Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sometimes You Have To Turn Into the Skid

I've been feeling sad and loserish lately. No calls from The Charmer, no texts from The Puppy, just a personals message from a guy who wants his women to be "ultra feminine" and the discovery, while cleaning, of a used condom, wedged between my nightstand and my bed, which could only have been left there by The Man/Child, who it turns out is too lazy and immature to ensure his scumbags make it to the trash.

I am not this girl. I promise. I am smart and accomplished and interesting and have great friends and lots of creative and professional projects and yet the holidays are creaming me. I haven't been single at this time of year in seven years, and it shows. I miss my ex. We may have rightly split over the 20% of our relationship that just would not work no matter what, but I miss the 80% of the time he and I fit together like snug puzzle pieces. I miss having someone with me through all the familiar and tortuous rituals of the season, someone to make eye contact with at the dinner table with my elderly aunt, who I can say to later, "Can you believe what she said about _____?" I miss obsessing over the exactly perfect gift for him. I miss being touched, just being in physical contact with another human being, on a regular basis.

Instead, I am going to be the reason there are an odd number of people at the dinner table. The last few "singletons" of my generation in my family have ALL gotten engaged in the past month, if you can believe it, and I'm going to swan into all of that shit solo, the sad girl who couldn't hold onto her man. They will cluck about me, how difficult I am, how I can't let myself be happy. Behind my back if I'm lucky. And with the mood I'm in lately, I won't even really disagree with what they're saying.

I've been trying like hell to fight off this couple-culture poison melancholy, but sometimes the best thing to do with a mood like this is indulge it until it passes. Which is how I found myself alone last night with a newly-opened bottle of vinho verde and a rented copy of Bridget Jones' Diary. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I love this movie. It comforts me, with its urban family narrative and British ordinariness and its purported message that I can be sometimes bumbling and sometimes brilliant and sometimes bizarre and still, in the end, Colin Firth will love me just as I am.

But I've never watched it while single before.

Here's what pissed me straight off about it this time around: it pretends to be about Bridget finding herself. That's one of the things that sold me on the film -- the moment after Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fight over her, and she essentially turns them both down. She basically decides it's better to be single than to compromise what she knows she wants in a partner.

I made that exact decision earlier this year and it was the single hardest thing I've ever done. Strangely enough, 15 minutes later I didn't find myself on a snowy street in my underwear kissing Mark Darcy as though my life depended on it. But in Bridget Jones' world, that's exactly the promise: commit to yourself, refuse to compromise your values, and you will be rewarded straightaway with the very handsome prince you let go of in favor of choosing you.

Empower your way to true love, ladies!

Nor is this message exclusive to Bridget. It's there in nearly every chick lit/chick flick derivative out there. It's the way they sell us fairy tales these days. Feminism has had enough influence that the story can no longer be just about being virtuous and secretly beautiful and vulnerable and pure of heart and wanting it bad enough. No, now in order to sell us the "happy ending" (and all of the personal consumer goods that go along with it) we learn we must value our own independence and careers and dreams -- in order to get what we really want, which is clearly a man.

If you've been reading this blog, you know I do, in fact, want a man. (Maybe several.) But love is worse than a crap shoot. It's more like a spin on the world's largest roulette wheel. When you love someone (and I mean that term broadly, to include attractions, crushes, any of those moments our insides open toward someone else in a way which is beyond logic and our control), it doesn't mean anything except that you love them. It doesn't make them good for you, or interested in you, or anything else that ends in the word "you." If it turns out that they love you back, in a way that makes both of your lives better, that's one of the luckiest coincidences that can happen in the world.

And yet here I am, courtesy of Helen Fielding (and Jane Austen) and the romantic-industrial complex, trying to make deals in my head. I'm just going to let go of worrying about whether some nicknamed boi/y is going to attempt to contact me, and what it means if he does or doesn't. I'm going to focus on my friends, on writing my book proposal, on dipping dried fruit in dark chocolate and arranging it in lovely little jars as gifts for my colleagues and family, on working out, on refinishing the nightstand I just bought on craigslist, on painting my toenails the perfect shade of dark red. On doing whatever it is makes me happiest.

And then The Puppy will call, right? If I do all of that really well, he'll call?

Fuck you, Bridget Jones.

