Conversation 1: She (a coworker) asked if it was stupid that she only worked here because her mom worked here and suggested it. I said it might be, but I worked here because my mom did and SHE suggested it. We had a conversation about what we really wanted to do. It turns out, we both wanted to run away together, fall madly in love and live on an island off the coast of Scotland in carnal bliss.
No, seriously, we both wanted to do other things. She was ready to just quit this job and go do something that made her happy and fulfilled. I mentioned how often single people say things like that, like it’s easy to just snap your fingers and make things happen. She said she’s sorry she’s single and dumb. Or naive. I laughed. I told her that being married and having kids doesn’t automatically bestow some kind of intelligence or wisdom on people, because I know plenty of married parents who are fucking idiots, and I’m raising a couple of their children. She asked why I couldn’t just line up another job and jump ship. It’s the risk, I answered. When you have just yourself, you suffer your own consequences. That’s fair and makes sense. But when you have lots of people relying on you, it tends to make you more conservative and risk-averse. She asked ‘so when I get married and have kids, I am stuck doing whatever I’m doing until they’re 18?’ I don’t know, maybe. Does she think because I’m more than twice her age I know what the fuck is up? I’ve been asleep most of her life.
She pointed out that ultimately, it’s because of other people. She’s right. It’s the idea that people around me would say I let my family down. I pointed out that she’s taking her masters classes now and working here because of other people. She said she knew that, but she wants to change it soon, and has plans to do so. Her father is an artist and photographer, while her mother is the main breadwinner. She and I are uncertain if that arrangement made them happy, but it was the situation she grew up in.
So we do things for other people, because we care what they think.
“My name’s Blurryface, and I care what you think.” – Twenty One Pilots
Interlude: In my case, I really don’t give a shit what people outside my family think. It’s people IN my family that I care about, and they would rip me apart if I let them down. And yet, they let me down constantly. It’s ironic. It always seems like an engine and a train get together. Why can’t two engines get together?
Conversation 2: She (a friend) asked why I couldn’t still do what I wanted, since it was still my life. She’s right, of course, but it’s not that easy. I’m still responsible for my own happiness. Does she think I can listen to her and do what she advises just because she’s older than me? She’s right, of course, but she doesn’t believe in marriage and doesn’t have kids, for good reasons I suppose. Again, it’s not that easy – I’m responsible for the happiness of many people. Not just myself. Kids can’t just do whatever, pursue goals and dreams and such, without help. I’m that help. I’m at least trying to set them up for success, by telling them what I did and didn’t do, and what worked and didn’t work, and how to live freely versus living chained. She’s unbelievably supportive and caring, and to be sure, she lives life to its fullest. I envy her, in a way. I envy all of them in a way.
Interlude 2: Until I remember the events that made them single-minded. Not singleminded, but in the mindset that being single was the way. And in a lot of cases, being child-free. Those things shaped their thinking and their futures. There’s nothing wrong with choosing those things, but I feel bad about the things that happened to them or the situations they’re in that made them choose the way they did. Why can’t two sad souls make each other happy?
And then I remember the events that made me into what I am. It’s not a contest, but I feel like my events are nowhere near as bad. I’m not that cynical and jaded about life in general. I’m still fairly optimistic. I still have a mostly young mindset. For example, when the mail comes I still want to wail “MAIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!” It’s for a different reason, of course. Because I’m really smart. Yeah!
Conversation 3: He (a coworker) asked if I “ever had any of these peanut butter filled pretzels before.” I told him I had. That was honest, because I had had some of those very pretzels from the container on his desk. I was hungry, he wasn’t at his desk, it seemed like the thing to do. Technically it was stealing. I put a quarter under his keyboard. Technically it was now a purchase. I felt better. Does that make me a terrible person? I felt better, I said. How can you be terrible if you feel good?
Conversation 4: She (Herself) told me a story this weekend of a boy she sat next to in high school. She copied off him to get her grades. He was smart and a geek, and he got good grades. She could do the work, she just didn’t want to. She was lazy, but she was pretty, so why not? She went to prom with him too – and ditched him for another boy that night. He forgave her, or at least didn’t say anything. Am I that boy? Have I been forgiving her with my silence? Is that why she’s freaking out about the possibility that her looks might be fading – because to her, that’s her ticket to an easy life with no deep thought and no difficult actions? And when I no longer want to be silent about being treated like that, and no longer tolerate it, and don’t give a fuck about anyone’s looks because of the Jenny McCarthy phenomenon, to her it’s not about anything she is doing, or any poor treatment, or anything negative about her at all – it’s my shallow inability to get past her “fading looks”?
Side note: Jenny McCarthy is smoking hot. But, she is also almost singlehandedly responsible for the ultrapervasive antivaccine movement in America, so the thought of having anything to do with her is abhorrent to me. Looks don’t matter as much as everyone thinks they do over the long haul. Kindness and compassion do. Intelligence and ambition do. People have asked me in the distant past about various girls/women:
Q: “Why did you break up with (name of girl/woman)? She’s fucking gorgeous!”
All of these answers are true stories.
A1. I had to explain to her how to use a can opener. That’s why.
A2. She referred to Suchandsuch Apartments as ‘low-income housing for poor people’. That’s why.
A3. Her parents got back from Chicago and she didn’t ask them how it was – she said “That’s all you bought for me? You’re the worst parents in the world! *click*” That’s why.
A4. She mentioned that she’s “not proud of it, but once I slept with the boss to get a raise” – forgetting that she started working at that job after we started dating. That’s why.
A5. Because I thought I’d be nice and give her friend a ride to his house on my way home, and discovered the next day that I had given a ride to a guy who she had “given a ride” to just minutes before. That’s why.
I don’t care how hot someone is – if they’re an asshole, I’m out. I’m not that boy in high school, if I ever was. I joke about my young looks and youthful outlook being the result of my immaturity, but you know what the real secret is?
I’ve been asleep for 20 years, like Rip Van Winkle sleepwalking (and shaving). Look at all the changes in the world! Marvelous. I’m awake now, waiting for my real life to begin. I’ve got my self-generated goals, hopes and dreams, with nothing influenced by some angel or devil whispering into my ear, psychological or real. All whispers are nephilim to nephilim.