10:32 p.m. -Dhammapada
If, in your course, you don't meet your equal, your better, then continue your course firmly, alone. There's no fellowship with fools.
10:32 p.m. -Dhammapada
Women have faces again. For years, women have more or less existed as vaguely curvy shapes in my peripheral vision, as though I were not wearing my glasses and they were underwater. Women I knew, friends and family, all had detailed features in my mind's eye, because they were safe. Most everyone else of the female persuasion was a blur. I would be more likely to recognize their voices or scents for the first few interactions because I had simply stopped looking. My brain understood that I had Melanie and took great chemical pleasure at rewarding my fidelity, so the faces of beautiful trespassers became painful distractions from the endorphin rush of loving without reservation. I adored, even when Melanie was away for three months at a time, the freedom from looking.
It is not that I wish to look now, wish to scan each feature in isolation and combination to weigh attractiveness, as that I see this is likely the surest way to one day relieve the burden of my singledom. Since I have begun looking, I have seen maybe two women in the sea of thousand that registered as possibly worth further conversation. One politely told me she was not interested in sharing a beverage with me, that this was too forward of me. I told her I appreciated her candor and left it at that. The other, I did not bother because I could not determine if her shopping buddy was a boyfriend and I will not insert myself between a couple in even this lightest of ways, having so recently suffered because others do not share that ethical compunction. (However, I did gently flirt with her when she announced that the Rapture had just passed and she was left behind. I asked if this might not be because of the sins, which she conceded, saying that fighting demons would make her like Buffy and wouldn't that be fun?)
I have been told I am wrong to feel this way about singledom - and in so many words - but I find it pejorative. Most of the perpetually single people I know seem emotionally or socially stunted. Those who glorify hook-up culture seem as though they are still operating by high school sensibilities and I get quite enough of that at work. The only exceptions are those who are entirely focused elsewhere, those for whom romantic love is a needless irrelevancy, and who seem to mean it. Daniel, for instance, is solitary by nature. It would take a rare woman indeed to get beneath his armor, to spend any significant time in his sanctuary. He seems content alone, content with his privacy and seclusion. Likewise, Jinx is so in love with her sister Kestrel that her heart has no space for a competing lover of any duration. A few other friends persist in undertaking intricate personal work (in the psychological sense) and cannot enter relationships at present in anything like a healthy way. Anyone else I know who is continuously alone seems miserable and lost, blaming their careers or the insufficiency of the opposite or same sex. I do not wish to dwell among these romantic wraiths for any length of time for fear their bitterness at imposed solitude will prove infectious.
It seems that a big part of being single is not telling people how important they are to you, because that puts you at a disadvantage and singledom is all about power dynamics. I can't tell Melanie outright how important she remains to me, both as a person and a symbol, especially because I want to yell at her half the time. I can't tell a near stranger who helped me believe in hope that she is important, because that scares her away. Singledom builds this filter into interactions, this "is this going to be a dangerous thing to say? Am I exposing my rook to her queen?" It's exhausting when one wishes for emotional forthrightness.
Some counsel me to give up on any notion of again coupling because then it will happen. I find this unlikely, as though I could give up on trying to find a steady job or on writing more books and be rewarded. At the very least, I force myself from my house to be social because it is only in this way I can meet new people (dating sites seem rather like dead ends this go-around). New friends can add planets and satellites to my galaxy, which is what I need right now. I need the pull of another's gravity.
I feel that, to an extent, people want me to behave in my singledom as they do, because they cannot understand that others operate by differing values. They do not wish to acknowledge that I know what I am for. I am for love, I am for relationships. I am not for keeping one side of your bed warm, for scratching that persistent itch on your g-spot, if I am not given love and commitment in trade. In the absence of another person who understands where I am coming from, I have to persist as best I can alone. But that doesn't mean I should pretend I do not know what I am meant for simply because people I care about are meant for other things.
One of my many swirling emotions about Melanie is resentment that someone I love, someone who loves me, would ever again subject me to being single for something so utterly trifling. I see that this is not the fairest of my sensations toward her, but it seems cruel in a sense that I have to be single purely because she could not manage fidelity any longer.
