My friends ask me why I’m still single.
Well…actually, they don’t, really. Not any more. I’ve given them enough half-truths and approximations over the years to satisfy them. I even believed most of my own explanations, at the time.
“I haven’t met the right girl” has a lot of good uses. Helps set my mom at ease, convince her that she’ll have grandkids someday.
“I’m focusing on my writing career right now.” HA! Yeah, just…yeah.
“I don’t believe in love. Romance is a figment of our culture’s imagination, made to distract us from the general dissatisfaction of our lives and interpersonal relationships.” This is the excuse that I’ve believed for most of these years. It’s also the closest to the truth…despite being its very opposite.
I’m single because I’m a bloody hopeless romantic.
I do think romance is a cultural construct, and it’s one I’ve bought into wholeheartedly. I think love songs and happy endings and dreams come true are nothing but fairy tales, and I fall for them every time. I believe true love is for suckers, and I’m the biggest sap of all.
And when I was younger, I’d leap from infatuation to infatuation with hardly a hesitation, seeing my fantasy in other people’s reality.
But after a while, you learn to see the faults. The pettiness, the impatience, the insecurity, the jealousy, the fear, the anger. And recognizing that you mirror all these qualities does nothing to encourage you to settle. It exacerbates your need to fulfill the illusive fever dream of a perfect romance, first by trying to perfect yourself, and then others. This never ends well.
There’s no such thing as true love. I know that with my mind. In its place is something we’ll call “real love”. Real love is messy, complicated, frustrating, stressful, vulnerable, disappointing, and so, so much more beautiful than true love because it’s real.
With my head, I know all this. I can recite the facts like the Gettysburg Address, forward and backward, upward and downward, inside and out. But the fact remains that I just don’t believe what I’m saying.
Such is my impossible dichotomy: I’m a cynic who believes in true love, and a romantic who knows it doesn’t exist.
For years I’ve tried to pull myself to one side or the other. Sometimes I tell myself to let go of my cynicism and just believe the best in people, that love and joy and happy endings are just a leap of faith away.
Other times I tell myself to let go of idle fantasies and focus on what’s tangible and real.
But the older I get, the more I think maybe I don’t have to choose a side in the war between romanticism and realism. Maybe the world has a place for people like us: the grounded dreamers.
If you stay close to the ground, your life is bound by the distance of your horizons. And if you’re floating in the clouds, you never know where you actually are.
But if you can keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and your head up above the clouds…you can see so very far from up here.