Monday, June 21, 2004

CONTEMPLATION

[Warning: Tough issues ahead.]

Watching Bridget Jones's Diary on TBS. Am laughing and crying and having dreadfully dirty thoughts about Colin Firth, all at the same time. (The way he simmers, never actually smiling, but somehow conveying all with his eyes, brow, profile...) Even his big girlie-man fight scene with Hugh Grant ("It's Raining Men" pulses in the background as they fight until both of them are bloodied and sweaty) leaves me all keyed up, and feeling my loneliness reassert itself.

Colin aside (blasphemy), the one thing that's really affecting me is the scene where Bridget cooks dinner for her friends to commemorate her 33rd birthday. There's a resonance there that is especially strong for me this year. I know what that's like. So hard to spend year after year planning one's own birthday, trying to banish the loneliness in advance before it ever arrives on my doorstep.

The truth: I'm tired of it already. I want what I have never had, the companionship, the stability, the support--I even want the heartbreak that pushes my friends to the emotional brink, because it meant that even in those failed relationships, there was a compelling strength. There are times when I am even envious of the pain. That's how bad it can be.

Birthdays seem as fitting a time as any for reflection. But every year, the pressure's on: what, who with, where, when. But what always gets me is the why and the how long.

Why it always seems like no matter how many friends surround me in celebration, I'm always walking home alone. How long it's been since I had anyone else plan anything for my birthday. Why I always throw these huge parties, and enjoy them, but somehow still resent the fact that I'm the one who has to plan everything in celebration of myself, which seems so self-indulgent, conceited, and artificial. How long is it going to be before He shows up? Why is it taking so long?

I love my friends. The turnout for my party was amazing, a veritable "This is Your Life," featuring cameos by camp friends and work friends, shul friends and new friends from the wonderful world of blogging. I felt very lucky; with a few drinks in me, "lucky" even felt like "euphoric."

But euphoria fades. As happy as we may feel surrounded by friends and alcohol on our birthdays, on a daily basis, we single people walk around with the world on our shoulders. We lack a security of the most basic kind. Even if we are happy to the extent that the solitary life allows, with our professional status or our freedom or our independence, we harbor a darkness that we cannot show to others. We have to keep our happy faces front and center, to woo the unseen future suitors of our lives. We banish depression to the netherworld and wear black-tie happiness at the weddings of our friends, as we shelve our feelings and our doubt about our own single stories ending happily.

And on our birthdays, and sometimes for days after, we feel the aging process wearing on us. We look to others to lift our spirits. When our spirits are up, the day is no challenge. But when night falls, we fight to submerge the darkness.

Speaking of darkness, I have to say there's nothing scarier than suddenly seeing a centipede crawling up your wall while you're watching a Stephen King movie (Salem's Lot--vampires, but no souls, like my Angel). No sleep for me tonight.

8 Comments:

At 12:19 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger annabel lee said...

Amen, sister. I definitely know where you're coming from, and I completely empathize. It sucks. And the lucky jerks who found their soulmates in college don't seem to understand that hearing, "Oh, don't worry, it'll happen" isn't really comforting when it's coming from someone who's even less prescient than Sybil Trelawney.

 
At 1:17 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Anna said...

um, couldn't. agree. with you. more!!!

you said it quite well, the feeling we feel, on birthdays or other major holidays. and the thing is is that sometimes i really like being single, but i feel like i'm not suppose to feel that way, ever. and then there are times i wish for that thing that everyone else seems to have, especially on birthdays.

we hear ya sista and happy belated.

 
At 8:54 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Caryn said...

Another commenter said it, and I'll give you another "Amen!"

 
At 11:54 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

So you understand why I haven't had a big birthday bash in years. Instead, I made up a holiday where I don't have to feel totally threatened if no one actually shows up. (My New York Anniversary Party) I admit that this resolution is somewhat lame, but there is really only so much my tiny pride can take.

Also, I was also watching BJD last night on TBS and I thought Colin Firth looked like a jerk and not even a gorgeous jerk at that. He's no Hugh Jackman. (You were expecting Hugh Grant, weren't you?) What I found much more mortifying was when she was at that dinner where there were 5 couples and . . . her.

