Once in a while I find myself sitting across from a couple, and I can’t help but think they are space aliens.
They’re cute together, and if we’re having dinner, they might do something painfully sweet, like ordering for each other and knowing exactly what to get. In between bites (fed to each other), they talk about their new apartment and the various perks of nesting. “We just got into candle making!” And every so often, they lock eyes, and that familiarity and comfort that emanates from them makes it incredibly easy to picture them 20, 40 years from now, still sitting on the same side of the table, ever steadfastly on the same wavelength.
Aliens! You two certainly aren’t from my planet, that’s for sure. Tell me, when does the mothership land?
I’ve never been in a committed relationship. I’ve been in love once, with someone who loved me back just as brutally, and that was a first-time thing, more of an infatuated addiction than anything. When I was happy with him, I was in heaven. And when I was sad, I wanted the world to end. After I left him, I was broken for a long time.
So if you ask some of my friends who knew me during that dark period, they might tell you that I burned out on love after that fiasco, that I developed a profound fear of intimacy.
It’s easy to write off a single person, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, as lacking in some way. I can only imagine what it is like for women, who are still being told that they are ticking biological time bombs. I have a firm theory that if it weren’t for baby guilt, women would rule the world today.
But now, with marriage equality hurtling toward reality, the queer community seemingly must come to terms with this age-old pairing off into twos. Soon it’ll be time for us to make it legal, as well. Supporters of marriage equality say that it actually preserves the nuclear American family, and they are right. But what about those of us who can’t fathom waking up next to the same person day after day?
Obviously, I am fiercely gunning for the day when all people can marry. That is a civil rights issue, and the fact that it needs to be voted on is going to be a shocking notion to our kids in a few decades.
What I have is a personal issue. I don’t want, or need, a boyfriend.
But what about romance? What about love? Companionship? The ideal human experience seems to be made for couples. My friend Sam, who is like a protective gay brother to me, once pulled me aside, his brow furrowed with concern, and asked me, “Don’t you want to be with someone? Who do you want to hold you when you die?”
It’s a sweepingly romantic thought, but leave it to Sam to make it a matter of life and death. He was so worried for me, as though I’d be incredibly lost unless I found someone.
So I used to ponder these questions, and I felt that there was something wrong with me. When people jokingly called me a slut, I laughed along with them, but inside I agreed.
A “slut” is what haters call a liberated person, and that’s what I am. I’m liberated. And the most liberating truth I’ve learned in the past few years has been this: You don’t need to be in a relationship to live your life romantically.
Despite my perpetually single status, I am a very romantic person. I can fall in love within a matter of minutes. I care deeply about people. Every corner I turn, I potentially face someone new, someone fascinating, even if it’s just for a few days. I’ve never had meaningless sex in my life.
And the times when I am most romantic is when I am with myself, loving myself and taking care of myself. I enjoy long walks on the beach as much as anyone else; I just like to do them alone. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I realize that my self-love is all I really need.
Because in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re committed or single, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get a say in who gets to hold you when it’s your time to go, or if you’re even held at all.
Personally, I just hope it’s someone who smells good.