Vanity


What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.

Ellen Burstyn

 

 

And, don’t give me any of that “everyone dies alone” crap. I’ve seen Donnie Darko; turns out it’s one of my favorite movies, ever. It doesn’t make me feel better.

What I believe WOULD make me feel better is a boyfriend. Who eventually became my husband. And basically, nothing else. Which is what I’m trying to get over. It hasn’t been easy.

It has been suggested (more than once, often by rejected suitors, but also by friends and/or family) that my standards are just too high. Because, apparently, wanting someone who is intelligent, funny, and attractive* is a totally outrageous expectation.

I don’t think so. Because I have that stuff to offer. And lots else besides; I am generous, thoughtful, devoted, open-minded, and flexible. I am also a tiger in the sack. Virtually every person I have ever been involved in a long-term relationship with has said I was the best partner they ever had. I bring a lot to the table.

So, what’s so freaking hard about all that? Why is it that I have spent the majority of my adult life wallowing in solitary singlehood? I think, at least in part, because in many ways, I haven’t been picky enough and I am now paying the price for my willingness to settle.

Howso? Because, I spent years of my life in relationships with people who were fundamentally ill-equipped, profoundly disinclined, or systemically incapable of meeting me on an equal footing as a loving, committed partner striving toward the goal of building a future together. While they each met my very basic criteria, they failed to be a suitable option for me in a multitude of other critical ways. I wasn’t sufficiently healthy or whole to notice this was the case until I had spent far too much time becoming emotionally invested and entangled.

I squandered my youth and indeed, my capacity to bear more children languishing in relationships with people who couldn’t, shouldn’t, or didn’t want to build a life with me. I stayed in these situations because of the irrational belief that I could not expect better, would never find anyone else I loved so much, or worse, that I would end up all alone if I left them.

But then I always did, anyway**.

And now, I am older, barren and fat***. I can’t help but believe this will diminish my appeal.

I am also, happier, wiser, and much kinder to myself and others. I like to believe that with a certain segment of the population anyway, this will serve me better than having visible abs.

And I am, as it turns out, totally willing to accept the idea that demanding more for myself might lead to a greater chance that I’ll go on being alone. Because having spent this much time by myself – happier, wiser, and fatter – I have also come to understand and more than that, to have experienced,  that being alone is far better and more satisfying than being in a bad relationship could ever hope to be.

But hey, If you know anybody…

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*Yes, I realize I have very particular taste. It isn’t my fault. People are attracted to what attracts them. It isn’t like a Mongolian Buffet where you get to go in and say “Hm, yes, I want it SPICY, but also with some baby corn in it.” You like what you like because you like it; not because you planned (or even like) it that way.

**With one notable, humiliating exception, I have always been the one to end my long-term relationships.

***Fatter than I have ever been when not pregnant. I realize I am not, by customary standards actually fat, but it is irrefutably the case that I am heavier and rounder than I have ever been whilst not producing offspring.

me

(ō’vər-kə-rĕkt’)

v.tr.
To correct beyond what is needed, appropriate, or usual, especially when resulting in a mistake.

American Heritage Dictionary

Also, meaningful;

An over-compensation of a mechanical fault during the performance of a motor skill.

Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine

I am full of myself. Vain. Arrogant. I have unwarranted self-confidence and an insufferable tendency to boast. Even the very exercise I am now engaged in, all too closely mimics mental masturbation, eh?

Ah, me.

But it is unquestionably the case that this is the result of a swerve, wild and desperate, that I have not yet gotten a handle upon. Meant to avoid remaining bedraggled and bruised, pitiable and pathetic, lost in self-loathing. It was a coping mechanism, not so unusual, to try and repair damage untold, as dealt by indifferent parenting and unenviable circumstance. But like most things meant to help us cope, if we rely on them too heavily, they create a host of new problems which must then be confronted; mastered.

I believe my braggodocio springs in no small part from an odd quirk of mine that developed as a result of my “mechanical fault.” While quite small I was functionally blind. I could see shapes and light and color, but nothing was in focus, and there was two of everything. It made it nearly impossible for me to navigate in the world. I wasn’t totally sightless, so I didn’t rely as heavily on my other senses as I could have. I was constantly running into things, falling down, tripping, and generally hurting myself repeatedly through my stubborn determination to get where I was going, under my own steam and at top speed.

My older sister, and mother, took to shouting warnings at me when I was about to run into trouble. Brandy particularly took it upon herself to follow me around and warn me when I was about to bump into something, when there was danger I might fall, or if there was something I could trip over in my path. As noble as her efforts were, I have noticed that it has instilled in me a need to hear something, before I can truly absorb it. I do not trust the evidence of my other senses quite so thoroughly. Additionally, it has created a tendency to rely on the assertions of other people altogether too much when evaluating my self-worth, circumstances, or correct course of action.

So, I say what I want to believe, that I can hear it and thus accept it as true. I say it to other people in hopes they will agree with me and give the declaration greater credence. My assertions are almost always uncertainty waiting to become assurance.

And I will not claim to have ever even tried humility on for size. I think I bridled at the notion of it, seeing it as somehow in conflict with my favorite virtue Truth. To fail to pronounce my strengths, as well as my many, sundry faults, would be to deny the truth of who and how I am. When I encountered the trait in people I admired, I always found it baffling:

“But, you’re awesome!! Why aren’t you telling everyone in earshot??”

Because it turns out, most people don’t require this kind of mechanism to believe good things about themselves. They just sort of do. They prefer to demonstrate their worth by their deeds, quietly and with grace.

Someone recently mentioned to me that their approach to life was to underpromise and overdeliver. I saw firsthand evidence of how lovely it could be to be on the other side of that course. The surprise and sense of discovery were profoundly satisfying. And it dawned on me that I have denied anyone who has ever met me the pleasure of that sort of revelation. I am so quick to tell them all there is to know about me, they have no chance to see and decide for themselves. This is especially important when I am forced to admit that not everything I “know” about myself is true for everyone else.

And I am tempted, for the first time, to try this humility thing after all. To pull the wheel slowly towards center, and proceed…

I like my hands. I think they’re quite nice. I’ve always been a bit vain about them, and oddly they are the part of me that look most like my mother; I totally got her hands. They’re relatively small for an average sized woman, but my fingers are unusually long. I also grow very nice fingernails, when I leave them be to grow. It’s a weird thing to be vain about, but I can rise above and be vain about most anything, it turns out.

I do not, on the other hand, much like my guitar playing. It is in no way my strong suit, musically. I came to it late, am self taught and rather lazy about practicing, but care a great deal about sounding good when I do bother to play. Usually because I am trying to impress a boy.

But to do the latter well, I must relinquish the former. I picked up Livingston tonight and looked sadly at the state of my fingernails (perfect) and knew that in very short order indeed they would be made sacrifice to the strings. I even tried playing without trimming them, but was forced at last (since the child absconded with my clippers) to bite them all off in order to play with any degree of satisfaction.

On the bright side I’m not nearly as rusty as I expected to be…

Lyza always manages to take photos of me that I think look the most like I actually look, but good. She captures something that I can never quite manage to, and no one else ever has. I make weird faces, I stand like I am about to wander away at any second. While I perch gape-jawed contemplating the largest fern I have ever seen.

Or I sit in an altogether unladylike position

Or sprawled on the floor like a child.

Or I show the world my armpit.

She got quite a few good ones in Hawaii, but not only those…

Me, in the gutter.

and playing with fire.