13 comments:

ladygreen said...

okay.
1. simply love that there is now a "Charmer" (divine label, i do declare!)
2. http://quirkyalone.net/ will help you more than bridget ever will. dig what you say about the "romantic-industrial complex" absolutely. in fact totally right on brilliant.
3. this is of no consolation likely, but rest assured, sister, that am with you in singleton fashion this holiday season. and am inspired by darkchocolateapricot ritual and may perchance adopt my own. darkchocolate-vino-singleton-feminists unite!
4. i propose that we ring in the new year w/ 8 minute hetero-dating. good for a few hearty laughs and a riotous blog post no doubt.
5. i have MAD RESPECT for you dating as an "out feminist"...in past month have been following use of "feminism" on craigslist men-seeking-women. atrocious: "I am NOT into feminist chicks but am more at ease with homebody types." someone has a "feminist filter" sifting them Out, not into his love e-life. and someone else recounding a date gone badly with "an ultra feminist who I am pretty sure was going to knock me unconscious, put me in a sack so her and her friends could beat me with bats for being a guy, or not having love for Steel Magnolia's." may craft these juicy findings into an article and perchance may quote you, the in da flesh dating feminist.

ladyred said...

Oh, ladygreen, I've TOTALLY noticed that craigslist phenomenon, as every now and then I go on and search for the keyword "feminist" in hopes that someone will actually be looking for one. Ha!

I have a lot to say about dating-while-feminist. I'm actually working on a post on it right now.

As for quirkyalone, I'm totally with you intellectually, but sometimes I just succumb to feeling more Bridget. Sad but true. But thanks for the reminder!

Sara E Anderson said...

I do the same thing with my weight: if I finally learn to accept myself, then I'll eat healthy and exercise and lose weight! It was pretty difficult to carry the thought through to realize that not caring really means not caring. I also used to have a paranoia when I was a young kid where I was afraid that when I became old (like, elderly), I'd be some sort of pathetic person who didn't want to have sex. This was before I was actually interested in personally having sex, but for some reason the idea of growing up to not want sex really bothered me - until I realized that if I didn't want it, I wouldn't want it. Lessons like these look deceptively different from the outside than the inside.

Jennifer said...

I'm new to your blog, but I know what you mean about the holidays "couples thing." I've been single for a very long time, and have been going it alone at the holidays for over a decade. (Somehow, even when I WAS in a relationship, it was never the sort where you spent the holidays with his family.) I had the good fortunate of having a close female friend in the same boat, and we started our own "holiday orphans" tradition. Sometimes ordering in Chinese food and having a DVD marathon is just what the doctor ordered.

Ironically, though, this year I am having the OPPOSITE problem. Against all odds/conventional wisdom, I am recently engaged. (I'm 42, so popular stats would say I should have been killed by a terrorist before this happened.) After all those years of fending for myself, I not only got used to it -- I looked forward to it. Now, all of a sudden, there are familial "expectations" and holiday obligations.... not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I'm used to. Although it's rather depressing that I am magically valued more by virtue of having a man by my side, when I am the same person I've always been.

Don't know why I'm telling you this, except to offer a slightly different perspective. I loved spending the holidays with female friends and other "orphans." I never considered it "second rate." I'm struggling with my discomfort with the traditional status quo, but expect I'll end up valuing it just as much, for different reasons.

Short version: however you choose to spend your holidays, there is no bad, so long as you're with people you love and value, and who love and value you in return.

Anonymous said...

Wow-- I just heard about your blog on Feministing-- I totally dig it! Way to spread awareness that we don't all live in the gay/straight boxes that people would like to put us in. I hope you find yourself a wonderful man, or whatever else beautiful comes your way.

hujo said...

"I've been feeling sad and loserish lately. No calls from The Charmer, no texts from The Puppy, just a personals message from a guy who wants his women to be "ultra feminine" and the discovery, while cleaning, of a used condom, wedged between my nightstand and my bed, which could only have been left there by The Man/Child, who it turns out is too lazy and immature to ensure his scumbags make it to the trash"

The “feminazi” demands men do not label her and respect her while she categories men into negative stereo types like “man-child” ect. If I weren’t so used to feminism being inherently hypocritical I would probably find it amusing.

Do you feel you are entitled to define for men what a man is?

