2

How (Not) to Process Dying Alone

You’re sad.
This is nothing new.
But for once you want company.
Your friend asked to reschedule.
You say okay, when it’s not.
You know you can’t use up too much of your friends’ time
or else they will get tired of you.
They will sit there awkwardly
and not know what to do with your sorry, crying ass.
Your sadness is a broken record.
It’s nothing new
nothing original,
you are allowed a maximum of 1 time(s)
to have a good cry with a friend
before they secretly start to despise you.
You know this in your heart,
so it must be true.
So you get ready for bed.
You brush your teeth.
It takes extra long
because you’re sobbing so hard
and you have never felt so alone.
You keep washing your face
but more tears come.
You keep turning off the faucet
only to turn it back on
to rinse away the snot pouring out
in endless streams
from your nose.
You avoid looking at the mirror
because you ugly-cry
like a motherfucker.
You would never call your family.
They cry to you.
They tell you their fears
and darkest secrets.
You do not cry to them,
or tell them anything,
if you can help it.
You are supposed to be strong,
even though you aren’t.
You wiggle under your blankets.
Stuck on social media.
You have a new Tinder message
but you don’t respond
because you’re tired of boys
and how they like you
until they don’t.
It is exhausting
to be reminded
that you are not the kind of girl
a guy will wait for
or fight for.
He will be lured in
by the cute appearance
and witty banter
then run away when he senses
something more complicated and ugly
beneath the surface.
You stumble across
the Instagram
of someone you are sure
you have flirted with in the past
a boy you never met up with
because you got into an argument
over a careless sexist comment he made
and he called it off.
He has pictures of cats
or really a lot of pictures of the same cat
and a picture of a cute girl
captioned with:
“How has it been one year already?”
You feel you can safely assume
he means their one year anniversary
of being in an emotionally fulfilling,
sexually monogamous relationship.
You stare at her.
She is cute.
She probably has the same interests as he does
or knows how to pretend to.
She probably speaks softly
and laughs at his unfunny jokes
and fakes orgasms when needed
and never demands what is rightfully hers.
She probably avoids conflict
whenever possible
because it’s really uncomfortable
and bad for her skin.
You put down your phone.
Just to cry a little more.
Wallow a little more.
Knowing that every single boy
who gave up on you
will at some point or another
post up loving couple shots
and captions devoted to other girls
and eventually wedding albums
and baby pictures,
a visual online biography
scattered across the Internet
for anyone nosy enough to see
that you will somehow find yourself
poring over
and hating yourself for it.
These boys will take love
from girls who learned
how to package themselves
for male consumption
better than you
and more willingly than you
while you will remain
a hermit spinster
writing about these boys
who moved on and never looked back
even as you walked behind them
just to watch them disappear.
You hate that these feelings
have overwhelmed you
as someone who prides herself
on cultivating the self-image
of a strong, independent woman
who scoffs at the fear of dying alone
and has always expected it to be so
but the painful truth
is that sometimes
and even more lately
you feel unwanted and disposable
like you’re drowning in your pain
and everyone is laughing on the sidelines
not knowing
or caring
that you are on the verge of death.
That one by one
all your friends will neglect you
as they find their domestic partners
and carry on with their lives without you
after all
it’s already happening
the long stretches of silence
from married friends who don’t need your company
when they have people at home
to love and care for and fuck
and you want that too
the loving and caring
and not necessarily the fucking
but it seems in a world like this
that cannot happen
without coupling off
when you were never made
to be someone else’s other
when your mouth is too hard
for the egos of men
when your baggage gets heavier
with every trainwreck of thought
so instead
you keep telling yourself
you’re going to die alone
and that’s okay
you pretend that it doesn’t hurt
the older you get
the more boys you go through
the more friends who drift away
the more lonely you feel
you said you write to survive feeling so alone
but now you wonder if you are writing pain away
or bathing in it with your words
because you are going to die alone
and you are going to be okay
if okay is the bare minimum of living
and going through the motions
and smiling blankly at everyone
and stealing away into your room
to shed oceans from your eyes
then dying alone is okay
like a knife in your gut
you’re bent on
ignoring
like someone
who tried to swallow a truth
and choked on it instead
like an old song you sing
until the lyrics
lose all meaning
and you’re screaming
empty words
at the top of your lungs
bur no one is around
to hear you

 

2

Dying Alone and Other Exaggerated Concerns

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

0

Homosocial Lovin’: Confessions of a Straight Woman Who Loves Women

“We should go to a singles bar and meet guys,” my friend Natalie says over our boba tea drinks.

“You don’t need to go to a bar, you already get dates in real life,” I protest. “You have meet-cutes with guys just by walking down the street.”

