I’m sure some of my mother’s most consuming thoughts exist around her only daughter’s relationship status. Will she ever meet someone? Is she even going to get married? Will I ever get the chance to babysit a grandchild instead of feeding 10 cats while she treks the Inca Trail and finds her inner self?
I’m sure her most unrelenting fear is that all of the above may well be answered by a rather deflating ‘no’.
My dad thinks I work too much. He tells me my “expectations are too high”. Of course, he’s referring to the expectations I place on myself and concurrently the future man/men in my life. What he really wants to say is, “You’re only 27, but I’m worried you’re going to become one of those high-flying business women that has to end up freezing their eggs and holidaying in Florida with her dog”. He’s perplexed by my total disregard for timeline and the ticking clock that beats below my belly button.
When I was 24 my older brother told me “you’d better find a boyfriend before you got left on the shelf”. Like I was a product to be purchased before moved to the miscellaneous discount basket, right next to the half price shampoo. The whole concept was new to me. How could someone else choose me off the shelf when, in my eyes, I was the one doing the shopping?
Last month over dinner I told my 83 year old grandmother that right now, “I could think of nothing worse than being married, with a baby, and a mortgage on a 2-bedroom house in the suburbs”. Not because I don’t want to get married and have children, but because when I do, it’s not going to be the result of settling with some guy I met at the local pub after we had a two year semi-decent relationship then tied the knot at some equally blemishing venue. If that was me right now, it would mean I had given in to something short of remarkable, a relationship that was good but never quite great. I had to tell my Grandma to stop setting me up with 38 year old Organ players like I’m some desperado that’s filtered through all her e-Harmony options.
I think Granny D’s resigned her dreams of ever watching me walk down the aisle in her lifetime.
I can’t blame them for caring, they’re probably just scared I have commitment issues and that I’ll end up all alone. But, I’m not uneasy about being alone because the thought of spending a life tied to mediocrity is a fate far more frightening. Settling; The very word is sad. So monotonous. Like middle management or leftover pizza. It’s dripping in closeted dreams and self resignation. It’s not for me. People must misinterpret my choices, thinking that I’ll choose business or career or self development over love, but that’s not what it’s about for me at all, and I guess in some way or another it took me a long time to admit that to myself. To admit that I wanted something so great and all consuming that it may very well not exist. That at 70, I want to turn to the grey haired man that walks beside me and still be blown away by overwhelming feelings of admiration, respect and love. The constant awe of “I ended up with you”.
I know, the soppiness even sickens me to my sassy core.
A friend on her own singledom commented, “Maybe I screwed up my prospects for everlasting love by becoming too independent to compromise on anything and, by having met so many men around the world that meet my expectations if only for a time, I compare them to each other and then dismiss them for not being the sum of their predecessors.” And that’s the thing. Yeah, it’s true that the ‘pool’ is drying up, but it’s not wholly because the amount of men are diminishing – it’s more that as you become more self aware of what it is you like and dislike, and that is a compounding taste, the type of men that will satisfy you become fewer and fewer. The pool party ain’t over till the right guy swims.
Cultural analysts might call bluff and deduce my or our pursuits to a Gen Y thing. Siting that I’m nothing more than a young protagonist believing she’s the main character in a very special story. A girl raised with “a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility”, inevitably doomed to be perpetually unhappy, as described by Tim Urban in his deconstruction of why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. If that’s the case, I’m not really sure how I’m meant to re-work this all star romcom into a mid-morning d-grade soap opera, or why the fuck I’d even want to. I can’t imagine in 30 years looking over to my husband on our wedding anniversary, holding his hand and saying “I’m so glad I reduced my expectations and finally found you”. Sorry Tim, whatever beige-vanilla slice you’re selling, I’m not buying it.
A friend recently told me I was “a fan of impossible relationships” insinuating that I indulge in things so complex because I hold the knowledge and security that they’ll never come to fruition. Something that strikes me as very “non-committal”. I’d challenge that by saying the right term would be remarkable relationships and everything I’ve experienced thus far has been two scoops short of a sundae. I haven’t limited myself either or placed restrictions on the types of people I’ve dated, apart from the fact that they must be mentally stimulating. And to be honest, every guy I’ve been with has taught me something new and possibly pushed me that extra bit closer to helping me find exactly what it is I’m looking for.
The same friend helped me realise I haven’t been walking in to relationships understanding that the final destination is to “fall deeply in love and have babies”. Instead my thoughts are more focused on whether we are both our better selves as a result of being together. And, ‘great’ doesn’t mean ‘perfect job, car, health, functioning family and biceps’ nor does it mean ‘tall, dark and handsome’ – it means great for me, someone that fits, this whispering feeling that ‘this is right’.
It would be easier if there were material things to tick off the list instead of having to invest time into investigating the possibilities of a chemical connection – but I guess that’s half the fun, isn’t it? It feels a burdensome really, this pursuit of remarkability, coursing through your veins pumping its wanting way right into your fingertips. Sometimes I wish I could numb my expectations until I remember how dulling mediocrity can feel and then I resort back to all the amazing things I want to experience in life and who I want to experience them with.
But there is nothing more frustrating than people constantly asking you where that person is and why haven’t you found them yet. Some drastic things would have to occur for me to change my values, wants and desires. Something I know probably isn’t quite achievable.
So, to people that tell me to settle down and reduce my expectations I say “how about chime out, mate. Next time you come over for dinner expecting spaghetti bolognese, I’ll serve you up a nice big bowl of plain pasta and send you on your merry way.”