I’m gonna die alone.
I say this a lot to myself.
It holds different weights at different times. Right after a disappointing date: I’m gonna die alone. The words are crushing. While I’m lying in bed watching fictional couples make out with each other on my laptop: I’m gonna die alone. The words feel like a weirdly pleasurable, masochistic ache. When I’m hanging out with one of my friends and her partner: I’m gonna die alone. They turn into a festering sore, oozing with resentment and pettiness. When my roommates are out and about with their significant others and I’m at home alone making faces in the mirror or talking to myself as I’m taking a shower: I’m gonna die alone. The words spill out, accompanied by gleeful, half-crazed laughter.
I’m gonna die alone!
But what does that mean?
Well-meaning friends take it literally and tell me I’m being silly, of course I’m not gonna die alone. Which is true. The very least they could do is show up to my funeral and pretend to shed a few tears over my dead body, jeez.
But what society means and what I mean when I’m at my most heteronormative and melodramatic is, I am never going to find a guy with whom I can enter into a mutually desired long-term agreement of exclusively living and having sex together. No matter how staunch of a feminist I am, no matter how much I value my independence and my freedom, there are moments when I loathe how unlovable I seem to be, when I see my singleness the way society does: shameful and bitter.
Ending up single upon my deathbed wouldn’t sound so depressing if I had ever had anything resembling a love life. But all I have is a handful of unrequited infatuations and some blog posts that make like six people laugh. I’ve never gotten to the point of love. Hell, I’ve barely gotten to the point of mutual like.
I know what it’s like to love and be loved platonically. I don’t know what it’s like to love and be loved romantically. It’s a foreign concept to me, nothing I’ve ever experienced firsthand. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and think, that kind of love may not be possible for me, no matter how much I sporadically yearn for it through what is probably just deeply ingrained social conditioning. I try to imagine myself in relationship-y scenarios and cringe. Gazing into each other’s eyes and celebrating anniversaries and all that shit. Fucking gross.
At the same time, it’s hard not to feel left out when almost everyone my age has gone through those sappy feelings and rituals.
It would be easy to blame all my problems on my mom, but…
Some say my standards are too high. I’m too hard on guys, they say.
Well, why should I cut them some slack when society has already fucking done that, huh?! I’m tempted to shout back, but I guess I’m just proving their point.
Then I start wondering if I really am straight after all, if I seem to have such a clear disdain for hetero cis men and how the littlest things about them can turn me off instantly. But haven’t I acquired a level of self-awareness that would let me know if I was secretly a lesbian???? I don’t want to be some problematic bicurious Katy Perry girl who “just wants to experiment” either. Also there is a very specific kind of masculinity I’m attracted to, and if that isn’t a hetero cis thing to say, then I don’t know what is.
“Do you even know what you’re looking for?” my friend Susan asked.
I don’t. Sometimes I think I do, but now I don’t. But more importantly, I don’t know if the things I think I want to look for are things I should even be looking for to begin with, and I don’t know how to look for any of these things regardless so what’s the point of acting on things I don’t actually know and only think I know? You know what I mean?
I used to think, I just need to find a guy who has similar beliefs to me. That didn’t work.
Then I latched onto chemistry. Yes, chemistry is my solution. If I want to throw myself at him and shove my tongue down his throat, it’s a sign! Of something!
That hasn’t worked either.
People are telling me it’s about compatibility. I don’t even know what that means. I mean I know what it means, obviously, but I don’t know what it personally means to me in a dating context. I guess I’m supposed to figure that out, or maybe instinctively already know that, but I’m too overanalytical and cynical and tired at the moment.
I guess my problem is that I give up too easily on the guys I go on dates with. I think it’s because I’m afraid of getting roped into something I will regret or change my mind about, and I hate the prospect of having to reject a guy later down the road when we’re both probably emotionally invested to some extent and the fallout will be that much more awkward and painful. So if I’m not certain, I back out.
