I’m driving down a quiet country road in Central Minnesota just as dark begins to seep into the pink of the sunset and cover the sky with its thick blanket. A fog is spreading across the road and coating my windshield in mist. The radio is leaking George Jones.
If this were a horror movie, I think, my wipers would break and my windows would fog up so much I couldn’t drive, forcing me to abandon my car and walk off into the night in search of help. My cell phone would be dying, of course.
I would walk into a house and there, in this perfect horror movie of my life, would be all the ghosts of the girls I used to be, and I’d be forced to confront them, explain my decisions, plead temporary insanity, until each one was placated and happy. The wall of Karas would be disappointed in me, question my choices, wonder what the fuck was going through my mind when I did this or that.
I’d go crazy in there, trying to defend myself to my former selves. Wouldn’t you?
Here’s the thing about being a woman.
You put the eye cream on, the anti-aging cream on, because you’re supposed to start it at such-and-such age. You do it because you’re told with every page of that magazine that that’s what you’re supposed to do. You think about Botox. You color your roots.
You think of things in a pre-approved timeline. Find a man, get engaged, get married, have babies. Even if you think you’re going to blaze your own path, refuse to shack up at 27 like your peers, you still think about it. You feel guilt that you’re not doing what you should. You know it’s OK to do your own thing for the rest of your life, but you watch college acquaintances get engaged, married and knocked up one after another through the weirdo portal we call Facebook and you compare yourself. You think, “Should that be me? What am I doing wrong?”
You do battle with tradition. You embrace it, then you push it away.
It’s like the way they teach little girls to speak, every answer a question.
Do I want to be married right now? No. I like being by myself. In fact, I like it so much that it has led my mother to worry that I’m alone too much. I’m not, of course. “I think you’re alone too much,” she says to me, feigning concern. I just scoff at her, the way I do more and more as I get older. I’m fifteen years old in 27-year-old clothing, I guess. Do I want to be married, mama, happily ever after? Not at the moment. I’m more interested in booking tickets than picking out bridesmaids dresses and baby bedding.
But then again, I look at my peers and I wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” How come I haven’t donned the white dress? How come none of my lovers have stuck around more than six months? Is there something fundamentally wrong with me that I remain the only single one in my group of close friends, always the solo one at weddings and gatherings?
It’s hard to be the single one. You relish your independence but then grow to hate it on Sunday afternoons when all your friends are cuddled up on their couches and you’re home alone twiddling your thumbs, thinking “What ifs.” They tell you they’re jealous of your freedom; you tell them you’re jealous of their predictability. You resent them for it. We grew up with Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, who remained single long into their thirties, but for some reason the idea of being single that long fills me with dread.
I can’t Tinder. I can’t test the waters of OKCupid. There’s something in my genetic material that makes the idea of online dating seem impossible. I want more – I want the human connection, the kind that happens without a screen. I know that in the eyes of the general public – my family, my friends, the Midwest – I am approaching the age where they wonder why I haven’t settled down. I just can’t do what they’ve told me. I can’t do it until it feels real. I know it will happen, sometime, but it hasn’t happened yet. And that’s mostly OK. My timeline is a little “off.” My ideals are a bit different.
I’ll go into that haunted house, full of judgmental peers and happy wedding photos of the girls I came of age with, and I’ll tell all those past Karas that they did the right thing. I know something is waiting out there for us; we just haven’t found it yet.