I’m not sure if it’s because actual humans my age have started to get married. I’m not sure if it’s because I am starting to think that the astrologer I saw in August was full of shit. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve written and journaled and dated and obsessed about my romantic life, and for some reason, I still cannot find the relationship I want.
I recently turned to a book called Spinster by Kate Bolick to see if it had any answers for me, as I’m well on my way to becoming a twenty-something abuelita. In the end, I wanted to chuck it against a wall BECAUSE Bolick ends up in a relationship in the end. Also, she’s in several long-term relationships in the book, so I feel like that’s not a spinster.
I want real spinster stories. I want to see a story about a single woman who is not sure if her happy ending is coming to come through. I want to read more stories about women who prefer to eat popcorn in bed while watching Gilmore Girls instead of going on another mind-numbing date. I want to read about the women who never found that monogamous partner and what they do when it’s 10 PM and they really want a back rub. I want to know about the women whose fingers lack wedding rings and what they plan to do with their one and precious life.
At least, that’s the narrative I’ve lived so far. And, from where I’m standing, it’s a lot harder to savor the stretch in between the beginning and the happy ending when it’s your own life.
At first glance, When Harry Met Sally (my favorite movie) seems to be a movie about couples. After all, there’s those adorable old people who pop up every 20 minutes to tell their meet cute story to the audience. However, I have to pour one out for Carrie Fisher’s amazing performance as Sally (Meg Ryan)’s mostly single friend Marie.
Marie is killing it as the single gal in her group of friends. She has a Rolodex chock-full of names of single men that she can whip out at a moment’s notice. She’s carrying on a hopeless affair with a married man but you know what? She’s getting hers, at least. So that’s why when Marie hears that Sally has broken up with her longtime boyfriend, she unexpectedly exclaims:
“But you were a couple! You were together. You had someone to go places with. You had a date on national holidays.”
To me, this quote hits the proverbial nail on the head for what coupled life looks like for those of us who constantly occupy its fringes. Some of us have to go through multiple friends before we find someone who will go places with us. Some us never have a date for Valentine’s Day, or a kiss under the mistletoe, or a plus one for New Years’. Marie is unabashed about her desire to be part of a pair; she doesn’t feel the need to hide her hopes behind pride or feminist philosophy as so many of us do.
Since I know that Marie has weathered the single life, I of course have to cheer when she meets the man she’ll eventually marry, Jess (even if he is insufferable, in my opinion). After (spoiler alert) the title characters Harry and Sally call Marie and Jess to tell them that they have slept together, Jess and Marie reflect together on the life they’ve left behind:
Marie: “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again.”
Jess: (puts his arm around her) “You’ll never have to be out there again.”
They sink back into bed, cuddling.
Honestly, it is one of the most romantic scenes I’ve ever seen. Love doesn’t require a boom box held outside a window, or a kiss upside down in the rain, or a creepy series of signs accompanied by “the carol singers.” Instead, it can be as simple as the acknowledgement that dating sucks and now you have the comfort of a happy ending: you don’t ever have to put yourself out there again.
I’m not looking for my Jess at the moment. I’d just like someone to have a temporary happy ending with, an exciting bump in the stretch in between on my way to whatever my ending will be. I’d like the comfort of knowing that for the moment, I don’t have to be out there any more. I’d like a date on national holidays, goddamn it. And, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I can express these desires without feeling guilty about it.
On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I’m jockeying for a seat at the wrong table. Should I demand my place at the table of monogamous heterosexuality (aka the table built on the Catholic Church, sexual repression, and a problematic system), or, do the more difficult work of finding my own place to sit? Why should I yearn to be part of a couple when I could be making life more bearable for single people everywhere?
What if I lived life according to Lora Mathis’ advice?
I’m happy to report that I most recently put that theory into practice when I visited my friend Laura last week. She is juggling an immense workload, including a PhD program coupled with a demanding job. That Friday night, after holding it together since 5 AM, Laura had had enough. She needed comfort, love, and support to ease her anxiety.
So I held her as she sorted through her emotions and frustrations. I coaxed her into child’s pose and stretched out her shoulders as I felt her body sink into the floor, her muscles relaxing under my touch. I imitated all of the best moves of my college yoga instructor, Katie, and then Laura returned the favor. We were not afraid to extend a loving gesture and emotional intimacy when we needed it the most.
And yet. There is a possibility that if either of us gets coupled up any time soon, we may no longer be able to call on each other. That’s the shitty part about conventional monogamy – the “rules” say that your friends are no longer allowed to be your everything. If you’re constantly single, you have to throw those rules out the window. I’m confronted by my nagging and unconquerable need for close emotional intimacy as well as physical touch, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure that I am giving to my friends.
So. Hug and massage your friends when they need to be touched. Don’t reserve your emotional intimacy solely for your sexual partners. Call your friends and tell them that you miss them. Own your desires and don’t feel bad about what you want. Don’t let your world become a paradise with room only for two.
I guess that I’m currently waiting on a new beginning. In the meantime, I’m going to try to be the most loving single lady that I can be. At some point, that love that I’ve invested will come back around (that’s how economics works, right?) but until then, it’s not use hoarding my capacity to care until some sort of happy ending happens.
And yet. Readers don’t read books for the ending. People don’t live their lives to find out how they will die. Like a good novelist, I’m going to make this middle part of my narrative as interesting as it can possibly be. When my new beginning comes along, who may not be the same as my happy ending, I’ll know I have such a story to tell them.