Saturday, May 07, 2011

Keep It Unreal

Something about turning 30, perhaps the taking stock that accompanies milestone birthdays, freed me somehow; I've felt less beholden to expections, shoulds and other people's opinions than I did during my last decade. Wanda Sykes defined this post-30 shift as "I don't give a fuck." And it appears to be true: I feel better. Yet

the implication I keep hearing is that, being almost 35 and a woman, my life is in fact over, oop: I have failed to find a husband, to have, or want, a wedding, to birth babies or to buy a home.

I've been aware of certain overarching...judgments for some time, but am just now starting to get true-irritated by them, them being accumulated comments, insinuations and inquiries from voices in life, in media, in stereo. For instance, I have heard the phrase "I'm a real adult now" upon congratulating various friends and cohorts on their home purchases or engagements enough times to wonder if, in tandem, I am insulting myself, as by this definition of "real adult," I am not one.

Then I can't help but wonder whether these people are friends at all, considering their opinion of me appears to be pretty errrr low, certainly lower than my own of either myself or them. And on the heels of that question comes my awareness of all those who do not fit this definition, first and foremost being gay people in America who are denied these opportunities -- based on the bigoted logic that they are not real, either.

While the individual comments are not meant to be insulting, and are not monolithic (perhaps springing from those in the 50-percent pool of soon-to-be-marrieds who are soon-to-be-divorceds?), they are also not meant to be uplifting and they are not kind or, in my view, necessary. I don't think to say these things. When I'm happy about something, I don't think others should aspire for the same. That'll give you cramps. Plus, I don't even know how I would translate my life experiences into a blueprint that would make any sense.

Also, I guess I'm sort of a hippie by our Roman Empire standards, but it would seem to me that externalizing one's happiness is more often the root cause of unhappiness, a precept of meditation that has shaped my own heart and mind, unreal as they, too, may be and as challenging as this process can be (damn car alarms).

Of course, I can strive to live by nonjudgmental principles all I want, and so can we all, but pesky society is not wired that way. And comparison shopping is an embedded feature of our modern American life, which I think is...distasteful to apply to people. But, if we are to do line-by-line comparisons of married versus unmarried, why not look at more than what single people lack, given that this category encompasses more people than ever before, including divorcees and widows? What advantages might an unmarried individual have, if not legally then psychologically or spiritually? The ways this question is answered in our culture, often through the almighty television, have never held much relevance for me in, dare I say it?, my real adult life -- for example, the notion that because I do not have a spouse, I can do whatever I want, a concept that became ludicrous when I began interacting with other humans as a child. But that's just it: the belief that unmarried people, especially never-married people, are abnormal seems to spring from the viewpoint that unmarried people are tantamount to children. Hmm. Is it mere coincidence that those who harbor this opinion are almost never single?

Meanwhile, though people will project onto singles the belief that they are miserable, particularly at weddings, I think the fact that I can both support and entertain myself, whether I am in a romantic relationship or not, whether it is serious or not, has been a major asset. That doesn't mean I don't support or entertain others (like a selfish child). What it does mean is I have a relationship with myself that I feel like people who question the merit of others' personal lives must not have, such as those who ask why I'm still single, as if I could boil it down to some simple answer, or need to, or get angry when I tell them the having-kids ship has sailed for me personally. It would seem to me that people like this are not comfortable in their own company, which would explain the dread and horror single people evoke in them: It's projection. If it were them, they would feel awful. Therefore, it's awful.

This paradigm more than any seems to define us as Americans in the current milleiu: expecting everyone to validate life choices by not only applauding them but making the same ones, lest they be put down or ostracized. Yet paired-ups who do this branding never seem to meet the many couples who do not, which brings us to another popular Amerian paradigm: My experience is the epitome of the adult experience. Under that rubric, who needs anyone that does not echo back one's own choices, beliefs, opinions? Under that rubric, in certain circles I don't exist -- and don't want to, thanks. Under that rubric, I'm all too happy to keep it unreal.

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