“People only get really interesting when they start to rattle the bars of their cages.”
― Alain de Botton
I’ve had plenty of chances at “real” relationships. That is, relationships with good, solid men who had good, solid values. The first was Richard the banker. The second was Christoph the banker. The third was… who knows. Someone sensible, I am sure. Quite possibly a banker.
It’s become terrifyingly apparent that sensible and safe are not what I want at all. Turns out, I feel suffocated with a such a man, with such an arrangement. Turns out, I don’t want the Miata, the Jaguar, the money in the bank. I don’t want the suburb, or the shopping allowance.
Of course, I do want what everyone else wants: that perfect relationship with a person who suits me to a tee. A relationship that just makes sense, that erupts spontaneously, never loses its passion, and meets my every need.
My last serious boyfriend pursued me for four years. Any sensible woman would have married him. Especially at my age — with my attractiveness waning fast. My kids tease me about releasing such a good catch. I was “lucky” to meet him, “lucky” he was interested in me.
Men like him aren’t single for long, and sure enough, he married the next (lovely, younger) women he met, adopted her 12-year-old daughter, and took everyone to Italy. But, I digress.
Since losing that relationship, I’ve had no relationships, failed or otherwise. No attempts at finding a “husband” or “partner.” (How cynical I’ve become, unable even to type those words without enclosing them in quotation marks.) I’ve simply stopped.
It’s not that I haven’t dated. I date occasionally. Online, of course. But in truth I don’t want to meet someone who wants to meet someone. It’s contrived. The very medium, the set-up, offends and embarrasses me.
Here’s the truth. I tend to fall for men that aren’t going to work, that aren’t realistic for me. In Argentina, I fell for a charismatic, sweet-talking man who said he was separated (he later clarified that, yes, of course he’s separated! His wife lives in the country, while he lives in the city!).
Throughout my life, I’ve fallen for men who are too old for me (23 years, 31 years), men who are too broken for me (refugees, addicts, damaged, brilliant poets, and the like), men who are too young for me (the French pianist), married men (my Hungarian boyfriend Gabor), men who suffer from mental illness (my dear Renzo).
Men who make sense stultify me.
All this is to say, when we returned from Argentina, I felt abashed. I had fallen for a man who turned out to be not so great, to say the least. I was embarrassed in front of my teenage daughter.
I told myself I needed to take myself and my life seriously. To be “good.” To be traditional, careful, to date men who made sense. I decided it was time to listen to the advice of my therapist and “learn to love the feeling of security.”
Of course, since I’m not particularly attracted to men who make sense, or the “security” they offer (as much as I like money), I found myself immediately plopped in a desert of zero options. And there I remained for six years. Paying penance. Being good.
Recently, I discovered that I’m suddenly free of this prison I had bricked myself into. The walls simply fell away. Silently. With no effort on my part.
I don’t know if it’s my age — some kind of grace afforded simply by maturity (see The Happiness Curve). Or my daughter turning 18 in two weeks. Or said daughter finishing junior year at Berkeley High with a 4.0+ average, essentially done with quite possibly the hardest two years of her academic life. And freeing me from the intensely supportive role I’ve occupied faithfully for some time.
Perhaps it’s the illness I suffered recently (shingles, so fun, and the subject of another article to come) or the fentanyl I was given when I had my first colonoscopy a few weeks ago, or the colonoscopy itself — learning I am healthy, or free from colon cancer anyway. Or the fear I had going into the colonoscopy (I’m a bit hypochondriac), and all of the life-analysis that can come with fear of death.
I have lovers again, for starters. But this time around, I’m not laced with anxiety and doubt about it. I’m not castigating myself at every turn. I’m not in paroxysms of over-analysis, not plaguing myself with questions like, “But, what does it mean? How does he feel? Does it make sense?” I’m not ashamed. In fact, I’m even proud.
None of it makes sense. And I’m fine with that.
How did this happen? Again, I don’t know. It seems a confluence of events converged to pry me out of society’s dunning shell. All I know is that I feel like a butterfly sprung from her cocoon.
I have been set loose in boundless territory. A place where I can continue releasing shame and guilt. Continue accepting myself. It’s intoxicating. It feels healthy, honest, and real. It’s a place I want to stay in. For a while. For the rest of my life.