A few days ago, I had a conversation with a male friend about the weird transitional time we both are finding ourselves in: the time in life when everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is getting engaged, married, and procreating. At 27, he seemed astonished that I, at 24, already had so many friends entering into the everlasting bonds of holy matrimony. “I mean, I understand it at my age since I’ve been out of school longer and a little closer to thirty,” he said, “but this is already happening to you?” I gave a solemn nod. He replied with what I can only describe as a mixture of sympathy and horror.
There was a time when my Facebook newsfeed was a hive of raucous, questionable behavior; everywhere I looked, friends were hoisting high their red solo cups of glory, chugging their lives away as if there was no tomorrow. Outrageous costumes and blurry photos dominated my networks. It was like ancient Rome or something.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but one day, my newsfeed turned from bacchanals to bridal showers. Singles nights to sonograms. My world has gone completely topsy-turvy, and I’m not sure I like it. I suppose it’s the natural order of things, but what, anymore, really IS “natural”? Am I missing something? At 24, I’m being left in the dust of everyone’s mad dash to the altar. In New York, this is not such a big deal, but back where I come from, my being single is a point of conversation and sometimes condescension (mostly amongst the older generations; people my age couldn’t care less).
I never cared much about dating in high school (though my journals and correspondence with some of my BFFs might contest that), and the few boyfriend/relationship-y situations I got myself into during those mixed up teen years were…well, teenaged. I certainly didn’t date anyone in college due to a slim selection of heterosexual boys in my department (and on campus period). I was the straight-A student, the overachiever, always working hard and dreaming of being a successful actress. I’ve never planned my “dream wedding,” choosing colors or thinking about where I’d have it. I always planned out my dream career: choosing roles to play and directors/actors I’d want to work with. I never thought that wasn’t normal…until now.
I’ve probably been an outsider (just call me Ponyboy!) my whole life in that way and didn’t realize it until I started seeing large, sparkly diamonds on all the left hands of my female classmates and friends.
Now, I’m not begrudging any of these people their happiness; I’m truly excited for them. They’re starting a whole new journey in their lives, and that’s something awesome for sure. I welcome any chance to celebrate more love being brought to the world. And I definitely have a blast at weddings! I’ve yet to find myself feeling miserable and sullen during one just because I’m single; on the contrary, I see weddings as a chance to have fun, drink free liquor (if you have a cash bar at your wedding, I’m not coming; shell out the extra dough for an open bar please), eat cake, dance, and hang out with my friends. I just have never thought about MY life the way some of my friends think about theirs. To each their own, you know? I suppose my priorities are different, and I also haven’t met someone with whom I desire to share all my precious time. I can’t imagine being married right now; I still feel like a kid a lot of the time, and my finances are all over the place, and I’m not even sure I’m the person I’m supposed to be yet. How could I possibly devote my life to someone when I don’t even know what I’m doing with it yet? And don’t even bring up the idea of me having a child before I’m in my thirties.
(I have nightmares of being the kind of parent who’s forever immortalized in all my kid’s Spielberg-ian films as the inspiration for their characters’ “mommy-issues.” In reality, I don’t think I’d actually be like that, but indulge me, please.)
Somewhere, I read the quote, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and it is. I’m the worst. I have a competitive streak and self-worth issues, and if I think for a second I’m behind the rest of the world somehow or not doing enough to be seen as “worthy” or “valuable,” I try to do everything I can to catch up and change how I think people perceive me. It’s not healthy, and I know it, but it’s always going to be something with which I struggle. And while I use self-deprecating humor as a cover for a lot of my darker, more maligned feelings, I can’t always convince myself that there isn’t something wrong with me somehow because the rest of the world is pairing off, and I’m here on my own (cue Les Mis moment).
This is, of course, just my raging Woody Allen-esque neuroses coming out. In Hannah and Her Sisters, he’s a hypochondriac who thinks he’s dying of various things. I, on the other hand, am a hypochondriac about love. “Am I gonna catch it? What do I do if I catch it? Why haven’t I caught it? What’s wrong with me? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?! I should have had it by now, right? What does it feel like? How do I know when I’ve got it?” I guess I think that if I fret about it enough, I’ll catch love like you do a cold; in my head, it has become a psychosomatic syndrome.
And I do hope you don’t think I’m complaining because in all actuality, I’m not. Not to mention it’s horribly unoriginal to be a twenty-something female living in New York complaining about her lack of significant other. I suppose what all this nonsense boils down to is I’m just not used to the idea of aging yet. As I see so many friends starting to plant roots and seeds for new phases of their lives, I’m realizing I will never be this young again; life changes you. You think you know that, but until you start experiencing those changes, you don’t…not really. Someday, I’m going to put down my own roots, and it’s going to be scary and exciting and will make some of my younger friends feel the way I do right now about my older friends. And there is nothing wrong with you if you’re in your twenties and still single. Conversely, there is nothing wrong with you if you are in your twenties and married/engaged/with child. Live your life, because the fact is, it’s YOUR life. Judge not lest ye be judged, people. You’re the one who has to live your life, so don’t let anyone make you think for a second that however you choose to live it is not valuable or worthwhile just because it’s not how THEY chose to live theirs.
So my Facebook newsfeed no longer looks like a hive of alcohol-soaked debauchery. So what? The Roman Empire didn’t last forever. I can’t promise MY posts will be any tamer for a while, but that’s where I am in my life, and I won’t apologize for it. The beauty of life is that it can change in a second; it’s dealing with the change that’s the hardest (but most rewarding) part.