Monday, May 17, 2004

Nature or nurture?

For three and a half years, we did everything together. Eating, sleeping, waking, working, drinking, growing older, growing fatter, laughing, crying, watching seasons and seasons of reruns on late night television, and on and on. It was comforting to know that someone would be there to smile at me when I walked in the door after a long day at work. That if I was sick, someone was there to take care of me. I had a date on national holidays. I never had to worry about where to turn, because there was always my relationship.

I think the beginning of the end was when the “M”-word started popping up in strange and unexpected places. Standard family inquiries at other people’s weddings and family gatherings. Acquaintances asking how long we’d been together and then saying “That’s a long time” with that knowing glow in their eyes. Moms watching you interact and smiling to themselves, as if they could actually hear the grandchildren. Running into long lost friends on the street and having them check my left ring finger for sparkling objects. We laughed it off – we were so young, we still had school to consider, we didn’t have any money to pull off a wedding like we’d want, etc.

The power of suggestion is an interesting thing.

It wasn’t that I’d never considered marriage before, but he recoiled a lot of the time when it was brought up. And I’d had all the same rationalizations, so no problem. Except that he shut the door over and over. He’d disappear when my family or out of town friends were around. Travel for the holidays was out of the question if it involved stepping outside his family unit. We didn’t have much in common, so we compromised a lot, which, interestingly on a cultural phenomena level, meant spending a lot of times in the suburbs rather than the city.

And it began to strike me how lonely I was.

Friends, I felt, had abandoned me. I, as part of a unit of two, was avoided for certain things, and often had to be the one to make first contact so that no one felt they were interrupting. I felt guilty if I stayed in. I felt guilty if I went out. Those two worlds weren’t successfully meshed very often at all, because of differences and stubbornness and a whole host of other factors.

I think it took a year, complete with a paid third-party support person, for me to remove myself from the relationship that in many ways was what I thought I’d always wanted and in others very much was not.

What will we sacrifice for even the slightest chance at love? Is it, in fact, the love that we’re looking for, or just the opportunity to become a unit, have constant companionship, maybe raise a family? Have our intellectual sensibilities outpaced our biological instincts? Is that why people are so miserable at the possibility of being alone, though being with someone is often a detriment to their personal and professional life goals? I watch friends struggle incessantly with what it means to be single, and long for the opportunity to NOT be, to couple emotional closeness with physical closeness in an effort to experience the whole package. Beautiful, intelligent, talented, amazing people who occasionally place such incredible emphasis on a romantic ideal that they become incapable of realizing how incredibly rich their lives are in so many other ways…I’ve BEEN that person. I’ve watched people who resent the very mention or appearance of a couple in their midst and seeth with jealousy at friends who are happy and in love drop everything for someone who is by all appearances their inferior on any number of levels. I’ve been that person too. I’ve been the person who questioned her own reasoning for leaving a relationship because it meant the possibility of being alone, and passing up a potential coveted married status, even though I’d sacrificed everything I was to become something that I was not and it was making me miserable. I know all about the myths perpetrated on television and in movies. I can think about these things, but I can’t immunize myself against them. And perhaps the fact that such things exist are simply a result of our biological rather than social urges. A species whose smart enough to crave control of their own lives and manipulate their own outcomes, but bound by biology.

Who's driving this bus, anyway?


Xtine said...

So I read it.
It was very good.
I couldn’t think of anything concise to comment.
It also makes me a little defensive.
Because I don’t like to think of myself as “one of those people”
Yeah. I’m single, but I’m ok with that – I love the life that I have and am building. but not forever.
Its so confusing!!

Anonymous said...

There is safety in being a couple rather than an individual. Not everyone who is single is lonely, but not everyone who's lonely is single.
The nature of our developed minds vs. the nature of our biology fight against eachother to win the day, your just caught in the middle.
I like this one.

Anonymous said...

Very true. i've been with someone and very lonely
I've also been single but happy with all the wonderful people in my life.