“But they all end up being so shitty,” Natalie counters. “Like that asshole who reminded me that he makes more money than me. Ugh. The sex was so amazing though.” (Although we like to think of ourselves as liberatory feminists, our conversations as of late have not been passing the Bechdel Test. And yes, I know it’s for movies, but I’m a writer, the line between reality and fiction gets blurred, ok.)

“Where’d you meet that guy again?” I ask.

“From that party a few weeks ago. You were there!”

“Wait, what?” I distinctly remembered that party: dancing in the shadows with Natalie, our bodies shaking to the pounding music. Foreign bodies pressing in on us, too close for comfort. I closed my eyes and opened them again. A towering giant of a man had magically appeared in front of a tipsy Natalie. Where had he come from? Had he been there all along and I just hadn’t noticed it, being the terribly unobservant person that I am? He moved in closer to her and was eyeing her like she was a piece of meat. Ew, I thought, watching him watch my friend. He was so obviously repulsive to me I thought Natalie would just roll her eyes and turn away from him.

Instead, she shimmied closer to him. They were making eye contact, their arms on each other’s shoulders. She was actually smiling back at him.

She wasn’t dancing with me or the crowd anymore. She was in her own private world with Fucking Gross Giant Dude.

thirdwheel2

My chest became tight. My dancing became lifeless. The room was too small. I couldn’t deal with this. I needed air. I bolted from the room, away from the deafening music, the pushy crowd, the newfound couple trying to turn me into the third wheel.

“Remember that Spanish guy from the party I was dancing with?” Natalie says.

“That guy?” I blurt out. “But he was ugly!”

Natalie gasps. “He was not!”

I backtrack. “Okay, we have different tastes in men. Which is probably a good thing.”

“I’m just really attracted to Spaniards,” she says, staring dreamily off into space.

Gross. I start feeling that same irrational sense of betrayal that flooded my insides the night of the party. That night, I ended up sulking in the hot tub while Natalie called out my name, trying to find me. “Why did you abandon me?” she asked, upset.

Because you abandoned me first, I wanted to say, but didn’t because no matter how it seemed, I was not actually a whiny melodramatic teenager in a cheesy coming of age film featuring mostly white people. “You were dancing with that guy, so I decided to leave,” I said instead.

Natalie looked at me, her forehead creased. “Did you really not like him?”

“No. It’s just…” I tried to find the right words, but didn’t. I never could. Not on the spot. “I didn’t come to the party to meet some random guy. I came here with you.”

She still didn’t get it. “But isn’t the point to make new friends?”

New friends? Really? I wanted to shake her and shout: That guy was so creepy and disgusting! He was fucking you with his eyes! Quit acting like that was some innocent platonic exchange!

I stared at her, then averted my gaze. “Let’s just forget about it,” I mumbled, all the while knowing that I would never forget and possibly never forgive.

This was not the first time this issue has come up for me. I’ve had fights with female friends over the way they “abandoned” me in favor of some guy they were romantically or sexually interested in. Wanna make out with some guy instead of having a conversation with me? Bye girl. Only interested in hanging out with me if your boy toy comes with, aka forcing his company on me without my consent, aka expecting me to share the same level of emotional intimacy with your dude that I share with you? Well fuck you.

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Even when my man-dating female friends don’t commit these transgressions, the paranoia is always there, eating at me: She’s posting lovey dovey photos of the two of them and I’m never going to see her again. She keeps talking about her boring boyfriend and will soon forget all about me. If I don’t feel close enough to the friend, the feelings of resentment will rot inside my corpse of a heart until they silently leak out and make room for all the other petty nonsense I feel on a daily basis.

Why Learkana, you rhetorically say to me. Perchance are you a lesbian?

Dear reader, I respond. Sadly I am not. Trust me, I’ve pondered deeply on this. It would make way more sense for me to be a lesbian: I’ve never had a boyfriend, am incredibly wary of and cynical about hetero cis men in general, and am deeply possessive of my female friends even when they backstab me with their heteronormativity. (Actually, this just sounds like a straight person’s idea of what a lesbian is, which just proves my point.)

But I’m not in the closet. 4 years at a women’s college with zero homoerotic yearnings or encounters confirmed this. Unfortunately, I am just as heteronormative as my female friends (the ones who are heteronormative, of course, which is many of them). I’ve just….taken a road less traveled, in cliche white dudespeak. 

Although I identify as heterosexual, I am way more homosocial. Which means I value my circle of female friends much more than any hypothetical dude who wants to wine and dine me or hit it and quit it, because the power of female friendships is way more seductive to me than romance or sex. Don’t get me wrong, though–getting laid and falling in love sound pretty awesome, but in my mind, nothing beats having a girlfriend who is pretty much my soul sister.

