You’re single because you’re single. It’s not because you texted too much or too little or waited 33 minutes to respond because he took 23. It’s not because you met up with your ex that night at 5 a.m. that no one knows about, or because you kissed another boy after a date with a loser.
You’re not single because you spit food on that date or tripped coming out the the movie theatre. You’re not single because you hurt your first boyfriend really badly when you were 15 or because you have yet, to this day, to apologize. It’s not because you were secretly jealous when your friend got a boyfriend or that a guy you dated for two months now has a really cute girlfriend and looks really happy. And you’re happy for him. But still ill that he found someone before you.
You’re not single because you slept with your ex boyfriend. You’re not single because half the world found out when you didn’t even want to remember it yourself. You’re not single because you think the guy your friend wants to hook you up with is ugly or not tall enough. It’s not because you’re not willing to put up with someone who doesn’t brush their teeth on a regular basis.
You’re not single because your standards are too high. Good for you for having standards. It’s not because you didn’t like that really, really good guy who wanted to take you on a date and you just weren’t feeling it. And it’s not because you like to wear pajama pants as soon as you get home and wash all the makeup off your face. You’re not single because you didn’t learn enough from the past or would rather chill on a Friday night with your blanket and a cold beer than shower, get ready, and go out. You’re not single because something is wrong with you.
You are single because you are single. It’s really as simple as that. You haven’t made the connection with another heart yet. You can get dolled up, dress cute, cut your hair, dye your hair, tweeze your eyebrows, put on lipstick and you may still. be. single. You can go out to a bar hoping to meet the love of your life and not find a damn one in the place attractive. And it’s going to remain that way until it’s time for you to find one. Stop hoping for it. Start living the life that you do have instead of wishing for things that you don’t have. There will come a time you’ll meet a boy and you’ll have to give up some of this single freedom you currently have. Start being more thankful. Start doing that now.
1. Go to an amusement park together and try all of the rides you’re normally too scared to go on. (Make sure to eat the cotton candy and sno cones afteryou spin around in circles for hours.)
2. Stay up all night when it’s nice out and drink wine under the stars, talking about all the things you’re usually too embarrassed or afraid to admit.
3. Treat yourselves to a nice dinner out at a fancy place when one of you gets a Groupon for it. Order dishes made for two and laugh when the waiter and other diners look at you bizarrely.
4. Pick a recipe that you’re almost 100 percent sure you’re not skilled enough to make, and make it together. (Feel free to have a fair amount of wine throughout the cooking process, even if it means you’re more likely to mess the recipe up.)
5. Go to an apple orchard or pumpkin patch and pick produce while wearing adorable, hand-knitted scarves. Instagram pictures of yourselves and basically make everyone else want to vomit with how adorable you are.
6. Get absurdly dressed up and go to your high school reunion together, only to get buzzed on champagne and judge everyone in the corner together.
7. Watch all of your favorite movies all day curled up under blankets, drinking hot cocoa and eating popcorn.
8. Go to a bar for happy hour and eat 25-cent wings until your tummies hurt.
9. Take a road trip on the weekend to a place in your area you’ve never been before. Find a place to couch surf, or sleep outdoors if the weather is nice. Bring a cooler full of snacks and drinks to share with people you meet along the way.
10. Go to a zoo.
11. Go to a petting zoo and spend an inordinate amount of time cuddling with a baby pig while you take pictures of each other and plot how you’re going to steal it.
12. Listen to a new album that you’ve both been hearing about for a long time but haven’t taken the time to listen to yet, and then talk (or possibly blog) about what you think of it.
13. Go to a really fancy store where you know the salespeople are going to be really bitchy and judgmental, and take all the time your little hearts desire looking at things/trying them on, regardless of the sideways glares you’re getting.
14. Go to a thrift store afterwards and pick up things infinitely more interesting, and for 1/100th the price.
15. Make delicious snacks such as chocolate-dipped pretzels and white cheddar popcorn, then sneak them into the movie theater with you to go watch a kid’s movie. Also consider a Powerade bottle full of rosé wine.
16. Re-watch all the episodes of your favorite TV show.
17. Read an issue of Cosmo cover-to-cover and make fun of everything (while secretly noting the things which seem like they’re going to be useful/sexy).
18. Go to a museum and pretend to understand the first thing about art.
19. Go walk around your old school grounds and see what’s different, and what’s the same. (Try not to marvel at how much older you look than everyone now.)
