Monday, February 13, 2012

Damn you, Hallmark

Like many people, I’ve never had a good Valentine’s Day. I have been single for more of them than in a relationship, and when I have been in one, it was long distance a few times, and therefore spent alone anyway. The first year that I had a boyfriend at the time, I had already decided to break up with him by the time the holiday arrived, so I spent it mostly feeling guilty, and wondering why the guy I’d been dating a week was writing ‘I love you’ on the card. So now I wonder if that screwed my karma for all future occurrences of this ridiculously trumped up holiday.

Usually, I just ignore it. Not that they make that easy, with the loads of hearts and flowers and teddy bears flooding every store and commercial this time of year. You have to learn to look through them. All the same, it seems better to blur your vision than to be bitter about it.

I think the best one I ever had was in college, my boyfriend at the time and I were just getting back together, he sent me flowers, and that night his band played a show where he wrote ‘Love Sucks’ on his stomach in lipstick. Not ideal or romantic, but we actually did love each other at the time, which is more than I can say for the next year, when we did go out to dinner, and he sent flowers to the new girl he liked. I think the lesson there is that you can’t expect your expectations for a “romantic evening” to be met, or you’ll inevitably be let down.

So, if I’m ignoring it again, why am I talking about it at all? Somehow lately I’ve been infected with a soft spot for the romantic, which is a bit unnerving, as I usually keep that place sufficiently hardened to allow things to bounce off of me without leaving a bruise behind. But I found myself watching snippets of ‘Titanic’ (on all the time now because of the 100th anniversary coming up in April. And I am totally going to see it in 3-D to cry like a 16 year girl again), ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ and ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (it’s out of the Disney Vault and appearing everywhere), and enjoying them rather than rolling my eyes. I am a champion eye roller, as everyone who has brought up a romantic comedy around me knows, so this is a strange development.

In part my recent break up has to play a role in making me feel vulnerable again. But I’d rather not talk about that.

In part I blame this book I’m reading, Mr. Fox, which I hadn’t expected to awaken something in me, but is written beautifully in vignette after vignette of brief but poignant tales of doomed love. “The girl tried, several times, to give her love away, but her love would not stay with the person she gave it to and snuck back to her heart without a sound.” There’s nothing like a good tragedy to get emotions stirring.

Maybe I’m just lonely. Not seeking hearts and flowers, and definitely not chocolate (never been a big fan), but the idea of curling up close with someone and breathing them in warmly sounds pretty good.

In the meantime, I’m just going to hit the gym hard and sweat off as much of this softness as I can. 
And at least I have my puppy love.
And these awesome Nick Cage Valentine cards.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts on getting older (I don't mean that old)

It’s been noted often in recent years how people put off settling down (marriage and family) until their 30s or 40s, rather than the previous norm of getting hitched soon after college. A lot of attention is paid to the extension of education into graduate degrees and the need to be financially secure before seeking to start a family. Also a lot of people site the ways in which people want to know themselves before trying to join themselves to another person. It all sounds very logical and good, so I believed all these years.

But I have to say that at 30 (egad, am I this age?) I realize that there is a lot to be said for meeting someone in college or just after and sticking with them through marriage.

By the time you get a little older, get used to living alone or with a roommate, have a job and a schedule, you find it much more difficult to join your life to someone else’s. There are little things, like putting your dishes in the dishwasher rather than the sink, how often you change the sheets or do the laundry or vacuum. If you combine local households, every one of these things becomes a compromise. And outside of the house, you may have a usual gym routine or happy hour time or dinner with friends, all that have to be adjusted in order to accommodate the routine of your partner.

And if you are not local, when you combine residences, if one of you has to move towards the other, then it’s a matter of wake up times, morning showers and routines, commutes and so forth that have to be adjusted and coordinated with another person. And then all of the normal household things on top of that. We get more set in the ways we live the older we get. I have trouble just sleeping in a bed without my 4 pillows, all of which serve a specific function. I have a friend whose husband has to change his pillow case every night. I know people who have to set the alarm for their coffee before going to bed each night. The point is, we each have our preferences and ways of getting through the day to day that become more ingrained over time, and the more time that we are left to ourselves, the deeper those seeds are sown.

Trying to align your life with someone else, who has also already figured out a fair amount of how to live theirs, is a very difficult task. It involves a degree of compromise that our government couldn’t begin to understand.

When you are in college or just graduated, you haven’t made a home for yourself yet and don’t have any set parameters. You are willing to try living different places and setting up your own home (usually apartment) in an amalgamation of how you grew up and how your roommates or partner did. You are a lot more flexible (both physically and spiritually). Over time, if you are single and form an independent lifestyle, you figure things out for yourself, create a setup that works for you, both in the home and with your free time. Most likely, you want to get involved in a relationship, but most people have no concept of how much adjustment this will entail to their day to day lives. You think of the good things, the calls and dates and sex life and person to spend holidays with. You think a lot less of altering the ways that you’re accustomed to doing things to accommodate theirs, whether this means nightly changing pillow cases or going to the gym at different hours or cooking a more substantial dinner each night or traveling a significant distance at regular intervals to be with them.

We do these things because we care and it’s what is necessary to make a relationship work, but just as the cliché says that it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, it is difficult to change the ways of a slightly older and more independent person.

The point being that I am now jealous of all of those who found the person that they are happy to spend their lives with when they were young and flexible and totally unsettled. You have the best chance of any of us to make it work in the long run.