Underneath

There are a lot of movies out there with a desperately single female protagonist. The woman is usually in her late 20’s and gorgeous, with few real issues, but several endearing quirks. That, or she’s got super ridiculous issues, but she’s so gorgeous that some guy would do anything to be with her.

One of my favorite movies dealing with the aging single woman is called Broken English. It’s more realistic than most, about a woman who is painfully single. She has a string of terrible dates and becomes leery of anyone showing interest, such that she finds it difficult even to be hit on because she feels this deep distrust of men who would be interested in her. It’s quite amazing to want someone to want you, but then distrust anyone who actually does. What’s wrong with them that they’re interested in me? And how quickly are they going to decide I’m not worth their effort?

It’s a mess. At some point the idea of being in a relationship starts to sound like the possibility of becoming an astronaut. You already know how much I fear outer space, but somehow I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a whole imaginary life that I can’t crumple up and throw away. It’s tattooed all over me with invisible ink. I know you think those are freckles covering my nearly-middle-aged skin, but they are actually hopes, and disappointed hopes. Sun kisses, or scars, or maybe notches to record imagined scenarios…

I actually like myself, and I usually enjoy my own company. Despite my good qualities, my humor, intelligence and normal amount of prettiness, I am literally never asked out. I had this revelation recently that all this time I thought I was too obviously “looking” when actually my problem is that I’m unavailable. So unavailable that my subconscious was sabotaging every interaction with single men by getting me to be as blabber-mouthy and over-sharing as possible. It’s funny for a second, and then it’s just off putting.

What gets me most about this movie is how hard it is for her to just calm down and be present when she’s out with a man who is interested in her. She is rude to him, and skittish, at one point she has a panic attack. Like if you can just calmly wait around while the neurosis is expelled, there’s a really amazing woman underneath. But it’s all pretty freaky at first.

I don’t think anyone understands how imaginary all of it looks from here. My love life has been a lot more waiting and hoping than actually being, more fantasy than real life reciprocity. I know love between people is real- I have close, life-long friends, so I’ve done what it takes to get past nice and fun, stick around for the grey and the mean, and dig down for the real love under everything else. I know it’s possible and that it’s both hard and good.

Singleness is not really the desperate horror show that it sounds. There’s this great song by The Samples that’s been in my head for days that says; “You can’t love no one,  you can’t love something, you can’t love nothing, you can’t love anything till you can love yourself.” In the extreme amount of time I spend by myself I’ve been learning how to love myself… not like some cheesy “me time” thing, but like letting all of that neurosis kick up and out, to get quiet, and find gems while I’m cleaning up the mess. I’m learning to love myself underneath all of the things I expected myself to be. It’s really okay here, and no matter what happens next, I’m going to be okay.

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