I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Everyone in high school was convinced they were going to marry their boyfriend or girlfriend, and I was no exception. When we are young, our love tends to be blind to realism, but it is uncompromising in it’s enthusiasm and unrestrained in its trajectory. Years on, it’s cute to look back at the youthful naiveté and idealism that infected all of us and I wouldn’t have had it any different. But as an adult, you know it is a virtual impossibility for any kind of teenage relationship evolve into a lasting healthy relationship when you understand that being a kid means you’re in a world of turmoil that you might not know is even happening, much less know how to emotionally cope. And as an adult, I also now know that any stress, confusion, or insecurity in my life will be inadvertently taken out on whomever we can convince to date us. The people closest to us always take the brunt of our projections. So it makes sense that two clueless adolescents rarely ever have a fighting chance.
But every now and then, a couple sneaks through.
There was one couple from our school that has been dating since the 80s. Yes, since they were children and yet they somehow made it work. While I understand this is extremely uncommon, sometimes it is possible for two people to consistently evolve at the same pace. But odds are, it wouldn’t and didn’t work for us.
One of the most common questions I was asked during the initial back and forth of online dating dating was, “So what’s wrong with you?”
I always knew where they were going. I could form a relatively decent sentence, I didn’t just get out of prison, I didn’t have a drug problem, and I wasn’t particularly ugly. And they always followed it with, “Why have you never gotten married?”
I would respond with something to the effect of, “Why would you assume something has to be wrong with me? Maybe I chose not to settle? Maybe I haven’t found someone truly compatible? Or maybe I found someone and they didn’t love me the same way. Just because I am not married by the age of what society deems as acceptable doesn’t justify your assumption that I am ‘less than’ or that I am lacking in some department. Maybe I just haven’t met the right person, have you ever thought of that?” Oh, I would get defensive.
As I was riding down Clark street today, I looked over and saw a really attractive woman and thought to myself, “Oh, she is clearly at the age where she is way too attractive to not be married.” And I realized that I was perpetuating the same sentiment behind what all those women wrote to me. Because of course we should be lifetime bonded with someone if nothing is wrong with us, right? Implying that if you are NOT, well then clearly something is wrong with you. I was disappointed in myself as I turned the corner but then I started to think… maybe something IS wrong with me. Maybe the reason why I responded the way I did was because I knew they were pointing something out that I have tried to ignore. And maybe I grew into an unmarried adult man by avoiding what was wrong all along. As I walked into my apartment today I finally realized, there IS something wrong with me. And that thing is, I just don’t go along with what is expected of me. Sure, that might partly be my petulant teenage punk rock heart talking, but that is part of who I am so why fight it. I don’t go along when something doesn’t feel right. And sometimes that means I’m all by myself. Sometimes that means that I am all alone in my opinion. But sometimes that means standing out because I am doing what is right for my emotional well-being.
Look, like you, I have come across a handful of people who would have been more than excited to get married. I could have done the whole ring, dress, tux, honeymoon bit but the truth is, it would have been half-assed. Oh, sure I have been madly in love with a few women and even thought about walking down the isle, but I didn’t… because there is something wrong with me. Wrong in the sense that I am in no rush to jump into something because my mom guilt trips me every holiday dinner or when my friends allude to my marital status as if it is some indicator of my worth. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something when I see a couple get engaged. I don’t feel that envy because equating a ring on someone’s finger is not an indication for the amount of love I feel for them. Trust me, history has shown that a piece of paper and a fancy ceremony is absolutely no indicator of the amount of healthy love exchanged between two people. And while I am not immune to the pressures of “starting a family”, I will not potentially ruin another woman’s faith and trust simply because “it is about that time”.
Maybe marriage is in my future, maybe not. But it certainly doesn’t mean that I am broken, unworthy, or less than any of the people my age. The one thing I will agree on is, yes – there is absolutely something wrong with me. And maybe that is because I’m holding on to that youthful idealism a little too tightly for the comfort of everyone around me. Because if and when that perfect fit comes along, hopefully there will be something wrong with them as well.
Just like me.