As I hope is clear, I am not indiscriminate when it is important. If a woman isn't potentially right, I won't ask her for coffee (or I won't in anything but a friendly way, expecting she will know the difference). I want to be with the right person far, far more than I want not to be single. But I won't pretend being single is some enlightened state because, for me, it isn't and can never be. I do not see this, as some have suggested, as a liberation. I was not trapped by my relationship with Melanie. I was finally content with another person after a lifetime of mental infidelity and searching, even as she struggled to be mature enough to handle a lasting love.
I donít want flings. I hate the idea of flings, using someone's body and soul for purposes other than love. They are the most lonely-making thing I can imagine. If I am going to be kissing someone, it is not going to be because I have put an expiration date on their head, because I don't have to think about my life when I am between their legs. Maybe I could see the girls I dated as disposable when I was a teenager, but I am a lifetime past that sad delusion. I could only handle my early relationship with Melanie under the assumption that we would somehow last, however much I tried to pretend otherwise initially for my fractured sanity.
It is as though the Melanie program is being slowly uninstalled, but my mental system needs something to fill the place. It won't and can't be another person - even if there were someone on whom I could rebound crush (and there isn't), I would not do it this time. Instead, it tries to rediscover the programs that used to exist, those that were erased by commitment to Melanie. I used to check out women, I remember this. I used to fairly shamelessly flirt and did not feel good about myself after the initial thrill, my flirting had much more to do with insecurity than interest. I refused to be content or mature in the relationship with the woman in my arms. Yet seeing women, flirting, are things I will need again. It was a defense mechanism days after the breakup, but now it is little more than something I hoped to be done with. And I was done with it - I would have been - but Melanie was not.
I am not actively looking as much as actively (if silently) rejecting, which is more depressing. If I were looking, it would imply potentiality, that I saw people whom I thought could come close to being what I want. Last night - in gross ignorance of what I was getting myself into - I went to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, knowing both that it would not be the sort of thing Melanie would agree to do with me and expecting it would be a proper venue for like-minded people. In reward, I fidgeted through a two hour, badly written rock opera based on what I can only imagine was Beethoven fan fiction. I glanced at two thousand people who were not her and wished I could stop caring.
Then as today, I only see women who are not right. I have reasons why each would not work out. As I walk down the street in New Paltz with Dave and Nikki, who have come out for lunch to console me (I am gloomy because Melanie graduated yesterday and now has no reason to call New York home), Nikki and I point out women for me to decline. All get a "no", though the reasons are not given until I offer a "maybe" at a lithe hippy that tapers into a "no".
"Why?" Nikki asks.
"She is smoking. I canít imagine being with a smoker." When I had told someone before that I was restricting my search for women between the ages of 23 and 36, I was asked if I might not be counting out someone perfect based on one flaw outside their control. Perhaps, and I hope that they will forgive me and introduce themselves anyway. However, I think it is likeliest that anyone younger or older than my age range would find themselves at so different a place in life than our relationship would have a fatal flaw built in. I cannot suffer through that again. I cannot hope that my execution order will be overlooked long enough.
Being with Dave and Nikki is a little difficult because they are so content and comfortable with one another in a way that I cannot help but envy. Between them, they dote on their daughter, this squirming, wide-eyed product of their love, which plainly takes precedent over the fact that I am mournful. I have not been sleeping right, again, and I am certain this makes my instinct toward happiness far more sluggish.
Dave goes to the bathroom at the diner and I ask Nikki when she decided she was ready to settle down, was it when she met Dave? In a sense, she says, it was. She had boyfriend after boyfriend who could not commit, who could not treat her remotely right, who cheated and expected she would be waiting for their return. Then, there was Dave, sixteen years older and completely unlikely. "I could put him in a room full of Victoria's Secret models and he wouldnít even look. I can trust him. Trust is really the most important thing with another person." And, again, I feel this surge of envy. Melanie could have said this about me, but the reverse would never have been true. Even at the best point in our relationship, her wanderlust was not restricted to places she wanted to visit.
Near the end of my visit with them, I asked Dave what he felt I should do. I had been getting the "give up on dating"/"have meaningless flings" advice so often (and he mentioned having a dating moratorium in his mid-twenties), that I worried he would echo this. But, given that he does teach psychology, I feel he would have the extra edge of insight.
"I think you are doing pretty good," he answered. "If you see someone you like, I think it would be okay."
"But we get to meet her," Nikki says. "We never met Melanie, we get to meet any new girl. We might have to come on your first dates."
Soon in Xenology: Coping.