I also used to think, fuck gender roles! Women can make the first move. And go Dutch on first dates. And be the first to text. But now…I don’t know. Some of my feminist friends who are more complacent about chivalry (ironically enough) seem to be in emotionally fulfilling romantic relationships with guys who like paying for stuff and seem like they aren’t total assholes. And here I am, the bitter premature spinster throwing middle fingers up at what I think is benevolent sexism.
“You can’t chase men,” my organization’s bookkeeper tells me. (Yes, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just shouting to the world, on- and offline, about my nonexistent love life. Don’t judge me. Or well, probably too late for that.) “Men should chase you.”
“But–that’s so old-fashioned!” I splutter.
She shrugs. “That’s just the way it is. Men who want you will chase you. You’re a cute girl, I’m sure you’ve had guys like you, even if you didn’t like them. And how did you know that they liked you? Because they made it obvious. When a guy likes you, you know he likes you.”
My stomach sank, because the words were ringing true, in spite of the protests coming from the unapologetically hardcore feminist in me.
I hated the premise of He’s Just Not That Into You–you know, that rom-dram with Ginnifer Goodwin who plays this girl who falls for guys who don’t follow up and some bartender dude tells her that guys will go the extra mile if they’re interested and won’t if they don’t? And now I’m being told by someone I look up to that shit is true and so basically I’m Ginnifer Goodwin’s character except this is real life and I don’t have some cute assholish guy coming to my door and telling me I’m his “exception.” No, what I have is awkward encounters with the guy working at the liquor store down the street from me because of the one date we went on in which it was confirmed that I have absolutely no idea how to date in real life.
I’ve been trying to come to terms with Dying Alone (TM) for a while now. Off and on, since the year 2011, when I told some infatuated Kentucky boy to stop texting me, when I was in my third year of attending a women’s college, when I seriously began thinking that I wasn’t the kind of person who could fit herself into the constraints of a romantic relationship.
“I think, therefore I’m single.”
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
I think too much.
I think I value myself. I value myself and I value my self, my individuality. That’s part of it. I don’t want to compromise my values. I don’t want to settle for less. I don’t want to make myself smaller or soften my edges or shut my mouth to make a guy feel more comfortable. I don’t want to get with someone for the sake of being in a relationship, or just because I’m feeling lonely, or because I feel kinda bad and they’re being kinda pushy and super flattering.
Evidently, all of these things combined make up a recipe for dying alone. (Add bitterness to taste. Serve with the possibility of regret.)
Pessimism aside, I think I will be okay alone, more so than the average person. My quest to find romantic love has never been an all encompassing desire or life goal. (Is that the problem?) It’s kinda been mid- to low-priority, falling somewhere between paying off my credit card debt and doing laundry well before I run out of underwear (“underwear” including but not limited to bikini bottoms and emergency granny panties).
I think I will be okay, but then I see my friends getting into serious romantic relationships or getting married or once again getting so much closer to the possibility of real, lasting romantic love than I ever have (fuck, even my mom recently got herself a boy toy after 18 years of widowed singlehood), and I start freaking the fuck out because dying alone suddenly seems more like a grim reality than some happy-go-lucky abstract future. Dying alone as in, lying on my kitchen floor choking on a partially frozen TV dinner with no one to help me because I live alone and my friends live too far away and are too busy being married with kids to check up on that one friend whom they used to invite to the occasional “girls’ night out” that inevitably devolved into radio silence over time because they thought she would eventually outgrow her perpetually single phase but nope she’s still single and weird and catless which somehow makes her less pitiable than if she had like two or three cats, then I would die right there on the kitchen floor and my landlord will find me a month later because I hadn’t paid rent and only my siblings would show up to my funeral and say a few fucked up words.
Just kidding. I’m sure they’ll be nicer to my corpse.
I guess I was fine with dying alone when I thought I had accumulated an extensive support system. But seeing how fragile it is, watching/imagining it disintegrate before my very eyes, has thrown me into a panic.
The oscillation between fear and resignation, doubt and acceptance, makes me wonder: what state of mind will I be in when I close my eyes for the last time? And how will it correlate with my relationship status?
I can’t predict the future. All I can do is focus on the present and use cliches to distract from the fact that I feel very confused, disillusioned, and scared that maybe there’s something wrong with me after all.