20. Spend all afternoon in a coffee shop, reading books next to each other and watching people come in and out.
21. Go sledding when it snows, even if the hill is pathetically small. Make a ramp out of packed snow and take videos of each other busting your asses falling off of it.
22. Play Truth or Dare, and actually do everything you get dared to do. Yes, even if it’s “Run through the snow in your underwear screaming ‘penis’ at the top of your lungs.” And be honest when the truth comes, even if it’s really embarrassing.
23. Have an arts-and-crafts session where you make one another paintings to hang up in your respective apartments. And hang them up, even if they look terrible. They’ll be the best piece of wall art you’ll ever have.
24. Bake cupcakes.
25. Go for a long walk in the park, not necessarily talking, but just enjoying being in a beautiful place together when the weather is nice and the animals are out.
26. Go to a pet store and play with the puppies until you’re essentially in tears over the fact that you can’t have one.
27. Offer to pet-sit for someone and quench your puppy-owning thirst by taking care of one together for a few days.
28. Learn a new sport together, even if you’re both terrible at it. Even if you give up after the first tennis lesson, or ski session, or turn around the ice skating rink. Give it a try and don’t laugh at each other (too much).
29. Play board games at your house with fancy cocktails and yummy snacks and good music, and don’t worry about who wins or how late you stay up. Try to remember that having time with them is precious, and should never be taken for granted. Even if they always beat you at Monopoly.
I remember missing certain days before they even ended. And knowing I was always going to be in a permanent state of melancholia because of it.
I remember the days that were supposed to be fun but ended up being miserable, and the days that should’ve been awful but were actually great.
I remember too much and too little. I have no choice over what gets kept in versus what gets left out. It’s ultimately not my decision. But I do know one thing: You can’t wrap your arms around a memory. That’s what “they” always say, right? Well, “they” are right.
I’m an adult, but I’m still afraid of the dark and can’t sleep without a light on. Whenever the light goes out in the subway, even for just a minute, I can’t quite breathe until it comes back on. I also still hold my breath when I drive through a tunnel or over a bridge, because I can never remember which one gets you a wish so I do both, just in case. I still make wishes regularly throughout the day, spreading them like seeds and hoping one of them blooms into anything. I wish on eyelashes, all kinds of candles and almost every time that repeats its number. Most people find it socially acceptable to wish on 11:11, but I even wish on both 11:11s (making one a technical 23:11 in military time), 1:11, 2:22 and so on. I used to wish on 12:12, but that made my friends angry — as they swore I was “cheating the system” — so I stopped. I would wish on four-leaf clovers, but I’ve never found one. That doesn’t stop me from looking. I’m an adult, but I’ll never stop looking for opportunities to wonder and be awed by the things I don’t know, the world underneath the one I take for granted as real.
I’m an adult, but I still secretly believe in magic — that if I stare at the light hard enough it will turn green or that I can cast spells by wiggling my nose. When my train stopped today, I waited patiently for 10 or so minutes before I took matters into my own hands. I wiggled my nose two and a half times before the train started moving. I knew that, technically, I didn’t make the train go with the beating of my nostrils, but it still felt good. It felt good to believe. I’m an adult, but I still believe in the power of lunch and recess, that a break for afternoon playtime can be the pinnacle of your day — except that my recess now involves an unwise number of martinis before I have to go back and examine Excel spreadsheets for two hours. I still have a hard time coloring inside of the lines in coloring books, except that now I can say it’s “artistic.” I like to play hide and seek and to blow bubbles, always naively hoping I will catch one of them and that it will rest on my hand like a transient firefly about to burst into fragments of light.
I’m an adult, but I still fantasize about what I’m going to be when I grow up, what my house is going to look like and what my kids are going to look like. I think about what my husband’s face will look like, if that face will be Anderson Cooper’s and whether he will pull in the driveway in a controvertible or a hovercar powered by the dreams of children. We’ll have a pool boy named Bruno that both of us have extra-martial affairs with, and our Barbie dream mansion will be Peptobismol pink with lots of chandeliers — but not extravagant chandeliers. We’ll be totally down to earth and eco-friendly. Anderson and I will compost. I’m an adult, but I want children because I still feel sometimes like I relate to them best — to their simple desires to be kissed and held and their still-belief that love really can heal all your wounds. Sometimes, my bruises still need to be kissed, and I need someone to show me the way butterflies and Eskimos kiss, because it reminds me that all humans and creatures need to give and receive love, because it reminds me that we come from the same place, and I still like it when people blow me kisses. Kisses prove that love is lighter than air.
