was no use pretending otherwise. I couldn't even tell you what day it happened. It just... dissolved.

It's fine, though. I've always drawn a certain strength from being by myself, anyway. It wasn't too hard to readjust to being solo. I miss my activity/adventure companion and all of our inside jokes, but we slowly burnt out and I think that probably made it easier. That doesn't mean there's not a hole left behind (there's always a hole) but it's one that I can navigate around. One I can live with.

I wonder sometimes about my fate. It seems more and more obvious that I'm not on a traditional life trajectory. I feel like I'm destined to be the eccentric spinster woman who has become some sort of fixture in whatever smallish town she ends up in. Nobody has anything bad to say, but there is always a twinge of pity or hushed gossip about the fact that she never married. An old maid. A literal maiden aunt. I joke about being the crazy cat lady, but, well... right now it's just me and a temperamental cat. The joke's not really funny sometimes.

There are worse things, I suppose. I mean, like I said, I'm most comfortable in solitude, and I enjoy my own company, usually. I like not having to cater to the whims of others, or have my own whims be criticized. If I want to have an Exile The World day wherein I barely leave my bed, fine. I don't want to hear about it. My cat can sit outside my bedroom door and meow but she's not going to make me feel bad about it. If I want to be frivolous and irresponsible, well, fine. I can if I want, and the only person who has to deal with the consequences of that are me. I have the freedom to self-destruct and rebuild over and over again and I get to choose the blueprint. It's rather freeing, that independence. It just sucks when it's a Saturday night and the world is the one excluding you.

I'm not saying I've given up (entirely). I've had enough time to myself, though, to start building an image in my mind of this person, the person worth cashing in my solitude for. Bits and pieces form, sometimes an amalgam of traits of people I interact with, friends, acquaintances, strangers. I can picture the things we'll have in common, the things we can nerd out over together, the things that he likes about me, and the fact that he doesn't hold against me the things that he doesn't. I don't have a face to go with these details, just kind of a vague and shadowy presence, kind of like trying to remember details of a dream that you've woken up from. There's just this feeling in the back of my mind, like I know who I'm waiting for, even though the logical part of my brain just shakes her head and reminds me that I have an overactive imagination and that this person does not exist. It's absolutely insane, especially to put it into actual words, but it feels like I'm waiting. Waiting for a specific person who may or may not exist and whom I only have a vague notion of, so who's to say that I'll even know if I find him or not? Answer: old maid.

So this weekend was a little unpleasant, if only because it was one of the occasions where my alone-ness translated to actual loneliness, and it was highlighted and put on display because of some culturally-ingrained traditions, but it's fine, because the next holiday tends to involve a lot of liquor and merriment, and because words are my valentine and things are getting pretty serious. (LOL JK I WILL NEVER FINISH THAT NOVEL. ANY NOVEL.) Also, Valentine's Day did bring us red velvet Oreos, and for that, I think I will forgive it. I can never be mad at cream cheese filling.