Monday, March 5, 2012

Crossroads (But Not The Brittney Spears Movie)

  My mom keeps trying to get me to try online dating. The concept feels so inauthentic to me that I hardly give it a second thought. After telling her about my stresses about school, being awoken by gunshots at 4 AM, and the terror of having a human body found near my house, she wanted to know my romance-related woes. Could the demons lurking under bridges in my neighborhood and in my intellectual spaces not satiate her? She needed more. Like a soap opera to which she is addicted, She wanted me to tell her everything (about one narrow topic, hitherto only a small sliver of a [my] very rich life). 
  I told her everything there was to tell. I spare no detail with her sometimes.
  And then she (again...) asked if I thought online dating wasn't a good idea. After all, she found her last few boyfriends on various websites. My sister chimed in, for she too was an internet success story. They even offered to craft an online presence for me. While I think their concern is somewhat warranted and their offer indubitably kind, I'm just not convinced that a website will fit the bill.  Is this what we have come to as a people? Are we so replete with authentic human interactions that we are capable of boiling ourselves down to a webpage and advertising the hell out of ourselves, pimping our education and our favorite films, music and qualities about ourselves? I guess I just think some things require actual interaction. Some things must be felt.
We then got into a discussion about what was wrong with me. 
  The topic did not help me feel too nice.

  Time to say farewell to my pride. Yet again.

 Historically speaking, my family hasn't really been one to put much pressure on us for not dating or being in a relationship or being married. I have spent time being grateful for the breathing space. This was especially poignant after my parents' marriage dissolved after 27 years. I too needed to give myself time and mental hiatus. But looking back, I think I may have stopped pushing myself, stopped progressing and learning how to trust and interact appropriately with the male sex. I have installed mental blocks that are making it really, really hard to jump beyond myself. I want to jump, but those blocks are making it hard for me to see that I might land on the other side. They make it hard to see if it's worth it to try. I am not interested in blaming others for my lack. I want to feel empowered to act on my own behalf.
  And maybe now, my parents are beginning to feel the fact of the time-lease that is their daughter's female body. My body. The prospect of progeny is an enticing one for them, it seems; perhaps I do not provide them with enough charm any longer as a 26 year old child.
  I read an article about the word gals. The word, as the article's author seems to understand, is... well... stupid. But she makes a point in saying that, 

that mantle of womanhood can be too heavy—many of us who are the right age to have sympathized with Britney Spears when she sang "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" in 2001 are still stuck in between (I was 16 at the time that song came out) . As a 20-something female, there are moments, romantic and professional and Shania-Twain-approved, when I feel like a woman. Other times, I really do feel like a girl (though not as often as I am called one). I never feel like a lady except in announcements made also to gentlemen and I only feel like a dame when I watch old movies. What I feel like most of the time is a guy. A female guy.

  This comes, appropriately, on the heel of hearing a lecture last week entitled "Guyland" at a gender studies conference at which I was a (grown-ass-woman) panelist. The lecture was largely casually written off as pop-sociology. But to some extent, my attention was caught in the idea of extended adolescence and the allure of irresponsibility, ad infinitum. The prospect of being a "forever-dude" is certainly an entertaining one that smacks of fountains of youth and promises eternal springtime filled with "going to shows, bro", and staying up until three AM eight nights in a row. Filled with the stuff of college and flexing your wings for the first time, rather than learning that wings were meant for long-distance, stamina- requiring flight. Wings are meant for adult things like paying bills on time and regularly brushing your teeth before going to bed. Wings that are meant to bear and teach babies.The guyland appeal fights with my determination to age honestly and gracefully into a wise, wizened, and self- actualized old woman one day. I can see myself as that: I'm old and wonderful and kind.
  But for now I am 26 years old.
  And today I wrote a professor from my undergrad to see if there would be a teaching position for me in the summer. That's right. That's me today: actualizing real, grown ass-woman, careersy aspirations. I don't know if I will get the job. I will keep you posted on that, but I am making strides.  This is one of those "Shania-Twain-approved" occasions. My mom never asked about it. I didn't push the topic.
  I understand that my zeal for education and a career might seem antithetical to the accepted roles outlined here. I don't know to what extent I am prepared to submit to those fully just yet, but I think that I want a family. I sometimes see babies and want to cry at how much I want to touch them. I think I would be a good mom. I think I have the capacity to love small things and make real food for real small humans. I am good at comforting babies and helping them feel loved. I am good at teaching them about the world, how wonderful and full it can be; I am good at inspiring wonderment and imagination. I am good at playing with them and helping them laugh. I want to make real promises to a real man human and make real things happen with him. I want to do that in a certain sacred place, wherein we will incur the permission of Heaven. I really do want that.  I feel it very deeply and feel powerful in writing that down.
  But I also can admit and embrace that my career-related aspirations might be somewhat intimidating to real human men/potential marriage prospects (this isn't the appropriate place to discuss my opinions about men who are intimidated by successful women, but know that I have a few). And my object in clinging so desperately to the hope of career opportunities is not grown from subversion, rebellion or even in doubt or fear. It's rooted in the feeling of ability and control (it is somewhat vulnerable-making to explain this here). 
  My career is the only thing in which I feel validated to satisfactorily control. It is the one thing in which I feel a degree of autonomy based on my own abilities and skills; the arena in which I can thrive at being ambitious and definite in pursuing the thing that I want. I do not feel this validation in my relationships with men, nor in my friendships with human beings of either gender. I frequently take the role of passive acceptor. This role often leads to being alone, and sometimes (not always, but sometimes) being alone leads to being lonely. I am learning that I cannot be antonymous on a project which inherently requires the contribution of two. There is certainly pride tied up in the focus on education and career. Pride, of which I am leery, as I know the dangers and pitfalls of pride intimately well. I read stories about it every day from this book that I'm kind of in to. I need to move and be moved, see and be seen. Perhaps that is the key to finding a successful relationship; admission that I cannot control things/others/fate?

  It's time to say farewell to my pride again. 

  How do you submit to waiting?

  Is there a better location than Guy/Gal Land? My lease here might be up; rent certainly is cheap, but there are too many dead bodies showing up in ravines and shooters lurking in the neighborhood.


Rachel Hunt said...

I wish you could sleep at my house tonight, and we could talk about all of these things.

You do live a very full and rich life.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on so many matters. You will be a good mom one day. And a good professor/art historian. I don't think that those things have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that at least some men (possibly single, somewhere other than the interwebs) agree with me. And you. And hopefully at least one of those will find you agreeable to the point of wanting to make those same promises in that same, certain place. I feel it for you.

Somedays I find myself wanting a baby so badly. But then I find myself getting so scared. I want to finish school. I want. I want.

Austin said...

I share a lot of these same thoughts. Thank you for writing this.

Also, agreed with Rachel, above, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that. I'm not sure exactly how it will work, but I believe that it will (for you and me :)).