I’m lying on my bed that is lying on the floor that is taking up the majority of my 375 sq. foot apartment. Okay, apartment is not completely accurate. It’s actually a basement, which is why my bed is on the floor, because the bedframe is in storage, because it would not fit through the basement door. So I’m lying here, on my bed, on the floor, thinking about where I was a year ago, which is disturbingly similar to where I was when I was 22, which is not at all where I wanted to be at 42.
Where was I when I was 22? I was in L.A. and had just sold everything I owned to move to Spain. I had no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends. And then a bunch of drama happened and I couldn’t move to Spain, so I packed up the few things I had left, drove cross country, and started over… with no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends.
Twenty years later? I just got rid of almost everything I had to move to Paris. And then a bunch of drama happened and I couldn’t move to Paris, so I packed up the few things I have left, drove cross country, and am now starting over… with no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends.
Adulting. I have a concept of what that is- doing what successful, functioning members of society do- like have a job, a family, maybe even a savings account and 401k.
Well I’m not doing that, exactly, like not at all.
My friends and neighbors are doing it though. They have children, ‘real’ jobs, they actually own their homes- homes with yards, garages, cars to put in their garages. They are married, maybe divorced, but happy now because they found their person.
I can claim only one of those, and it is the one no one wants … and the person I found, I lost. He went back to the one who can successfully adult.
I won’t torture you with the extent of how badly I’m adulting. But it’s pretty bad. I think my situation has to be close to where people end up right before they find themselves holding a tattered blanket and staking out storefronts with awnings. I am by no means making light of their situation. I legitimately understand what the trajectory to that covered storefront might look like.
Please understand, I am not trying to conjure up sympathy here. I can actually see the humor in it all. Well some days I can. I envision myself sitting across from Oprah, laughing about that little basement apartment and my minor obsession with awnings.
For now, however, I spend the majority of my time in a coffee shop trying to figure out how the hell people do this. Which might not be quite as terrible if a cute little ice cream parlor had not just opened up next door. So despite being the only single person within a 2-mile radius, I am now hanging out at the place to be for all happy couples with their 2.5 children.
This is pretty much the last thing I want to be a part of. What was once a short stroll to the coffee shop now feels like a never-ending schlep across the painful consequences of some very bad decisions. Now, every day I have to navigate my way through the multitude of children, running around, laughing and screaming, ice cream dripping down their chins, moms running after them while dads patiently wait, holding their vanilla ice cream cones until the family unit is once again complete.
It would seem this endearing scene might offer some sense of hope that there is an alternative to scoping out street corners. It doesn’t. Most days it just makes me regret every major life decision I have ever made. There is no little one to chase after, no sweet husband to hold my ice cream cone. I don’t even really eat ice cream. It hurts my teeth. But if I did, it wouldn’t be in cone and it wouldn’t be vanilla. It would be something chocolate, something gooey and messy that would drip down my sweet husband’s shirt. But he wouldn’t care. He would be happy to just be standing next to me with a stain on his shirt, holding my cup of chocolate ice cream.
And everyone would be staring at us, wondering how we are adulting so well.
Instead, I am by myself, trying to make it to the other side of all of this without tearing up or knocking over a small child. Everything switches to slow motion, and it takes me what seems to be at least 10 minutes to walk 5 steps, dodging children and avoiding any possibility of eye contact with their parents.
As I pass by, I swear I hear them whispering,
“Did you see her, the one by herself? She must be divorced. She’s got to be at least 40, right? Can you imagine, forty, divorced, and single? It’s just so sad…”
When I finally make it inside and am sufficiently hidden behind my computer, I inevitably catch myself staring at them. I kind of want to go back out there, sit down next to them, and ask them a few questions.
“Excuse me, hi. I’m the 42-year-old single girl you were feeling sorry for a minute ago, the one who lives in the basement next to your beautiful house with a yard, two kids, and a dog. I just have a couple of quick questions to ask you if you don’t mind.
“Are you both happy? If you are, can you tell me what you’re doing exactly, I mean to be happy? Do you still make each other laugh? Do you still kiss each other, like with the tongue kiss? Do you have sex more than once a month? Is it passionate, at least some of the time? Do you still sometimes stay up late talking, planning your next adventure, deciding which part of France you will buy your chateau in?
“Or are you kind of not happy? Do you feel like you settled for the safe bet? Did you let someone go who is the one your thoughts always drift back to? Would you end it if you could- if it wasn’t for the kids, or the fear of failing or of being alone? Would you finally go find the one who got away?
What I’m asking is, do you feel like you are successfully adulting? Because I don’t think I’m doing it right. And you look like you have at least the relationship part down.”
Of course, I don’t ask any of these questions, but I am fairly sure that most of them don’t feel like they are doing it right either, at least the relationship part. They feel trapped, or complacent, or just kind of miserable. Of course they love their children. And yes, they love their partner, but it is not the love that it once was and not the life they would choose any more if it wasn’t for the kids.
This is what I have heard from most of my friends, anyway, and it does not make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse, and very sad- sad for them, for my ex-husband, for the partner who wants out and for the one who doesn’t, for the kids who think that a healthy relationship is one void of passion and affection or just a resignation of sorts to be endured until they are out of the house.
How can this not make them dread becoming an adult?
But they are probably equally as terrified to end up like their parent’s recently divorced friend who is now obsessively checking her match.com page, exhausting everyone with how many winks she got that day and how horrible her prospects are. But what the hell else can she do to avoid hanging out with her couple friends, listening to them bitch about the other and wishing they were sifting through the terrible prospects on match.com.
Okay, no. I know things seem bad, but please, don’t wish that for yourself or anyone else, ever. It’s absolutely terrible and so unjust. All we want to do is find our person, but the only way to do this is to voluntarily subject ourselves to countless photos of half-naked men posing in front of their mirrors. Or, for the unfortunate souls in my age-bracket, pictures of dudes- not half-naked, thank god- in baseball caps, trying to hide their receding hairline, standing next to their brand new convertible or obnoxious truck, usually proudly holding up a big fish…or a gun of some sort.
So here we sit, each kind of wishing we were the other, realizing we are sort of fucked either way.
It’s enough to make you opt to stay in your relationship that is so obviously not working, or continue the single route which inevitably leads you right back to swiping left or right.
But this can’t be everyone’s reality, right? I know at least of few of you know how to do this, at least the coupling part.
If so, if you have actually figured it out, could you please reveal yourselves? I just need a frame of reference, an adultier adult who can explain to me how to do this effectively, because I’m literally sizing up street corners here. And I really just want to find my person, and I am most assuredly not enjoying this unexpected relapse to my twenties. I think I would like to try being a grown-up for a spell. I might even actually be good at it.
I just have a few questions…