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Miss Peach

Like putting a good belt on a cheap dress

Pick Up the Change

Monday, July 31, 2006

I've been single for my entire life. Prom stressed me out, as there wasn't ever anyone in the picture. I've not had a relationship that lasted more than a few months. The first (and only) love of my life was a torturous on-and-off, ill-timed affair riddled with issues and a complete lack of communication that stretched for two long years and took as much time to get over. At this point, my friends and family don't even really inquire about my relationship status, which I appreciate more than they know. I think they've come to the conclusion that, by god, if there was someone to tell them about, I would be SHOUTING IT OUT LOUD.

I used to think that if I were to find someone, I would be the annoying girl who refers to her boyfriend constantly and is forever telling the latest cute anecdote about what he did that was just so adorable. But having spent what feels like my entire life listening to everyone else drone on about their cute relationship (it's okay to a point, folks, and then it's just plain annoying), I will probably talk so little about my beloved that everyone will think there's something very, very wrong.

All of this is a way of saying that my best friend, who has finally found someone to love and to love her back, has been incredibly good about NOT engaging in any of that. She and I were two of a kind until she met her boyfriend several months ago, and she's been an absolute dream about sharing just enough but not too much as she's fallen in love. It's thrilling to watch someone you love falling in love, especially when it's your best friend of over a decade, whom you know so well she's practically an extension of yourself, and who is that one person you want to fall in love almost more than you want to yourself.

They've been together for a while now, and I've met him several times, but it's hard to really get to know someone over drinks or dinner. So this past weekend, the three of us went to the beach for a weekend away. It was fun. It's always a treat to be out of the city in the summer, and time on the water and eating crabs pretty much tops my list of summer activities.

When I told other friends my plan for the weekend, there was much eyebrow raising and, "oh, that will be interesting"s. But honestly, I wasn't worried about it at all. This is my best friend who is so conscientious about how I feel at all times that I didn't have any qualms about being a third wheel. Sure, I knew it would feel that way at one point or another, but let's face it: I've been a third wheel forever now, and I've got it down. When the intimate gestures happen, avert your eyes. Busy yourself with whatever magazine or dish is at hand. As the evening wears on, head home at an appropriate time, feigning exhaustion. Then stay up late catching up with friends on the west coast or watching stocks of "The Daily Show" on DVR.

Maybe that sounds sad or lonely, but I've never been the type to dwell on my singledom. Do I have moments that I really really really wish I had someone? Absolutely. But I don't, and sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn't going to change that. I've never sought companionship as a way to complete myself. I'm fulfilled with my life and I'm happy and secure with who I am. I have an amazing network of friends and family, and someone is always there when I need to talk. I am truly blessed and loved, and I love many people in return. For me, that's always been the key to happiness, and I can honestly say I'm happy 98% of the time.

So when I felt deeply sad and third wheely all weekend, it took me by complete and utter surprise.

This had nothing to do with their behavior. There weren't any uncomfortable moments. I didn't ever feel left out of a private twosome. I think it had to do with several things, the first being that though I think he's wonderful and nice and kind and caring, and I know he absolutely adores her, which is the most important thing to me, we didn't exactly click. It's not that we don't get along, and even if we didn't, I can get along with the nastiest of people if need be, and would do just that for her. It was just that though we had perfectly nice interactions, there wasn't any spark. Perhaps this is because we were both unconsciously intent on making this the Best Bonding Weekend Ever After Which We Would Be Best Friends that we spent the whole time politely circling each other. But there isn't much that interests me about him yet, and while I would sooner fork my eye out than ever admit this to her, I found him to be kind of boring and small-minded. Not narrow-minded, not that at all. Just less diversified than I would want for her. Because it goes without saying that I think she is fabulous and deserves everything.

I think the larger truth here is that this marks a passing. I'm 27 now, and I know that's young, and I know I have my WHOLE life in front of me, but the fact is this: the pool is shrinking. My friends couple off at a rate that defies my mind at times. One of my closest college friends got married over a year ago, and truth be told, I miss her. A lot. Because no matter what you say about it, marriage changes friendships, especially when your husband is a cheap control freak who doesn't like your best friend from college and is frankly a jerk about letting you visit her and makes her visits to see you rather disappointing and uncomfortable.

