When I was nine years old, I had my first baby crush on Kyle Sanders (now I just stalk his livejournal every eight months to a year). But I also thought Tyler Bland was an awfully fine hunnie (a good choice – he’s getting his doctorate now). I would imagine my future on the swing sets behind the log cabin school I attended with my older brother, and I would dream of being a married woman. To Gracie, my best friend up until fourth grade, I said, “I’m going to be married by the time I’m seventeen” (Wrong, but Grace is married and expecting now: congrats)!
Back then, I had this weird daydream that I can still imagine, of being in a white, white kitchen, wearing an Audrey Hepburn dress, heels, and pearls, and pulling a tray of – what? ostensibly food – from the oven. Who wears heels indoors? Why was the kitchen so completely bare of decor or tables or color? Why did I imagine my hair in that 50s bouffant? Most ludicrous of all these imaginings, though, was the thought of me cooking – ha ! To this day, the most I cook is toast, minute rice, and Mac N’ Cheese. My dad makes me coffee when I’m home, because the water-to-grounds ratio is too mathematical for me to grasp, and, in response to that sparkling kitchen, well, I don’t have a kitchen, but we don’t want to even get into the state of my bedroom, other than to maybe assume there are multiple loose-leaf papers, scattered books, blankets, and pillows on every surface and on the floor (the biggest shelf in the room)! Basically, this bitch ain’t really wife material.
So, somehow, I managed to go from “bright-eyed child wants-to-be-wife-and-mother” to “twenty-five-year-old watches-Netflix-and-drinks-coffee-alone-in-the-dark,” without the vaguest prospects of a heteronormative husband-wife relationship. And this relatively isolated state didn’t exactly happen by accident. Sometimes, when I’m sitting alone or huddled under my electric blanket surrounded by Seahawks plushies and teddy bears my dad gave me, I re-evaluate my life, and I’m still fine with it. Because it isn’t like nobody’s ever loved me – it’s not like I didn’t have the chance to be someone’s wife if I wanted to. I was twice-engaged by the time I was twenty-three, and people have, you know, loved me. And I think of that. I think, “I have been loved.”
Sometimes I forget that it will ever happen again, but, you know, it always does.
I still like to imagine it, you know, from the relative safety of my bedroom, walls plastered in Lana Del Rey posters, every pair of shoes I own stashed mismatched under the bed and atop piles of clean and dirty laundry mixed together. I hear couples laughing from the street and also the bass from the Fraternity next door (thanks, Greek Row) and I want to try that whole “being in love” thing again. But damn, I suck at it. I mean, I’m heading toward my late twenties at a rapidly escalating pace and I still wear my little sister’s cast-offs and take fashion cues from college freshmen and wear a tacocat backpack to work. I think I was maybe more ready for love when I was eighteen than I am now. So, in lieu of a real person, I fall in love with someone make-believe. I like movie stars a lot, and sometimes I like singers and athletes (Richard Sherman! Macklemore! Matthew Gray Gubler! Chaske Spencer)! I invest my emotional energy in people I will never meet, because the ones I do meet have the potential to derail my entire life and change my trajectory.
The problem with me is that I can’t ever play the love game by the rules. To really love someone requires willingness to be derailed, to drop everything in a moment, to move, to travel, to sacrifice, and I’m just sitting over here like, “What am I, Jesus of Nazareth? I’m not all about that self-sacrificial shit.”
That’s why my would-be marriages fell apart. Months before the wedding, I found myself blustering, stuttering. I found myself realizing I would rather take an extra class at the community college than get married; I would rather work at my church than get married; I would rather sleep in the day of the wedding than get married; I couldn’t be fussed to get married, I had so many other things to do besides getting married. The Princess Bride and other such fantasies put it in my head at a young age that love was worth fighting for, love, that rare bird, was worth dying for. The Little Mermaid, my favorite animated film of all time, told me you left your family, your life, your home, because love was that powerful. Damn, can you imagine? Can you imagine giving up your fucking voice because you loved someone that much?
My voice is the most important thing to me. My art. My ability to create a space of expression, and to have the perfect freedom to do whatever I want in order to pursue that art. I wouldn’t give up a single line of poetry for a man. It’s romantic, of course, and as a Taurus, I have to appreciate Ariel – she wants something so much she is willing to sacrifice everything to obtain what she wants. The thing about me is that the object of my affection, the object of sacrifice, is not a man, but a goal.
What if I had gotten married when I was “supposed” to? After all, most of my friends got married somewhere between 6-8 years ago. They have kids in second grade. They have houses and mortgages and all I have to my name is this iPhone and stacks and stacks of books. They didn’t let love get in the way of their lives – they are business-owners, artists, photographers, and generally happy people. But for me, it couldn’t have been like that. Marriage would have meant circumventing my desires. It would have meant working a shitty job to afford rent in the small town we were from. It would have meant spending time with a person instead of with myself. It would have meant less Netflix and more conversations. There’s nothing really wrong with that, except it just isn’t me. I want to be with you when I want to be with you and to leave when I’m done. I want to stay up until 3am texting my friends – both guys, girls, and nonbinary – not be restricted to having less friendships because I have to focus on a partner. I want to get on a plan and fly to New York City, center of the universe, or blow all my money on a camera, or rack up student loans that don’t affect anybody but me in order to learn everything I need to know to make perfect art, and I want to fly cross-continentally at the drop of a hat to visit my friends who teach internationally and abroad.
I want to love someone else, but I love myself too much. I want to invest in another person. I want to have a friend so close they’re like a part of myself. But I’m just getting used to living with me, to taking care of myself and my own schedule, to achieving micro-accomplishments (first I walk up the big hill to where I teach/have class, then I get a cup of coffee. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED), that I can’t imagine the stress of dealing with someone else’s problems (DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH EFFORT IT TAKES TO GET UP THAT HILL)?
My married friends have married people who suit them, who are partners in their art, supporters of their choices – to be mothers, wives, artists. I know that such a person exists out there for me, but could I exist for them? I don’t know if I could. I’m busy existing for me. And I really, really like it.