“No, that’s too cold.”
I was having coffee with a friend of a friend at my local hipster hangout, and we were talking about relationships, and he was pausing to reconsider his language.
I wasn’t immediately sure what he was referring to, but suspected (correctly, it emerged) it might be the way he’d described his relationship as a “project.”
“Right,” I said, once it was clear. “A little cold.”
But then, later, he used the same word to describe this blog–which, considering its’ totally inadvertent origins and haphazard (whimsical? better) operational strategy, seems even more absurd.
But back to the idea of thinking about one’s relationship as a project. Because while, verbally, in casual conversation over fairly traded coffee, this may seem a bit, yes, cold really is the word, there’s a way in which it doesn’t totally not fit.
As in: you date enough people in your twenties, by the end of them, you’re thinking of relationships with less of that blurry, bullshit gaze of Hollywood and fantasy and magazines and television and Everything Everyone Ever Told You About Love, and more with eyes that are clear and pragmatic. Cold? Maybe. But also: real.
There is something really giddy about being in a relationship after spending a lot of time single. Cuddling! Sharing meals! Taking Walks! Reading, side by side! I take none of it–not a second–for granted. I feel totally, thrillingly lucky–blissed out–to be sharing my life with this person.
But instead of waiting around for a bright, light-centered object–bulb? strike?–to intervene, prophetic, and assure me that this is It, the One, the Only, the Meant To Be Forever and Ever, I am enjoying this time, fully conscious of the fact that being with this person forever is a choice that I–that both of us–may make.
“It’s kind of a radical idea,” my friend-of-friend said the other day, as our conversation came round to this notion. “That it’s a choice. It goes against everything we’ve ever been told.”
Indeed, it does. Which isn’t to say that there hasn’t been a saturation of persuasive argument on the other side: a persistent tapping on that cultural bubble that says, “Excuse me, but you know there’s no such thing as The One, right? You know there are lots of people you can be happy with, not just one person or even two people or even ten?”
“Yeah, yeah,” we say. “We know.”
And then we go back to watching romantic comedies with Jennifer Aniston and Amy Adams and relishing that warm, wistful feeling that goes along with believing our lives are fated.
In other words: intellectually, we get it. But practically, emotionally, the force of all that stuff, all that storybook nonsense with which we’ve been pummeled since cartoons and fairy tales, is tough to counteract. And to accept that it might be false, that we might have a decision to make instead of a fate to find, is not only hard but fucking scary.
Who wants to take responsibility for determining the balance of what one wants and needs in one’s most intimate and committed relationship? Yikers.
But then, like freedom is, it’s terrifying at the same that it’s liberating
We can use that clear, pragmatic vision to free ourselves from the pressure that The One idea can place on a relationship. (This isn’t what I expected, this isn’t perfect, it must be wrong!) We can act like grown-ups and take responsibility for making a conscious, purposeful decision that doesn’t have to do with what the culture or anyone else expects, but what we want for ourselves. What works for us.
Cold? Maybe. But, and I speak (write) this as the most romantic of hopeless romanticals, I’d rather be cold than blind.