Kisses prove that love can fly, and there’s always someone there to catch that love if it lands.
I’m an adult, but I haven’t totally stopped believing in silly concepts like “soulmate” and “one true love,” even if almost every fiber of my common sense tells me I’m being ridiculous. And I probably have a lot of soulmates and true loves, won’t meet a lot of them and many of them will be my close friends, but I need to believe that someone out there was created for me and I for them, that our hearts share a connection beyond words or what is explainable, that there is something in them that fits together with something in me. I want to believe that love is the puzzle, and we are the pieces. I’m an adult, but I don’t want to ever “grow up,” not all the way, and would rather grow old while my heart is still bursting like a ripe peach, one with a pit that can never be eaten. But I don’t think you have to grow up, and we don’t have to make a choice between our child and adult selves or stop appreciating things that were once important to us; getting older and maturing doesn’t mean giving up on the ideals of your childhood. I’ve always heard that childhood ends with losing your innocence, but it doesn’t have to be so sad, like a piece of fruit falling from a tree. Adulthood can be filled with joy. Adulthood can be like falling up. I’m an adult, but I’ll always be the same kid on the inside, proudly so.
On a recent, perfect Sunday, I was sitting on a dock on the Chesapeake Bay, feet dangling in the water, when I heard this phrase despondently tumble out of a little kid’s mouth. In a quick flash of nostalgia, I was swept back to being that little kid at a family/friend’s gathering on a summer’s day or night, and having to hear those four words. Whether directly from Mom or Dad or sent by a messenger in the form of my brother, the phrase always held a little tinge of sadness, signaling the close of a great time. Of course there was always the standard backlash. “But no one else is leaving,” or, “I’m not even tired,” and my personal favorite “but we haven’t even had dessert yet!” The nerve of adults, sometimes.
See, because when you’re a kid, there is always something worth staying for — staying up for, staying out for. Leaving just doesn’t fit into the equation. At one young point in our lives, everything and everyone that we already have is all we could ever need.
I know that, personally, I never wanted to go, never wanted to grow up, never wanted to go to sleep. Granted, I was handed a wonderfully magical childhood. What is just as relevant though, is that I have always had a painfully acute sense of awareness that time is passing — that all of this is passing and one day it will be time to go. That no matter how enthralled in fascination or absorbed in a moment I am, the creeping absurdity of the world’s transient nature will still follow me everywhere. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what this is and whether or not everyone shares it in the same way. I like to think of it as nostalgia for the present, the rare instances when we are the drivers of our memory rather than the passengers. The moments when we freeze in place and photo-stitch all of our immediate surroundings and senses into one, large panoramic vision of our existence. The collected snapshots of our souls, instantaneously antiqued.
It is during both extremes, the most poignant milestones in life and the subtle afternoons on the Chesapeake, that we antique ourselves, allowing those precious, brief moments of clarity to glide inside. Occasionally held within these brief moments is also the realization that it’s time to go. Sometimes the realization is a loud, crashing blow to the heart and sometimes it’s more of a tap on the shoulder, a gentle awakening.
We graduate from high school with eyes wide open for the future. Then, we graduate from college, teary-eyed and scared sh-tless of that same future. We move from our childhood homes and childhood cities. We move back and then away and then back again. We lose touch with friends we thought we never, ever would. Maybe we’ll reconnect with some. Maybe we won’t. We change fashions and trade jobs and slip into new hobbies. We break up and we divorce and we lose so many of the very, very important keepsakes that we’ve carried with us and treasured for so long. We watch the people that we love die.
We go and we let go and, sometimes, we are let go of.
Occasionally, we remain relatively rational about it all — the going, the leaving. Our bottom voice might have been making noise about it for a little while, and so our top voice finally speaks up. More often than not though, we are left feeling desolate, struck by the leftover remnants of transiency. We beg our parents, or someone, to stay a bit longer. We shout that we are not yet tired, that there is still something worth staying for. We become aware that a memory can be a very painful thing.
But we will invest in faith or forgetfulness in order to move forward. We will learn to live without the keepsakes that we never thought we could. We will accept that, yes, a memory can be a painful thing, but a dazzling thing — a wonderfully intricate thing, too. It is the most invaluable keepsake we have. So, we unfreeze. We gather our antiqued snap shots and place them one on top of the other, back into the drawers of our mind until the next tap on the shoulder, the next blow to the heart. Before we can help it, the lucidity fades. Everything begins to swirl together, again — chromatic aberration of the memory. And once again, it is time to go.
