This month I broke up with my partner of 5 years. I’m 24 so that’s almost a quarter of my life and nearly 100% of my drinking years. Proportionally speaking, it’s about the equivalent of your parents’ 20 year marriage just without the kids, a 401k and stale sex. Spending your young adulthood in a relationship is an interesting thing. A time when most of us are faced with self-discovery, STDs and the real world, I was busy discovering ‘us’, pap smear exempt, and staying in watching The Real World on Thursday nights. If you start dating someone when you’re 20, you grow together like the trained fichus you marvel at in your shrink’s waiting room. Completely intertwined, you share everything: your close college friends, your memories of that year abroad and then there’s the clothes, the drugs, the drinks and the Missoni towels you spent any money you made from your first shitty job on. You become one, no one knew you solo. You even lose your name as you and your other half succumbed to the MaryKateandAshley effect. You start to look alike; you say the same stupid things and stories and realize that you can’t talk to anyone separately for fear of repeating yourselves.
This sounds like a nightmare but the weird thing is, it wasn’t. Perhaps my relationship can fit into a dream classification of another sort–it was kind of like living in Never Never Land. When you enter the real world with someone else, something strange happens, you lose the fear of the unknown realities and you become very brave and even brazen with your actions. Like a child, all inhibitions fall aside.
I missed ‘my’ formative years, but facing the world as two also afforded me the ability to do things that I would’ve never done on my own. To be honest, that time we lived with LCD Soundsystem in their Laurel Canyon mansion or when we dropped everything and moved to Berlin for a year, both would’ve never happened if I were flying solo. The risk was too great for just one person, but being a twosome made it possible and never scary.
I admit, I’m left developmentally challenged. My future social and especially romantic exploits are severely compromised. I don’t even know how to have casual sex.
I have to reprogram my life from ‘we’ to ‘I’. It’s weird to think when I tell my kids about my early 20s, I probably will just ramble on about all the things I did even though it’s really all the things we did. But once that painful extraction begins there is simply no return.
So suddenly, the world around me seems a lot bigger. This is the double edged sword I’m getting at—now that I’m alone it’s a huge scary place out there, but I finally have room to stretch and breath in it. I’m beginning to realize that as a couple we made a perfect infusion but I think as my palate matures, I’m beginning to appreciate simplicity. We’ve or, uh, I’ve made that transition from jack and coke to whiskey on the rocks.