I’m not sure how my devotion to the whole “sisters before misters” mantra came about. Given all the mean girls I had the misfortune of getting involved with when I was a kid, it’s a wonder I didn’t grow up to be a full-blown internalized misogynist. I guess some part of me craved the kindness, camaraderie, and empathy that would be conditionally given to me by my (so-called) friends. Bonding with boys was out of the question. Sure, I would hang out with some of them from time to time, but it never crossed my mind to consider them my besties. Besides, most of the boys I knew enjoyed harassing me in ways that even seven-year-old me could recognize and try to steer clear of.

For the most part, my childhood was heavily segregated by gender. If you appeared to be close with someone of a different gender, people would whisper and say that you two were in love or having (prepubescent) sex, which when you think about it is really creepy and sorry I made you think about it but anyway the point is, I was conditioned to believe that female friendships were the only authentic form of closeness and intimacy I could experience. And so a shitty female friend was likely better than the male gaze, my younger self must have reasoned (probably not in those same exact words, but you know what I mean).

Today I am lucky to have female friends who love me the way eleven-year-old me longed to be loved after being told by my “BFF” at the time that I was only invited to the sixth grade girls’ sleepover because everyone felt sorry for me. To be loved unconditionally is a powerful, powerful thing, and I’ve been able to find that through my lovely lady friends. If I had it my way, I would live happily and radically ever after in a feminist commune with all my female/queer/gender non-conforming family and friends, where we’d wear fancy dresses or suits and drink boba tea and hold hands and dance to Beyonce whenever we felt like it. Any hetero cis men we’d take on as lovers would have to wait at our pearly gates until we sent for them.

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Sadly, this is just wishful thinking. The reality is that I live in a world that privileges a certain kind of relationship above others: romantic, sexual, and social monogamy. I can’t marry my female friends. I’m not going to offer them sexual favors. What I can do is be there for them, make them laugh, do really awesome activities that their significant others for whatever reason don’t want to do, and gripe about the white supremacist heterocispatriarchy with them. But that isn’t enough. And that’s what upsets me: the fact that culturally and socially, my platonic love isn’t as valuable as romantic/sexual love. Factor in the patriarchy and I’m beyond pissed.

But look, I get it. I have to get it because that’s how it currently works: I’m not your soulmate or your partner, because I’m not having sex with you or courting you. I’m not the first person you’re going to save from a burning building or the person you’re going to spend most of your time with. All I ask is that you don’t forget about me or take me for granted. That you still hang out with me on occasion without your partner (being in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re literally attached at the hip, FYI). That you treat me with the same level of courtesy and respect you give to your partner when it comes to spending time together (You wouldn’t bring me along on a weekend getaway with your partner, right? So why would that not apply vice versa?). That hanging out with me isn’t secondary to going on a date or getting laid. Is that really too much to ask for?

Maybe it is. Maybe these are just the empty pleas of a premature spinster. Which is why I rarely go this deep in discussions or fights I get into with my friends over their partners/potential partners whom I am mistrustful of by default. It ultimately boils down to: Do you care more about me or him/them? I already know the answer. So I keep quiet and use my superficial arguments: “I’m mad that you ditched me.” “I’m mad that we don’t hang out like we used to.” Because I’m afraid my friends won’t understand. Or that they won’t care. Or that really, I’m just a weirdly possessive, codependent friend with a lot of mommy issues.

“I’m putting you in my calendar for Saturday,” says Natalie. “I know of a bar we can go to. This is gonna be fun!”

“Okay,” I agree, even though I could already imagine how it would go down: Natalie would hit it off with the first guy who approached her friendly smile and open body language. Natalie would go home with this guy. I would sit at the bar, sipping my apple cider in sullen resentment over being ditched while fending off strange men and completely forgetting that going home with a guy was the plan to begin with.

Or here’s another scenario: I sit at the bar with a shaky smile, fingers rubbing the condensation off my near-empty glass in circles, again and again and again. A guy approaches. He’s not bad-looking, and his jokes don’t make me cringe. Maybe we exchange numbers. Maybe I end up at his place. Maybe I let him in. Maybe I tell him all my secrets when he’s inside me. Maybe I wait until we’re married (for the secrets, not the sex). Maybe I keep telling myself, this will make me feel less lonely. Maybe I tell myself this enough times that it will eventually become true.

Name changed to protect the oblivious.

 

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0

Pointless Update #3

Pointless Update #3

Okay, obviously one of my dearest friends graduating from college is NOT a pointless update, but for consistency, I will refer to this as that–also, I’m guessing since you don’t love Jackee as much as I do (because of something as trivial as not knowing who the fuck she is), that this is in fact a pretty pointless update to you. Anyway, CONGRATS JACKEE, ILY MY TALL TALL FRIEND WHO MAKES ME LOOK EXTRA SMALL BUT I’M NOT BITTER OR ANYTHING THO<3333 (Btw I love her her so much I endured hours upon hours of a painfully awkward social situation in which I came off as a total antisocial bitch, but that’s love from an introvert for ya.)