I joke a lot about being forever alone. For me, it is much easier to talk about the things I am most unsure and afraid of through humor. What kind of asshole doesn’t know how to laugh at himself? The kind you don’t want or need in your life. I’ve been and I am and I will be almost every type of asshole, but I strive not to be that kind. Mother warned me against it.
When it comes to the nitty gritty of being with someone, I am terrified. Every time anyone asks why I’m not in a relationship, I tell them I’m not ready. And I mean it. Sure, I’ve loved people. Sure, I’ve been in love with people. Sure, I even want to love and be in love sometimes. It’s human. But I can’t come up with a single person I know that I could commit myself to marry and love and be with for the rest of my life. Not out of the people I have loved or the people I love. When I think about it, I come up with blanks.
I don’t know how to love half-way. It’s a problem. When I love people I focus all of my energy on them, and more often than not, it scares them off. I will tell you I love you at 6 am when I wake up, at noon when I’m at lunch, at 5:30 in the afternoon when I walk into the gym, at 10 pm when I’m lying in bed, at midnight just because. I will text you at 2 in the morning: first to tell you how hopeless I am when it comes to any sort of meaning, second to ask if you hate me or not, and then when you don’t respond, to tell you I’m sorry for being a bother and I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t want me to. I will want to know every single thing about you, from the songs your grandmother sang to you when you were a child, to how you like your tea (or if you even like tea), the type of dog you hope to have when you finally get your own place, your favorite type of cereal, what your hair smells like after you get out of the shower (and I will love your more for all of the things that I know). Some sick part of me thinks that through knowing someone that wholly I can ensure that they will not leave me, cannot hurt me; if I can hold onto every piece of you and hide all the pieces of me, I can keep you with me. Instead of hoarding materials, I hoard information. I store it all deep inside of me for comfort. I am so afraid.
And if those things that I do don’t successfully scare them off (which is very rare), then I find another way to sabotage myself in the formation of any semblance of a romantic relationship. (I even manage to sabotage a lot of my friendships.) I lie to myself about how I feel. I hide from my emotions. I turn off my feelings. I partied for the first week of last semester, and spent the second week in a self-induced flu: with a fever of 102˚, sleeping for five days straight, eating nothing, and losing ten pounds in the process of trying to numb myself so I didn’t have to face the trauma. Compartmentalization is healthy. (Not.)
Regardless of health, it is easier to be numb than to be hurt. I feel too deeply; I am often too much and at other times not enough for most people. It is hard to love me (in the way I want to be loved). I require a level of intellectual and emotional intimacy (and stimulation) that most people do not or will not offer. Or at least I think I do. But I probably have a self-inflated vision of myself and my needs. Don’t we all?
I want to love so deeply it hurts me. I want to feel and live wholly, with every fiber in my being. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt no matter what: endless chances. I want to be able to go back to people even after they hurt me over and over and over. I want to feel connected to something.
I once loved someone so hard, that when I saw him I used to feel like every single cell in my body was on fire, like I was finally, really alive. I remember not being able to breathe, in the good way, when he was near me; it was like I didn’t need to. Everything was dull compared to him. But then life happened. And after, when I saw him, I felt like I wanted to puke. My throat would tighten. I couldn’t speak. There was poison in my heart, and it was killing me. I was so sad, always. And then I felt nothing at all. For a period of time, I quite literally wanted to die. So right now I choose to be alone, because I cannot handle the consequences or the what if of letting myself be anything else.
There is the chance that someday I will be alright with feeling something real for someone again. But even then, if I fall in love, I’m not sure about marriage. It’s so final, so binding. It is simply another thing to break apart in the event that the love does not last. I don’t understand the need to label things in order to make them ‘real’ and ‘important.’ Like, yeah, I get the historic and religious value and all of that, but we live in the (mostly) secular 21st century. Why do we need to label lifelong love? Can’t two people simply be committed and together without it being legally and morally binding?
My aversion to marriage probably comes from my parents. They are the dearest people to me in the world. They have given me everything. I love them more than it should be possible to love other human beings. But I do think that the ways in which they loved and hurt each other tainted me.
There are very few people in my family who have been (happily) married for the entirety of their lives. My parents were never married to each other. The majority of my father’s siblings ended their relationships unhappily. My mother’s parents are divorced. So is her brother, and my stepfather’s parents. In my family, love doesn’t last. And I cannot help but believe that this is what I am destined for.
There are so many things that could go wrong. I could be with someone I love, and after years of being together have them fall out love with me. I could fall out of love with them. We could both fall out of love. I could be in love with someone but marry someone else, and live my entire life with the wrong person. I could fall in love with someone while I was with someone else. I could love someone who didn’t love me…
Even if you find the right person, everyone tells you that at some point the love will change. That when you are together for long enough, when you have children and live together for years and years and begin to grow old, the love you have for each other transforms from passionate, romantic love, to the love of companionship. And I don’t know if I could handle that: to have a mad roar die down into a soft purr. I don’t want stability. I want something that is bone-crushing and soul-wrenching in all of the most horrible ways. I don’t want warm embers; I want a forest fire. I want a piano to fall from the sky. I want something to hit me at a thousand miles an hour. I want all of the things I said I couldn’t handle right now, because that is the only way I am convinced love can mean anything.
Really, what does it mean? To love? To be in love? Is it real? What is real? I don’t know.
A professor (who is happily, lovingly married) told me that I was so afraid and unsuccessful when it came to love because being in a relationship was a skill, something that you learned, and I simply hadn’t mastered it yet. He comforted me by saying that even if his first girlfriend had been his soulmate, it couldn’t have worked because at that time in his life he didn’t have the tools and skills to be with her forever. Now, he is with his wife, and she is the great love of his life. He knows in reality she isn’t the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world, but he still thinks so, because he is in love with her. He told me about how on Valentine’s Day he came home late from a conference, and walked into the kitchen to find her holding a chocolate cake. She wasn’t mad at all. She was smiling. And even though he is a passionate feminist, and thought in no way was she responsible to do anything of the sort, he was still selfishly happy that she had made him the cake; she loved him and knew what would make him happy. They have the skills to love and be in love and to make it healthy and fruitful and work. I didn’t think that was possible. He told me otherwise. It made me feel better.
But then he went on to say that he was terrified for our generation, as we seemed to lack the basis for romantic capacity; we needed to learn romance and love. I don’t know if I agree with this or not. When he first said it, I did. But I am one of those people who is enticed by pretty, new ideas, then wears them for a few months and finds they do not fit. I do think that we have a problem with telling people how we feel. I think we have a problem with feeling in the first place. I think we are over-stimulated and distracted and do not give our hearts a chance to feel. I think there is a lot wrong with a lot of things in our generation (and in our world), but I also think that love is evolving. I am not sure what it is evolving into, but I think that the love of our generation will be different than the ones before us. (And maybe the love of every generation is different than the ones before. I am not immortal or omniscient. I do not know.) That in itself is terrifying, but I hope it will be okay. I think it will be. Eventually. Perhaps.
And I am also a hypocrite, because in spite of the claimed numbness and solitude and sabotage, I am in love with every person I see. I am in love with humanity. There is so much beauty in the world. Life is amazing. We are alive: we have bodies that move and lungs that breathe, hearts that pound and hands that write, brains that think and mouths that speak. The list of what we have and what we can do is endless. But so is the list of what we have to lose.
There is an idealist and a nihilist inside of me, and they are in a fight to the death. One day one of them will win. I am not sure who I’m rooting for. I am not sure of anything anymore.