I’ve spent the last few years traveling. When you travel, you meet people, and some of the people you meet decide they want to marry you and have your babies. It’s just the way it goes. Which is pretty much the premise of every romantic comedy written and set in Europe, ever.
Pretty, quirky girl wanders into quaint village/youth hostel/dive bar, and meets handsome but troubled stranger. They fancy one another at first, but then fate intervenes, giving them a run for their money for exactly 84 minutes, so they can engage in all sorts of heart-rending hijinx and then spend the last 6 minutes of the movie realizing they were meant to get married and have babies. Finally, they make all sorts of shocking/zany statements (“You can call me a mad man, Sapphora, but damn it, I knew you were the one when I saw you get that bubble gum in your blue hair in the airport in Frezno”), and drink wine freshly crushed from the grapes behind them (since the final scene invariably takes place in wine country), and kiss passionately. Maybe, because this is a crazy comedy, they will bump teeth and chortle heartily, but mostly, they’ll kiss, and the sun will blaze its way behind some scenic hills and die.
The problem with romantic comedies is they don’t really show what happens after the kissing scene. Or they do, but the continuation of the tale is retitled: Fatal Attraction. American Beauty. Alien. Saw.
This makes me sound like I’m cynical about love, but I’m not. I’m going to tell you a secret that isn’t really secret. I fell in love decades ago. Real love. Burn you up from the inside out and change you into a different person love. I’m still in love. If the all knowing “they” ever deem me cool and decide to write a movie about my life, this love will play a starring role, a la Diego and Frida. It will contain a montage of me scribbling His name on subway walls (since I’ve yet to be gifted with the canvas of a body cast), penning tortured poems on rolls of toilet paper in airport bathrooms (which, in this version of my story, eventually make me famous, given that “they’ve” bothered to write a movie about my life), and sticking my head in ovens wailing. (Oh, wait, that last take was Thanksgiving 2003, the one year I tried to cook. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was just trying to disentangle the scorched turkey carcass from the oven grate.)
In an effort to fall out of love with Him (with a capital H), I’ve dabbled in every conceivable cure. You name it, I’ve tried it. Fasting. Prayer. Therapy. Hypnosis. Hallucinogens. Alcoholism. And I’ve definitely, definitely tried the old adage, “To fall out of love with one person, fall in love with another.” I tried like a zillion times. These relationship attempts inevitably ended with an enraged man chasing me around the patio with gardening shears screaming, “You’re fucking in love with each other! Admit it, bitch!” (Did I mention I also tended to date psychos?)
I finally came to the chilling conclusion that I couldn’t live an authentic, garden-shear free existence and be in serious relationships with people who weren’t Him. So then, I decided to have semi-serious relationships. We won’t even talk about that. Let’s just say there is a fine line between serious and semi-serious, and it’s usually made out of whiskey, and the day after the whiskey line gets crossed, things are always messy, and hard, and sometimes, there are gardening shears.
Then, I decided I’d just have casual relationships. That went terribly. There is nothing more disgusting than a one night stand. Talk about cooties. (I don’t even like to share my cab with strangers). It was creepy and un-fun and left me feeling like I’d been slimed by one of those ghosts in Ghost Busters (the 80s version, because it’s better).
And so, this year, I decided to be celibate. My big moment of truth came when I was living in a medieval village in France. I’d briefly met and gotten the business card of a handsome, funny, smart man I knew in my heart was just going to make me feel empty and sad because he wasn’t Him. Still, I was dabbling with the idea of repeating my miserable pattern of existence, trying another not-Him on for size, realizing I was incapable of loving anyone but Him, and getting chased with gardening shears.
To that end, I arranged with my best friend in the village to throw a dinner party, to which we would invite this man, and sparks would fly, and on and on and on. I woke up every morning, postponed the party, felt sick to my stomach, and turned the card over in my hand, considering my options.
Finally, one stormy day, after about 15 party postponements, my friend, who was clearly tiring of my transparent antics, said, “You don’t really want a love affair, do you? You only want to be with ______.” She was right. I went home, wadded up the card, tossed it in the trash, and said, “I’m done with counterfeit love.” Meaning business, damn it, I determinedly carried the trash out to the dumpster at the edge of the village, which might have been bad-ass, had it not been pouring rain (“il pleut,” one of the few French phrases I picked up in the village), and had I not slipped on ancient stone staircase and fallen, scattering shattered bottles and coffee grounds and wadded up business cards from one end of the staircase to the other. In the process, I broke (I think) not one, but two, bones. (I still have to see a doctor, but it’s been almost half a year, and my elbow and tailbone still hurt and stick out in weird places).
And that’s pretty much where we stand. I’m single and celibate by choice. And wildly in love while sporting several badly-mended bones. And pretty fucking happy, considering. Since I made that decision, I’ve felt more clear-headed, content, and honest than ever before. I guess I’m a wacky nun, of sorts, indefinitely married to my art, the road, God and the occasional bottle of bourbon. I get chased with garden shears way less often than I used to, and I never wake up feeling like that scene at the end of Stranger Things (which is my new favorite show), when (spoiler alert) the half-dead kid gets the giant slug pulled out of his mouth. (That’s how I felt after one night stands.)
Which brings me back to traveling and meeting people. Boys (and girls) who want to marry me and have my babies, I would probably be totally into you (not so much into having babies–my two are grown and kick ass, but I can’t see starting over) if I weren’t a hopeless romantic. See, you thought I was cynical, but I’m not. I’m the exact opposite of cynical, which is besotted. Also, I think the paradigm by which our culture does relationships (oh no! I’m half of something, quick, let me latch onto the first passably desirable person that comes along and own him/her) is inexorably broken, but I won’t get into that right now.
You don’t want me. I will turn you into a person that chases his/her lovers with garden shears. I won’t stop loving Him, and you will hate me for it. And I will hate you for wanting me to. And also for chasing me with gardening shears. And I won’t have coffee with you either, unless you only want to talk about Proust (you talk–I haven’t read Proust), because romantic coffee dates inevitably lead to one night stands and/or gardening shears scenarios.
There you have it. I am single and celibate by choice because nobody but Him is Him. But if you want a buddy to go watch romantic comedies and throw back whiskey with you, I’m your huckleberry. Just don’t fucking try to reach into the popcorn bowl at the same time as I do.
Me saying this blog as a bad song