I was in the presence of great art and all I could focus on was a smudge on the floor. “You’re such a schmuck,” I thought to myself, “you can’t even appreciate great art without finding something wrong with it. No wonder you’re single.”
Every argument that I have with myself ends like this. My inner voice is a bitch.
I was at a LACMA exhibit showcasing the work of James Turrell’s, an artist who for nearly half a century has redefined how we look at light. I was in the part of the exhibit showing his “Raemar Pink White” piece, a totally white room made to appear bright pink from the rectangular light mounted on the far wall. The room was in a tiny space off from the rest of the exhibit. I walked ahead of my group because I had started to feel emotions, something I’ve never been good at.
I had come to LACMA with a couple, and was surrounded by more couples in the pink room. Cute, dark-rimmed glasses, intelligent-looking couples holding hands. Couples enjoying each other, learning, appreciating art together. Couples happy that they had found one another, someone else that likes art. It was all so very romantic. I wanted to shoot myself in the face.
I’m alone and, as it turns out, looking at fine art surrounded by annoyingly romantic couples just reinforces this reality—thanks society!
I’m a 31-year-old man living in Los Angeles who opts to fall asleep to The Golden Girls instead of putting myself out there. I could have found someone from OkCupid to take to the exhibit, but I didn’t. The world is telling me to have the sex, find that special someone (even if just for the moment), throw caution to the wind, fall in luv (purposely spelled “luv” and not “love,” because it’s 2014 and everything is annoying). Yet something keeps drawing me more towards those cheesecake-loving gals.
I’m aware this is a problem of my own making… to a degree. I could be more forward, I could recognize my inner sexy self. I’m aware people flirt with me, but rather than flirt back by pointing to my unfortunate tattoo that looks like a “69” and silently mouth, “Ya wanna?,” I just bury my face in my phone’s Facebook News Feed. I choose to pull back, stay in the dark, wait for something better. But better than what, standing in a room of great art with a bunch of lovey dovey couples? Even though I am alone, I’m not really alone in being alone. For instance, there are way less people in my life in relationships. There are significantly more people who are alone, like me. And the numbers are rising so much every year that they’re basically telling me, “Why would you waste your time being in love when you could invest it in building up your brand on Twitter?” Taking a cue from Turrell’s work, allow me to shed some light on this issue and validate my argument, thus getting my mother off my back.
In the 1960’s, when Turrell’s first works appeared, 69.3 percent of men and 65.9 percent of women were married; 50 years later, 55 percent of men and 51.5 percent of women are. Roughly 44 percent of Americans are single today. The ratio of single men to women is 86 men to every 100 women (sorry ladies). Yes, yes, I know, times are different, and if I were alive in 1960 I would have probably been married to a woman while fantasizing about Paul Newman (actually, I do that in 2014, too). By my age, my parents had already had a ton of kids AND bought a house. The most expensive thing I own is my iPhone. Point being, there’s a shit ton more single people now than there ever have been before. Question is, are we actually choosing to be single or are we just unable to express ourselves emotionally?
Media sends us messages that it’s cool to be single, about the freedom of not being attached—just think of all that you can do with your life! That’s cool for a while, but during moments like mine at the LACMA exhibit, you quickly realize it would be really nice to hold hands with someone and say, “I’m not deep enough for this.”
The last significant relationship I had was 8 years ago, and it didn’t end very well (nor was it actually ever that significant, come to think of it). Since then I’ve dated and had my fair share of sex, but nothing stood out enough for me to want to tell Mom, “I think I found the one.”
Clearly it’s fear that holds me back, just as it is for many of my fellow singletons. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough, or fit enough, or that I don’t want people to see the side of me I’m ashamed of. So what is this fear? It’s the fear of honesty, total and complete honesty. Somehow an entire generation of people, including some in relationships, have become so distracted by literally everything around them that they can’t shut the fuck up, put down the iPhone, stop talking about whatever list they “read” on Buzzfeed, and actually be honest about how they feel.
I walked into a mostly dark room, the only visible light illuminating a far wall in neon green, blue and orange. I felt my way across the dark back wall, thinking about my own truths that I regularly ignore.
“I don’t like the way I look, ever. I do think I’m talented, and feel that others just can’t see it. My voice sounds too gay. It’s obvious that I live in Los Angeles because I use words like ‘truths’ and ‘dialogue.’ My family is everything to me, yet I can’t stand them (sometimes, or always?). I fear failure. I’m pretty sure people are judging me all the time, while also feeling like nobody thinks of me ever. I’m irrelevant. I’m smart. I have great legs. I lie sometimes. I care about other people a lot, and get really sad when others do not. I don’t like attention, yet everything I do is basically screaming for it. I’m skinny fat. I vehemently hate the person that came up with the phrase, ‘skinny fat.’ I’m pretty sure that I’m not dirty enough sexually, and that’s why nobody will date me. I’m worried cancer is going to kill me, so I need to do a lot right now.”
Phew, that felt good, you should try it. Oh, and here’s a number to a suicide prevention hotline, just in case: 1-800-273-8255.
It’s fitting that it took an exhibit about actual light to shed some metaphorical light on my fears. Or am I just that shallow? Don’t answer that.
James Turrell once said, “We create the reality in which we live.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about that goddamn smudge I saw on the floor in the Pink White room. James Turrell would be pissed if he knew that smudge was distracting me from viewing his piece the way it’s intended to be viewed. Or would he? If he’s right, that we do indeed create the reality in which we live, then that smudge, like my fear, is reality. It’s like, I don’t know what’s going to happen, because realities change. I could be alone forever, but I hope I won’t be. I could focus on the smudge or let the light fill my perception and embrace the reality of the moment, smudges and all.
That said, here’s my OkCupid profile. Paul Newman lookalikes to the front of the line.