I remember the first time I came across Penelope Trunk’s blog about making marriage a priority. It scared the bejesus out of me. I was (and am) 31. I had never really considered that I was a ticking time bomb. I started dating 5 years ago. I learned how to hold down a job two years ago. In fact, I haven’t known enough about relationships and how they could feel until recently, and I still don’t know if that information is accurate. Each time I run into another article about choosing career over kids it kind of feels like society has pulled a gun on me but hasn’t given me the tools or enough warning to prepare accordingly.
The problem – as I see it – is that there are no answers. There is the typical advice: troll Ok Cupid, lose weight, work with a therapist, freeze your eggs. Be the person you want to meet! All good things, but not necessarily things that calm you down when you’re sitting at your desk blogging, when you should be working, and thinking about your barren life and the sad moments you will spend sitting on park benches in the future watching as children who look like their parents giggle and run by.
I’ve dated a lot of people. I’ve put in some work.
But what can we do that makes us feel like we’re making a difference in our search for a mate, without efforting?
Here’s my list.
There’s something oddly glamorous about the single mom who hustles – going to school and working full-time in order to provide for her family. We all wonder how she does it, secretly believing we would easily be able do the same should we be in her situation.
But it’s only glamorous as long as she succeeds. What happens if she collapses into a ball on the bathroom floor (she will do this success or no success), but she doesn’t get up ready to face the day in the same way after? She decides to quit school and give up her “dream.” Or now she’s going to take out loans (that she’ll never get out of) so she can afford to “just” go to school. Either way, it somehow seems like she failed, when her cup runneth over in the first place. As a society, we praise and vilify this woman.
I remember when Mariah Carey had her nervous breakdown in, maybe, 2001 and had to be hospitalized for her exhaustion. You know, Glitter-era Mariah Carey. She was unstoppable her first ten years as a pop star, and the next minute she was a joke. Even with all she’s accomplished professionally since then, I haven’t looked at her in the same light. She’s tainted. She couldn’t take the pressure, I think.
I’ve been working two jobs the last two months in an effort to pay off credit-card debt. I rob Mary to pay Peter to pay Paul. Or something like that.
I learned the hard way: There’s nothing glamorous about calling one of your best friends and telling her, between violent, teary fits, that you won’t be able to make her wedding. There’s nothing glamorous about telling someone who is putting his or her faith in you that you can’t complete a task for them. There’s nothing glamorous about not having a moment to. stop. Or a minute to care.
Now that I have to slow down, because my body won’t continue to function if I don’t, I’m scared. Those things, you know – the dark ones that swirl around you as you sleep whispering soft, self-defeating thoughts in your ear, they get louder when you’re less busy.
What are these things trying to tell us? And who’s telling us it’s vital that we outrun them?