Do you think men are entitled to treat you as such? Or wouldn’t such treatment send you packing? I am not trolling this is dating advise.

Your current attitude about men is going to net you the self-hating and those with low self-esteem.

Men are not here for you anymore than you are here for us, it's about equal respect and being equaly tolorant. Feminism has been missing this boat for a long time now.

ladyred said...

jennifer -- what's so brilliant about your comment is that I used to be JUST like that when I first got "coupled". It's easy to forget. Thanks.

hujo -- The nicknames are an attempt to protect the identity of the people I'm writing about, and to let the casual reader know something about them without having to read the whole backstory. And to add a little bit of humor to this whole dating endeavor.

I also find that people who genuinely aren't trolls don't have to specify that they're not trolls.

Most importantly, the Nazis are a hate movement which murders people who differ from them in any way. Feminists are people of all genders who believe in gender equality. People who confuse the two are not welcome on my blog.

hujo said...

Troll just means not like-minded.

Well I think the analogy made with “feminism and nazism” is the general parallels you draw from the nazi’s fascist ideology, their racism, Aryans good, Jews bad. Where feminisms general sexism shines thru as women good, men bad. It’s also from the likes of leaders and authors like dworkin, mckinnon, koss, ensler, solanaz(scum) to name a few. I don’t believe the term is referring to every actions Hitler’s regime happened to carry out in the nazi name, though it’s not actually that relevant. Did you notice my ""?

Man-child, so, this lets me know you have defined a man as a boy for some reason. Do you feel you are entitled to define for men what a man is?

If so you should see no problem with men viewing you negatively for not living up to their ultra feminine expectations, it is a contradiction or a moral blind spot or something.

If I may ask, what are you looking for in a bf just sex or something meaningful, a connection?

Tara said...

Hujo,
As far as I understand, you're saying that if she has anything negative to say about any man ever, she's hateful and deserved to be hated? Just please go away.

This post is so spot on. Sometimes you do the right things and you don't win, but everybody will think it's because you left something out, and they got theirs because they did everything right. It's a comforting lie, I guess.

dd said...

Tara, et al.~

Ladyred has created something rare, a truly sweet site which combines the familar innocence of discovering the opposite sex with the rich complexity of adulthood. I am hetero, male, and I haven't sought out a new paramour in longer than I care to admit. Yet I find so much here warmly familar.

Please don't jeopardize it by feeding the trolls.

Roy said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading back through here. Plus, there's the added benefit of seeing that someone else is having similar experiences/woes. It's a lot easier dealing with my life, in which one almostthirty straight feminist guy attempts to return to dating, knowing that a lot of the issues are pretty universal.

re: "I've TOTALLY noticed that craigslist phenomenon, as every now and then I go on and search for the keyword "feminist" in hopes that someone will actually be looking for one. Ha! "

We are (well, some of us are)!

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I watched Bridget. I hit me hard, I was single and man did it hurt.

I like the useage of flexisexual (doesn't roll off the tongue though, hehe) I will have to think on it more but right off it feels good. It feels right, I never described my gender before, just wasn't something that was important to me. But I do know that I am attracted to all sorts of genders, not just het. The binary feels wrong to me on so many levels.

Wow, it's like you plucked out the feeling in my gut and plastered it on the wall in bright brilliant colors for me to gawk and fawn over. Interesting choice of words to describe it too.

Thank you.

Even though Bridget tries to sell me out on the "fantasy" love type thing. I still ADORE the movie. I went out and bought the original Pride and Prejudice (from AnE channel) I love that serial TV show as well. Even better with no commercials. :)

**I also know I want to be with a guy, but it doesn't fill in the unknown gap that I want to fill with a woman at sometime in my life, whether I would actually get the courage up to do this is another story.**

Btw the best way I found to find a guy, is stop looking. (hard I know) but distract yourself with pursuing your chocolate dippings and enjoying a nice break from anyone until your ready to face the dating world again. /shrug Least that's what I always told myself.

ladyred said...

Soooo glad you found something to relate to in the blog. Honestly, I'm beyond thrilled that all of you are here! It's like, well, Christmas!

I know it's what everyone says, but isn't that "stop looking and you'll find a guy" advice just the same magical thinking bargain setup that Bridget is trying to sell us?