On Being Single on Valentine's Day and Being Way Too Sober
I gave up alcohol for Lent. But it turns out, I didn’t give up the reason I normally drink alcohol. This is, of course, due to the fact that my love life is akin to post-meltdown Chernobyl. Lent happened on Ash Wednesday, as Lent does, and I stopped drinking. No happy-hour Shiners, no Friday afternoon margaritas, nothin’. Just iced tea, water, and hot cocoa. Additionally, Ash Wednesday was the day I flew to Texas for a weekend wedding. Now if you know me at all, or even if you don’t, you know that I love my friends, and I love that they have found love, but I often do not love weddings. This is probably because I don’t like wearing dresses. It’s also because weddings are expensive. Especially for bridesmaids. Particularly for Maids of Honor. Groomsmen have it so damn easy: just a bunch of college buddies getting together for a weekend of debauchery, breweries and golf for the bachelor party and then a weekend of wearing a suit they may or may not already own on one Saturday. Groomsmen are the men that will marry you and bury you.
Bridesmaids are the chicks you love enough to know they will continue being your friend after your force them into indentured servitude. Bridesmaids (and MOHs) coordinate, plan, and try on dress after dress only to say “well, this is as good as it’s going to get… oh goodness I look disgusting.” Bridesmaids buy Spanx, suck in their tummies for the pictures, stop eating carbs, start going to more barre classes, and buy gifts for the bridal shower, lingerie shower, and wedding. All while watching their credit card bill sneak up and up and up…
Sidebar about the lingerie shower: I hate these. I hate these showers so much. Why? Because lingerie is expensive. Why else? Because why on earth should I have any say in what my friend’s wear in their bedrooms? I shouldn’t. That is so insanely against my feminist beliefs that I can’t handle it. Girl, if you want to wear some La Perla nighty that costs an arm in the leg, then you do that. If you want to wear the Boston Red Sox shirt you’ve had since middle school, then you do that. Your man should be so freaking excited about being with you that you could wear a mascot uniform, and he would still be completely on board. But guess what? My opinion shouldn’t factor into ANY PART of your sex life. Why? Because it’s none of my business. And yet, I always get weaseled into buying lingerie at Victoria’s Secret, all the while feeling super weird about all of it. Oy.
The wedding is a marathon for the single person. It is watching a couple walk together into the rest of their lives while you feel like you are by yourself stalling. It is knowing that you don’t get a plus-one and sucking it up (lest any of my friends think this is aimed at them in particular, know this: this is for all of you equally; no one has ever given me a plus-one, but don’t worry, I still love you all). This is mostly because in the Venn Diagram of me being in weddings, and me being in a relationship, there is absolutely no overlap. Why? Because I am perpetually single. Which I am okay with. 364 days a year I am fine with it (365 as this year is a leap year). But there is one day a year my singleness pisses me off: Valentine’s Day.
What’s worse than the candy and roses and stupid bears? I’ll tell you what’s worse. Sitting by yourself waiting for a delayed flight in an airport, because that’s when your inner conflict really starts to rage.
On Valentine’s Day this year I sat alone in the Austin airport. Sick, tired and looking like death warmed over I sat and waited. I never leave the house without mascara. I can go without all other makeup but mascara is as essential as brushing my teeth. I have blonde eyelashes, so without mascara I look very much like a boy or a dead body. On Valentine’s day I didn’t put on mascara as a form of protest. I was determined to look how I felt and how I felt was pretty bad.
I sat and waited for my flight back to the epicenter of winter that is D.C. I tried to write this very blog post about how I don’t actually mind being single, and that’s one of the things I’ve learned since being out of college, but then I just got mad. I was angry that if you asked 18 year-old me, she would tell you that “I’ll for sure be married by 24,” and 20 year-old me would chime in and say “Yeah, definitely” and 22 year-old me would say “Yeah, probably,” and 24 year-old me is saying “Why did I give up alcohol for Lent?!” I was pretty mad.
When I get mad, I cry. At first it was the tears that you can suck back into your eyes on command. The little tears. But then, suddenly, they were big tears. The kind that roll slowly out of your eyes and down your cheeks that you have no control over. To hide the fact that I was a single girl crying on Valentine’s Day (because how embarrassing am I?!), I turned towards the floor to ceiling airport windows. I watched the grey cotton clouds whip over Texas and the whole sky settled into an overcast frown. This didn’t really help me feel better. I tried to think of all the reasons I was happy I wasn't married: “You don’t have to share your room, you get to sleep in the middle of the bed, you get to go out to dinner with your girlfriends any time you want, you don’t have to deal with clingy boys, or smelly laundry, and you don’t have to consider anyone else when you make choices.” I told myself these things so I would stop being so truly annoyed. Annoyed that I felt sad. It didn’t cheer me up right away, but it helped a little.
The fact is that all of my friends in Texas are married, and all of my friends in D.C. are single. So it’s much easier to be single in D.C. as I have company as well as support. If I were in Texas I’m sure being alone would press in on me more than it normally does. When I’m in Texas, being single feels like staring down the wrong end of a double barrel shot gun. Every interaction with my parent’s friends, my friends and even strangers revolves around the status of my love life. The second I get asked “So, are you seeing anyone special?” it’s like someone pulls the trigger - BOOM! - and I slump against the wall behind me and crumple onto the floor.
Or at least that’s what it feels like. I once attended a rehearsal dinner for my best friend and after I gave a great (totally unplanned) toast, I started tearing up. Her soon-to-be mother-in-law approached me and asked (this is a direct quote I swear to God), “Rachel, are you crying because your heart yearns for marriage, but you haven’t found anyone yet?” to which I said “No, that isn’t why I’m crying.” She looked at me knowingly. “Oh,” she said softly “Are you crying because you’re on your period?”
This is what single life is like in Texas, and I just can’t handle it. It’s a lot like getting slapped and then told immediately to feel better. I’m single, meaning that I am one-half of a whole person. I am not in the couple club and thus am living a half-life. I miss a lot about Texas but the pressure to pair up is not one of those things.
Normally, I don’t dwell on these emotions as they are exhausting and do not fill me with joy, but when sitting alone in the airport, sometimes you have to do some soul searching and wade through the emotions surrounding singleness. Upon arrival in D.C. I immediately went to the movies with some friends. We saw How To Be Single and if you think it’s a how-to, you are dead wrong. It’s a terrible movie and none of its weird advice should be followed but it got at a good core conflict: how do you find yourself in your singleness? I’m still trying to figure that out. All I know is there are times in my life when I am wild and unruly, and there are times in my life when I am absolutely stagnant. Right now I am neither of those things, but I think I’m becoming something unique. I’m working on coming out from under the expectations of myself and others. (I’ll let you know how it goes.)
[Photo by Ally Willis.]