It’s hard for most people to imagine a lifetime without romantic love. But it happens. It’s more common than you might think. It’s not reserved for the hugely obese, the hideously ugly, the mentally ill or even just the overwhelmingly socially awkward. We Americans or perhaps the Western World would like to think if we play by the rules, participate in society and don’t make too much trouble then we’ll get what we ask for. We’ll get what is considered certain basic desires (after all we deserve them): financial security, a warm house, friendship, family and of course, love. As we grow up it becomes apparent that at least some of us are going to have work for these things. They won’t just come because we asked for it. Then some people must discover that sometimes even working for it is not enough. There’s the father who works hard for his family but never seems to get ahead of his bills, always struggling. There’s the daughter who tries to mediate her family’s problems, remind them of the love that binds them to no avail. And there is the sad soul who puts his or herself out there time and time again, yearning for love and winding up with one night stands or drunk alone at the end of the bar.
These examples all exist and yet they do not represent any category of people. After a lifetime of being single I personally have become accustomed to taking a rather defensive stance on the topic. In a time and place where often being single is considered a contagious disease rather than a just a Face Book status, I stiffen my spine and pretend to look down on people who question my romantic past. I have never considered or let my single status be a weakness. I do not cry into a tall glass of red wine surrounded by cats. If anything I’m more available for girls night out. I can take off on grand and lengthy adventures around the world. I flirt with whoever I choose.
And then last night a guy I’ve been seeing very casually expressed to me that he would like something more, that this arrangement should be brought to the next level. The very idea of calling someone my boyfriend, of emotions getting involved, of promises and compromises, left me panic stricken and questioning everything I’ve believed in. Paralyzed with fear and this idea of romantic involvement I stressed my need for casual involvement. Now I am struck with seems to me two possibilities: Am I messing up future happiness because of a fear of relationships and commitment? But if I really liked him wouldn’t I have jumped at being involved with him? On the other hand I feel myself being pressured into starting something with said fellow simply to prove that I can, to prove that it’s only my fear holding me back, which is incredibly wrong and unfair.
Well, shit. And all in time for Valentine’s Day too.