Ahem. Let me rephrase. When you get married, you are building a life as a partnership. The open, girlfriendness of things fades, because you have chosen to spend your life with someone, and they are the central rock upon which you rely. They are the one with whom you share your secrets, the one who you protect and defend. They are your priority. And that is precisely as it SHOULD be. One of the most appealing things about committed, loving relationships to me is that idea that you always have someone in your corner. But it's tough to remain as close to your friends as you were before. It's natural. I know that. It's just hard when you aren't the married or coupled one in the equation.

I've spent most of my life surrounded by several amazing, single women--friends of my mother's who never married, an aunt who married young, divorced, and never remarried, others who didn't couple up until their late 40s or early 50s. I often joke that I have ten mothers as a result, and I am lucky for it. These women spent their holidays with us, babysat for me, taught me about life and love and books and culture. My unmarried aunt, my very own personal Auntie Mame, took me to Paris for a week for my 16th birthday, and taught me to love traveling and to always do something to make yourself happy. I have seen how good it can be to be single forever. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I've always found that to be sad. One of my deepest, dirtiest secrets? I live in fear that I will follow in the footsteps of these wonderful, funny, smart, witty, interesting women who have to a large extent shaped who I am today. I'm terrified I'll turn out just like them.

I've known from day one--literally, for as much of my life as I can recall--that I want children. I want a family and carpool and I actually look forward to the day to day monotony of parenting. I know I'll find moments so mindless and frustrating that I'll want to run for the hills and never come back--I've babysat, nannied, and cared for my little cousins long enough to have lived a bit of that already. So part of this aversion to being single for life is that deep-seated fear that I won't have kids. That I won't find someone to build a family with. I've thought about it, and I just don't think I'm cut out to do it alone. Never say never, but when I look myself straight in the eye, I know I don't have it in me.

But the other part is that I want someone who loves me and who I love. I want to have standing dates to weddings and events. I want to make decisions as a unit. I want to set goals--living in a certain location, taking a certain trip, buying a house or a car or a pony--with someone ELSE. I'm tired of going through security at the airport alone, struggling with my bags, worried that I'll somehow lose my laptop or forget my ID. I want a wingman. I'd like, for once, to leave my bags with someone while I run to the bathroom and get coffee, rather than forfeiting my seat and trying to cram all of my shit into the way too small stalls in every airport and train station across America. I'm sick of getting bumped from flights and staying alone in airport motel rooms, turning up the tv to divert my attention from the creepy crappiness of the room. I'd like to laugh at the absurdity of it with someone else. I don't want to be bellying up to the bar every single fucking time the slow songs play at a wedding, and I'm dead tired of my friends doing the sweet, loving deed of having their boyfriends or husbands dance with me after the first two or three. Don't stop, sweet jesus, because I will be so drunk at the end of the night it'll be seriously problematic, but no matter how well-intentioned it is, it will never stop feeling like they're taking pity on me.

And speaking of pity, that party ends now. But I don't know why I seem to find it so hard to meet someone. I really can't explain it. Apparently I don't "give off the vibe that I'm available" and I have my "man-sheild" up, but fuck if I know what that means. All I know is that I simply haven't met someone--not "that special" someone, just anyone I really want to date seriously. I've tried Match, and, wow, if something was ever NOT for me, that's it. But more about that another time. I've tried being set up, but that really hasn't taken either. And, please, don't tell me I'm not "putting myself out there". Seeing how I'm not quite sure what it is about me that isn't out there already, I find that task to be both baffling and overwhelming.

When I'm honest with myself, I know that I think things will all work out. I joke that I'll be the dog lady--I hate cats, so I'll never fall into that stereotype--but I don't think I will. Maybe that's me holding on to hope, or remaining optimistic despite reality staring me right in the face, kind of like how even though I know there's no way in hell I can make it to work in under 20 minutes, I try every single day. But right now, it's a little rough out there. I'm keeping my chin up and smiling all the time, making so many plans that I don't have time to dwell on it, expanding what little culinary skills I have and listening to upbeat music.

If there's one thing I know about myself it's that I'm pretty resilient, so all will be fine. But is it so wrong to admit that I want spectacular?

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