Become acutely aware of your body’s movements — your facial expressions, your hand gestures, your strange physical ticks — and try to counteract them with a forced, almost comical posture and attitude of detached calm. Try to look like you don’t care what is going on, but care so very deeply that you catch your palms sweating and wipe them, repeatedly, on your pants. Laugh just a little too loudly at jokes, than berate yourself internally for having done so. Realize that there are people around whom you will perpetually feel less-than, and that no amount of achievement or happiness on your part will fully erode that, as the source of your inferiority really has nothing to do with them at all — you have just labeled them as “better” somehow, and that is what they’ll be.
Constantly wonder what others are thinking of you, even though you’ve been told a million times that the key to true happiness and fulfillment is letting go of such concerns and living entirely for yourself. Know at your core that those things are true, and that you won’t ever feel the full presence of your joys unless you stop measuring yourself by other people’s standards, but be unable to do so. Feel the weight of perceived judgment like an immense stone chained to your leg, following you everywhere, preventing you from running, from jumping, from even walking in a new direction. Learn to hate certain sounds of laughter — those that come from behind you, from a group of people you can’t see — because no matter how ridiculous such an assumption would be in a room full of strangers, you can’t shake the feeling that they might be laughing at you.
Walk out of the house and immediately dislike what you’re wearing, how your hair is styled, the way you’re walking. Berate yourself when you see the people walking past you, well-styled and with purpose, who effortlessly embody so many qualities you struggle with yourself. Forget that each person walking by is a full human with their own stories — and their own struggles — and imagine them only as various personifications of the things you’ll never be. The professional-looking one must have a good job, the beautiful one must be so well-liked, the athletic one must live such a well-rounded life. Catch yourself in a windowpane and immediately identify a dozen things you would change if you could. Long to run back to your apartment and not leave again for the rest of the day — resent having to be out and about.
Wonder often if everyone feels this way, if there is an internal struggle with who we are and how others think of us existing in every sharply-dressed stranger in the subway. Be temporarily relieved when you hear a friend or colleague going on about the judgment of another, or something else outside of their control — feel a deep companionship with this need for approval, and hesitate to spill your own self-doubt. Don’t do it, though, as that would make you look strange.
Learn to fear certain social situations, even ones you thoroughly enjoy. Be uncomfortably self-conscious on first dates, inappropriately eager when meeting new people, and be wary of alcohol — as a strict amount of self-control is at least one thing that can be counted on. Spend the day after a night out recounting all of the stupid, irritating, or vulgar things you said and wish you could call each person you were with and apologize for having fun. Be peripherally aware that almost everyone does silly things when they drink, but allow memories of a stupid confession or misplaced joke told over cocktails haunt you for years after everyone else has forgotten. Be consumed by social missteps.
Begin to grow into yourself, if only in the slightest increments, and feel the more acute signs of profound insecurity begin to slough off. Feel hesitant but excited at the prospect of being your own person, outside of the harsh perspective of those around you. Realize that, with daily effort, becoming a true adult may mean learning to trust your instincts and being comfortable in mistakes, but find that much harder to execute in practice than you imagined as a child. Understand on a profound level that this hyper-awareness of who you are and deep dislike for even the most benign qualities you have is something that may never fully dissipate, only sink far enough below the surface to live with. See people twice your age who are visibly unsure of themselves, and hope that that will not be you some day. Fear that it might, but ignore the nagging feeling enough to go out and enjoy your evening.
We sit here now across from each other at a cramped table in a cramped coffee shop. Our Macbooks are practically tongue-kissing but you haven’t even looked up at me for the last hour. Meanwhile, my fingers have stilled on my keys. I am looking at you. Your furrowed eyebrows, your intent on your task, your dedication to working and to a lightened screen when the sun shines in from the outside through a window advertising chai lattes and I have one ringing, piercing thought: Let’s run away.
Let’s run away and never come back.
When I was a kid at summer camp in the northern woods of Georgia, we’d have to drive up the winding, narrow roads of a mountain to reach any of the cabins. Once, I saw a house where the house part was on the mountain’s peak and the mailbox, limp and splintered, with a sagging red flag to indicate arrivals, was on the bottom by the road. A car full of city folk found it amusing to see a floating remnant of society like that. It looked like a mailbox for a family of bears. I just found it very considerate to the poor mailman. Anyway, my point is let’s move to the top of a mountain in Georgia.
