I was single for a long time before I met Q. A loooooooong time.
I wish I could say that I was single because I was too busy busting my ass and kicking down doors to be in a relationship. On some level, this is true: my single years were highly productive.
But it’s also not the whole story: during those years, a small part of me desperately wanted to fall in love, to know what that felt like.
I went to parties, I joined sports teams (I’m probably the worst slow-pitch player in history), I made new friends, I went on lots of dates with some really nice guys – and felt no spark with any of them, or they didn’t feel a spark with me. If I think back enough, I have some good stories: of flirtations gone wrong or false-starts or unrequited crushes.
When I was young, it seemed obvious that I’d be single: “You’ll meet someone eventually.” After about 4 years of that, the tide changed. Some people started to make suggestions, that I change my hair or how I dressed.
Now, to be fair: when I was about 18, I was a fashion disaster. This is not a joke. I still had all my puppy fat, I thought it was cool to sew my own clothes out of leftover sweatpants from the discount bin at Wal-Mart, and – to make matters worse – I had a terrible haircut that, while growing out (which took 2 years), I used to hide under bandanas (I was kind of outdoorsy).
The catch with the bandanas? I’d bought them on super-sale at Old Navy, and didn’t realize they had little dog bones on them…. because they were dog bandanas. I’ve since learned that some people call these: “doggiedanas”.
So the people who made suggestions, they weren’t entirely wrong: there weren’t a lot of 18-year-old boys who looked at me and thought: “hot damn!”
(An aside: the people who made suggestions were most definitely not my parents. If you’re wondering where my parents were, they were delighted! All they had to do was coo: “You just be yourself, sweetheart. Those bandanas are so functional! Making your own clothes, how fun!” and they didn’t have to worry about me getting distracted by boys at all.)
I remember being hurt when the suggestions started though. And confused: “But I thought those things didn’t matter?” Throughout university, I’d see different people end up in relationships, and I couldn’t figure out how they were doing it. I was mystified!
Part of me wondered if it was me, if there was something wrong.
At first, I thought that I wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or whatever. I, ever so slowly, retired the doggiedanas and recovered from my disaster haircut. I grew out of my puppy fat. I also started to notice that all sorts of people were in relationships, people of all shapes, looks, and sizes.
Now, I cringe at my thinking: beauty is subjective. What one person sees as “pretty”, another person doesn’t. We’re attracted to different features and different body types. My parents were right: just be yourself.
Even though I looked different, I remained single. I was still searching for some spark, some connection. Years passed, years where everyone and their cousin were enjoying fling after fling, boyfriend after boyfriend.
So then, for a brief period in my early 20s, I wondered if only really interesting people were in relationships. Only the most erudite, captivating individuals. Even if I didn’t see it, maybe people were more interesting behind closed doors… maybe that dunce in my seminar was actually, after hours, brilliant.
I was assured that this was not the case; but I was still lonely. I mentioned to my grandmother, who was then closer to 100 than she was to 80, and had been in a 55-year-marriage, that I wanted to meet someone and was having trouble. She laughed: “Well, like the song, you can’t hurry love.”
Then she laughed harder: “Even when you do meet someone, it’s all a crapshoot.”
We don’t have a parking spot where we live, and it’s all street parking around us. This past week people around us have parked terribly. Last night, a couple of the parking jobs were so bad, I couldn’t wait for Q to get home, so I could tell him about how far the blue Hyundai was from the curb.
Earlier in the week, I offered several pithy insights, like: “Why don’t we eat more Greek?” and “Did we give the dog his flea medication?”
I find Q captivating, totally – and I think he feels the same about me. But so much of our relationship is domestic. I love the comfort of it; I can also see why, at marriage counselling after couples have grown apart though they’ve been together for 20 years, the counsellors advise them to date again, to get to know each other outside of the domestic sphere.
I can say now, with certainty: you can be in love and be in a great relationship without being particularly interesting. I don’t think I’ve said one original thing this week!
I can also say, with certainty: even if you had an ugly duckling phase, when you (hesitantly) show some photos to your lover, they may laugh, agree that those bandanas were unfortunate, and tell you that “you were adorable”. This will make you love them more.
And, if you’re looking for love yourself – the best I’ve received was: “just be yourself” and “it’s all a crapshoot”. 🙂
ps. For you domestic types, this Onion article about David Bowie and Iman made me laugh.