Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rain won’t stop this parade

This weekend Guy Friend #1 got married which, for some reason, turned into a pretty big affair. Seems like I spent half of last week in a dither, trying to sort out housing and transit and shoes — most of all shoes. The logical thing was to go with a pair I owned, but when the dress in question has a pattern like this, finding footwear is harder than one might think. (Click through to flickr if you want to follow the dilemma as it progressed.) Eventually I went with a pair of Cynthia Rowleys — a yelp-inducing $90 even after deep discounting. That launched a late-week frenzy of trying to liquidate clothes and books and store credit to scrounge up the cash for my purchase (anyone wanna swap $30 for the same in Gap cards?).

The funny thing is, none of this was provoked for the reasons you might expect, like a bevy of handsome eligibles. What bachelors there were at the wedding I scarcely noticed, and there wasn’t even a garter grab to gather them all (I reckon the bride was not the sort to be involved in such a spectacle). When we all danced, it was overwhelmingly women, but this time I didn’t mind.

Something’s changed in the last year or so. For perhaps the first time in my life, it’s more important to me to be content where I am than to sort out what circumstances would make my life ideal. Sure, I’m still thinking of leaving New York once the book is finished, but I think I’m finally comfortable with singleness in the present tense. I’m no longer in the looking phase, and that feels so good I could almost weep from gratitude. You know what I mean, I think — that sense of always scoping the scene, of weighing the options in front of you. It feels remarkably similar to the looking one does when money can be spent on new things or not. It’s like something inside you switches on and off.

Since I’ve become so budget conscious, that roving eye — for clothes, anyway — has totally shut off. I buy things not because they spark my interest, but out of conscious decision to look for something in particular — shoes that match the bronze in my dress, a new bottle of moisturizer, “sheet paper” for the bathroom (as my Irish roommate called toilet paper), and so on. Before I used to see sale signs and just look for things I liked, hoping I could think of a use to justify them. How many such buys I’ve now resold to the vintage shop to raise cash for my wedding shoes says much about my actual needs.

And I suppose you could look at most of the flirts and dates that came from that restless, roving eye as things I’ve now resold to my publisher in a book that will hopefully pay down some of my college debt. Well, maybe that sounds a bit crass. But even before there was a book, there certainly was a tendency to use men. That’s why I had to look good at bars, wear cute shirts and some makeup when I went out with friends. I needed male attention to feel OK, to believe some guy would find me marriageable.

No girl probably ever gets totally over wanting to look pretty (nor am I saying we ought to dress like hags), but there’s such a relief in going out just because you want to enjoy yourself, and not worrying who you’ll meet or if you’ll impress them. Sometimes I see girls on the train, on a weekend evening, and I see myself a few years ago in them — a girl all gussied up for the night, and though she might look low-key, with a definite sense of the prowl.

For those of you who have been there, let’s admit it, shall we? Isn’t that awfully exhausting? We couldn’t go out knowing we’d have a good time or not, because it depended on meeting some cute guy or other and feeling like he liked us, even wanted us. Happiness, for that night at least, was based on certain circumstances we couldn’t force but would try our best to produce. And the saddest thing is not just how that leaves us feeling, but what that makes us settle for.

I almost can’t count the women I know who are stuck in something far less than they really want — involved with guys they don’t like much, or who would never commit to them — but which somehow seems better than going through life alone. I see those friends there, and I want to plead, “Come learn to be content with me!” It’s so much better than trying to make the world outside you adjust to be what you think will make you happy.

It rained on my bus to D.C. this weekend, and on me Saturday night before dinner, and even rained on a friend’s outdoor wedding in Phoenix one fall. But perhaps because I grew up near Seattle, rain often makes me strangely happy. Sure, it can turn a yard into mud and soak you and start the chill that turns into pneumonia, but when you’re in a car that’s carefully driving through the weather, I actually find it cheerful.

To me, such storms show God is on the move — that our adventures in life don’t just depend on us to think up and produce them. And when you’re inside the car like that, it gives you a kind of protection. I’m starting to think of contentment as the car that lets you get through the rain and mostly arrive intact, even in a good mood. What are the storms in your life these days? Have you found a car to ride them through, or does your joy need constant sunshine?