“Now this sounds more like the Elizabeth Tannen I know and love!”
I was sitting across from a guy friend at a bar on Lake Street. It was raining outside and we were catching up and he was leaning his elbows on the table as he smirked.
He and I met my first year of grad school. You know, when I was twenty-five and single and behaving with men, essentially, the same way I do now–except with smaller stores of confidence and self-awareness and fewer boxes of books.
He observed as much: “You seem so much more secure now,” he said.
This has been a widespread reaction lately, as I’ve made the rounds and, one by one, over coffee or pilsner or lunch, friends have evaluated my psychic state, post break-up.
And as I have observed them, observing me, one thing that’s struck is the degree to which everyone, it would seem, feels more comfortable with me single.
“You’re just meant to be on your own,” one said, flashing a naughty grin as she rocked back and forth in her chair and made me mint tea.
“I’m just glad to know you, so that I can live through your adventures!” said another, over burgers in Park Slope.
My immediate reaction to this is defensive. So, I rationalize:
Maybe it’s that people who are coupled like to have some singles around, through whom (from the safe vantage of their regular cuddling and sex) they can get a vicarious kick.
Maybe, as a few have bluntly put it, it’s that folks think I write better (and probably more) when I’m alone. Related: the fact that my identity—both private and public—feels more tied to being solo, and, while it may not be the noblest trait (how many human ones are?), we all tend to feel more comfortable when our loved ones—usually for better but sometimes for worse—stay as they are.
To give people, or at least my friends, a bit more credit: they have also been unfailingly supportive because they know I made a good decision. Not to say that they didn’t love who I was with (to a person, rather, they did) but because they can see I made a tough choice I knew was right—something that, generally, ultimately, boosts all of our self-worth.
I have to tell you I laughed a little when I read that.
The that my friend R was referring to in her email was my gripe about the fact that I was leaving Minneapolis for three weeks in New York (greetings from Brooklyn!), and that, already, after perhaps the Most Melodramatic Monthlong Exit in the history of Taos, I had grown so attached to my new(ish) home that I didn’t want to leave there, either.
One thing you have to understand about this, on background, is that summer in Minneapolis is pretty special. What with everyone having been stuck indoors for nine months, when the warm weather strikes—especially in that (granted, brief) moment before the heat and humidity and musquitoes amp up—the place turns into a giant party. Everyone wants to hang out, barbecue, make out, bike, etc.
This, needless to say, would be enough of a reason for me to resist leaving. Another is that I’ve spent the last few weeks setting myself up for the summer and the season: you know, running and yoga routines, minivan, bike. To say nothing of the coziest roommate sitch west of Rhode Island–about which I’ve probably gloated enough. And, for all of the ways in which I crave change, I sometimes, just for a second, would like a moment to feel settled.
But then, who am I kidding?
“Do you think I actually love to move around?”
A laughed over the phone. “Are you joking?” She said. “Of course you do.”
And, yet again (sorry, I feel most recent posts have led to this same spot) I must come to terms with the fact that (for one, my friends know me better than I know myself, and) the person I would like to be is not, always, exactly, who I am.
I would like to be the person who is monogamous: whose normal mode is coupled. I would like to be the person who is happy to stay in one place for more than a few months at a time without growing restless. I would like to be the person who buys a minivan because she anticipates having a litter of children to cart around town in it—not because it is a cheap car owned by a good friend that runs and will fit a lot of stuff for the next, (probably) inevitable move.
But this is not the case. For now at least, being single sounds pretty fun. As (usually) does being a bit of a nomad. And frankly, nothing could sound less appealing than hours spent chauffering a batch of kids. (Though this likely has more to do with the driving than the children; I may need to move to New York when I procreate, or else teach my kids to fly.)
This lifestyle (you know, the single, unstable one) can be exhausting. When A and I complain to each other about it, as we are wont, on occasion, to do, she is always quick with the rejoinder:
“Just wait,” she says. “In ten years we’ll be calling each other with children screaming and boring husbands in the background. And we will long for this time.”