Or hell, let’s not “move” anywhere. Let’s just disappear like the girl who got pregnant in my middle school class. Let’s go away. Let’s evaporate into thin air. Let’s go to Hogwarts or the deck of the Enterprise. Let’s hop into the Millennium Falcon and land in Cloud City and punch Billy Dee Williams in the face. Let’s do anything to get away from these less interesting technological tethers: our work, our friends, our families, our obligations, our stress.
Let’s go somewhere. Where do you want to go? Let’s be selfish.
Who decided this was “the real world” anyway, right? Maybe the real world is a Chinese fishing village, or an Arizona desert valley or a boat in the Balkans or at Ernest Hemingway’s old house in Key West. Maybe it’s on Saturn. Maybe it’s on Alpha Centauri. It sure as hell can’t just be this coffee shop. So maybe this obsession with “living in the real world” and staying put — maybe that’s been the real “vacation” right? From the actual life we’re all supposed to be living, which is the one where:
You take that trip.
You kiss that person.
You quit that job.
You pilot that spacecraft through an alien invasion.
Sometimes, it seems crazy to me how beholden we, as a species, are to prisons of our own creation. Humans invented money. Humans invented time. So really, none of that is any more or less real than say, a flying spaghetti monster or the way I tricked you into meeting me here today under the guise of “working.”
Look around. Do you see what I see? Does it terrify you the way it terrifies me? I could spend hours, days, weeks under my covers in bed reflecting on the sheer emptiness and overwhelming quality of the world only to spend most every day sitting behind a computer, “working” so I can make “money” so I can buy “things.” A hat trick of emotional and physical and societal sameness. Even this coffee shop is a Benedict Arnold — serving pumped up juice for mass consumption.
I need to stop smoking weed and/or watching A Clockwork Orange.
But anyway, none of that matters now. You’ll understand my reasoning in time. This is more than that. You’ll be the companion to my Doctor. Simply put, all you need to ponder now is my singular premise: You should run away with me. Let’s run away.
“Hey,” I say to you in my dreams. “I am pursuing you. Just so you know. But not in an average way. No, no. Not for love or marriage, those social constructs created to sell wedding invitations and flower bouquets. Not for friendship even — a boring tie which allows humans to manufacture importance and “drama” within a limited social group. No. We will be bigger than that. I am pursuing you for something much greater, beyond anything this ceramic cup and tessellation of glowing computers can reveal. I am pursuing you for a higher purpose. So you can be the one who understands my fear and my devotion to the beauty of possibility in this “real” world, so you can save me when the time comes. You are being chosen.”
Then I would pause and let you soak in my meaning.
Then I would raise one eyebrow, smile brilliantly and say, “Well, are you in?”
- Always ask for more money at your job, even if you don’t think you deserve it.
- Try to be kind to the people who are rude to you. It’s not personal, they’re just having a really bad day/month/life.
- Don’t go to doctors that advertise. Ask a friend for a recommendation.
- If you are hungover, drink water, eat a banana and try to sleep it off.
- If you believe in opportunity, opportunity will present itself.
- Sometimes when things are really bad, you just have to go through the motions of your life until they get better.
- Surround yourself by only the books, images, music and people that make you happy.
- Your ability to speak honestly about your weaknesses, failures and disappointments is your greatest strength.
- Nothing is more fulfilling than helping other people.
- There really are plenty of fish in the sea.
- Wear sunscreen or a hat when you’re in strong sunlight.
- You need to take the big risk, even if it scares the living crap out of you.
- Sometimes water is thicker than blood.
- Shoes that are too tight can be stretched by a shoemaker.
- Don’t worry about living a life that looks good on paper.
- Go to the gynecologist every year, even if you hate it.
- Be careful about confiding personal information. Relationships change.
- Go to events and parties and lectures you have no interest in going to.
- Ask yourself what you want. Then take the necessary steps to get it.
- Don’t stay in a bad relationship because of the anticipated misery of a breakup.
- When you have a headache, drink a glass of water before you do anything else. It might just be dehydration.
- Anyone worth having sex with should think that you’re gorgeous the way you are.
- When people are speaking gibberish English with a bunch of unrelated words strung together they’re usually talking about a band.
- Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you’re with the right person.
- You can have a fulfilling life without ever having kids.
- Do what comes naturally to you, it’s what you’ll have the most success at.
- Be thankful that things you wished for didn’t come true. Know that this will happen again.
- Let yourself be happy when you’re happy.
- Force yourself to overcome your fears.
- Remember that no one else has it figured out either.
27 is such a hard, good one to remember.
This is important.