Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday ramble

I posted, to the roundup a minute ago, this very good piece about how love is not all it's cracked up to be but I actually thought I was posting this piece by Laurie Penny about the value of being single. They're both spot on. Let's start with the first--
Love is quite far down on the list of things that humans “need”—in fact, it’s not on the list at all. Humans need oxygen, water, and food, in that order. Everything else is optional (though clothes and shelter are nearly essential, depending on the climate). Humans are perfectly capable of living an entire life without love. Squirrels don’t love and they seem to be doing just fine.
But “true love,” minus the “one,” somehow persists. It exists in opposition, apparently, to fleeting love—to flings, crushes, and affairs. But really it’s just another form of social elitism: If we believe we have found true love, we are better at life than those who have not.
Which dovetails into the second:
You see, I don’t believe that my relationship constitutes a happy ending. I don’t want a “happy ending”. I don’t want an ending at all, particularly not while I’m still in my goddamn twenties—I want a long life full of work and adventure. I absolutely don’t see partnership as the end of that adventure. And I still believe that being single is the right choice for a great many young women.
Today, whatever else we are, women are still taught that we have failed if we are not loved by men. I’ve lost count of the men who seem to believe that the trump card they hold in any debate is “but you’re unattractive”. “But I wouldn’t date you.” How we feel about them doesn’t matter. Young women are meant to prioritise men’s romantic approval, and young men often struggle to imagine a world in which we might have other priorities.
Men are allowed to think of romantic love as a feeling, an experience, a gift that they expect to be given as a reward for being their awesome selves. That sounds like a great deal to me. I wouldn’t want that challenged. Women, by contrast, learn from an early age that love is work. That in order to be loved, we will need to work hard, and if we want to stay loved we will need to work harder.
The trouble is that there aren’t enough of them for all the brilliant, beautiful, fiercely compassionate women and girls out there who could really do with someone like that in their lives. Those men are like unicorns. If you meet one, that’s great. You might think you’ve met one already—I’ve often thought so—but evidence and experience suggest that a great many unicorns are, in fact, just horses with unconvincing horns. If you don’t manage to catch a real unicorn, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. 
 There was also this piece in the Post about how finding love is a fluke; the writer has no answers.

This was not the first Valentine's Day that I wasn't single, but it was the first that the man I was with insisted on celebrating--insisted that we spend the actual day (well, evening) together, though it was hardly different from any other Tuesday night, except that Deep Fried Masters wasn't on (he has cable). He got me some lovely flowers, which lit up my cubicle (did I mention that I started a "new" job--just for a year, and then I go back--and now I have a cubicle?) for a few days and are now lighting up my dining room. I walked straight from his place on Wednesday morning to work, flowers in hand, profoundly aware that this was a fluke--this year, I happened to get flowers. Later that afternoon, I overheard (such is cubicle life) someone talking about a recent breakup, and I felt for her. Breakups suck, and it's not the time to have other people's relationships shoved in your face.

My relationship status has never mattered less to me. I think I mused a year or so ago, after a mini-breakup, about how going from coupled to single changed little. This is not to say I'm not happy, or that I wouldn't be sad if things ended, but that's all about the relationship--not my relationship status. The older I get, the stronger my sense of self, and the more I date, the better I understand that who I am is independent of how I show up in a relationship. It can be said that the fact that I feel so comfortable being completely me, is a sign that the relationship is healthy, but I was completely me in last year's non-relationship, too. When--let's call him M--and I first started dating, I noted to some friends that this being myself thing caught me off guard, but it's not that I wasn't comfortable being myself with other dates; I just couldn't be bothered. I wasn't concerned with what they'd think of me; I wasn't sure they could handle me. The last date with whom I felt enough chemistry and connection that I bothered being myself, fundamentally misread me. As Dar Williams would say, "I don't know what you saw/I want somebody who sees me."

So I've met someone who sees me, for the most part. Dating someone I like this much is what it should be, rather than what I thought it would be: it is one date at a time, with an eye to red flags and potential problem areas. I thought when you liked someone this much, you knew. But now I think he and I are both old enough to know better. My friends are happier for me than I am; they think I'm being overly cautious (I have been burned before) and maybe looking for problems. I can say that it's 180 degrees from my last serious relationship, where the reality was mediocre and I managed to create a rose-tinted relationship in my head and hope that one day it would materialize. This time around, we're very good together in person, and it's between dates that my doubts creep in. There are certainly very real things that may be an issue--or rather, may remain an issue if they don't evolve with the relationship. But we're both very comfortable talking about things.

All this to say, today I'm dating someone. It doesn't make me a better, more complete, or savvier person than I was four months ago before I'd met him. Sometimes I, myself, am surprised at the extent to which that's true. I know it in my head, but sometimes I wonder if it's something I just tell myself. Being in a relationship brings home just how true it is. If I'm not longer in a relationship a month (or a week) from now, I'll be sad--and I'll certainly be annoyed about having to date again--but I'll still be me, and I'll still be worth it. If I'm still in a relationship, I won't be better or more evolved than anyone who isn't. Either way, I'll keep appreciating all the love in my life--there independently of my relationship status.

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