I find that cliches become honest when they are spoken with such heart. Especially when they are attached to earnest and articulate 22 year olds. “I figure I was born alone, I’m not afraid to die alone either,” said a fellow commuter on why he wasn’t looking to enter another serious relationship, for now. Who knew that riding the subway would provide such richness. Wow, I certainly did not have this grounded sense of self in my early twenties. The only thing of consequence I did at this age was get my essays in on time and even that was sometimes a challenge.
At the core of his contemplation is something that we all fear: to end up on our own. There is such stigma attached to not following the normative timeline for life’s goals. Having a hard time finding a partner to love and one to love you back is often deemed to be a huge misstep. But what are we willing to sacrifice, what parts of ourselves are we willing to compromise to not look like a fool? Which you aren’t by the way. The reminders mostly come through social rituals of holiday dinners where you’re told to celebrate in packs. The greetings arrive with matching sweaters, smiles and altered teeth. These are the postcards that some long to send and are willing to commit to empty relationships to obtain that facade. They long to put up the appearance of the perfect life.
Gwen Stefani in the song “New” begs, “don’t let it go away, this feeling has got to stay.” The lyrics are relatable precisely because we all know that the electricity of discovering someone new will not remain. All new things eventually become old. I don’t think we could survive that form of excitement for the long run. Passion becomes comfort to be more sustainable, to allow your heart to pace itself. Wouldn’t we all end up in padded rooms otherwise? How much fighting and make-up sex can one really take?
But asking the “what ifs” is perfectly common. When the urgency wanes you wonder if someone else could help you reclaim and maintain that spark. It’s the tail of the dragon that we continually chase. That first hit. Like the protagonist in the Italian film The Last Kiss realizes, the hard way I might add, that exploring those questions can make you end up with a wreckage where your life had been. Kissing that young, reckless thing was not worth losing someone who actually understands you. History builds the rapport and unconditional support and losing that hurts like hell. You also ask yourself, who exactly is left “out there”? Is there someone who you would actually want to devote yourself to? Are you equally worthy of each other? Maybe. But I think that’s the gamble you take. If you do decide to leave and make your own way, you know that there is the chance that you might end up alone. That there might not be a whole lot of other people whom you want to take your clothes off for. Cause really, if you don’t want to see each other naked what is the point?