 
At 12:44 PM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Polichick said...

Yes! Totally, right on, word.

 
At 1:09 PM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Michael said...

See, this just goes back to what the Idle Gossip said a few days ago. Men get in the way. We can spend years without women (not without sex, that's different), but women seem to feel something is lacking without a man. I wish I had a better answer, but I know enough now to realize that women don't always want answers. Talking about the question is enough.

 
At 9:11 PM, June 22, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, after years and years of holidays spent by the side of some old significant other, I sort of feel the opposite. I was more touched this year when my best friend gathered people together to go out to dinner for my birthday than I ever was by a boyfriend doing the obligatory boyfriend thing. Who needs 'em?

-jenn

 
At 2:21 AM, June 25, 2004, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Thanks, everyone, for your words of encouragement. Much appreciated to know I ain't alone!

 

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My Urban Kvetch: CONTEMPLATION

Monday, June 21, 2004

CONTEMPLATION

[Warning: Tough issues ahead.]

Watching Bridget Jones's Diary on TBS. Am laughing and crying and having dreadfully dirty thoughts about Colin Firth, all at the same time. (The way he simmers, never actually smiling, but somehow conveying all with his eyes, brow, profile...) Even his big girlie-man fight scene with Hugh Grant ("It's Raining Men" pulses in the background as they fight until both of them are bloodied and sweaty) leaves me all keyed up, and feeling my loneliness reassert itself.

Colin aside (blasphemy), the one thing that's really affecting me is the scene where Bridget cooks dinner for her friends to commemorate her 33rd birthday. There's a resonance there that is especially strong for me this year. I know what that's like. So hard to spend year after year planning one's own birthday, trying to banish the loneliness in advance before it ever arrives on my doorstep.

The truth: I'm tired of it already. I want what I have never had, the companionship, the stability, the support--I even want the heartbreak that pushes my friends to the emotional brink, because it meant that even in those failed relationships, there was a compelling strength. There are times when I am even envious of the pain. That's how bad it can be.

Birthdays seem as fitting a time as any for reflection. But every year, the pressure's on: what, who with, where, when. But what always gets me is the why and the how long.

Why it always seems like no matter how many friends surround me in celebration, I'm always walking home alone. How long it's been since I had anyone else plan anything for my birthday. Why I always throw these huge parties, and enjoy them, but somehow still resent the fact that I'm the one who has to plan everything in celebration of myself, which seems so self-indulgent, conceited, and artificial. How long is it going to be before He shows up? Why is it taking so long?

I love my friends. The turnout for my party was amazing, a veritable "This is Your Life," featuring cameos by camp friends and work friends, shul friends and new friends from the wonderful world of blogging. I felt very lucky; with a few drinks in me, "lucky" even felt like "euphoric."

But euphoria fades. As happy as we may feel surrounded by friends and alcohol on our birthdays, on a daily basis, we single people walk around with the world on our shoulders. We lack a security of the most basic kind. Even if we are happy to the extent that the solitary life allows, with our professional status or our freedom or our independence, we harbor a darkness that we cannot show to others. We have to keep our happy faces front and center, to woo the unseen future suitors of our lives. We banish depression to the netherworld and wear black-tie happiness at the weddings of our friends, as we shelve our feelings and our doubt about our own single stories ending happily.

And on our birthdays, and sometimes for days after, we feel the aging process wearing on us. We look to others to lift our spirits. When our spirits are up, the day is no challenge. But when night falls, we fight to submerge the darkness.

Speaking of darkness, I have to say there's nothing scarier than suddenly seeing a centipede crawling up your wall while you're watching a Stephen King movie (Salem's Lot--vampires, but no souls, like my Angel). No sleep for me tonight.

8 Comments:

At 12:19 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger annabel lee said...

Amen, sister. I definitely know where you're coming from, and I completely empathize. It sucks. And the lucky jerks who found their soulmates in college don't seem to understand that hearing, "Oh, don't worry, it'll happen" isn't really comforting when it's coming from someone who's even less prescient than Sybil Trelawney.

 
At 1:17 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Anna said...

um, couldn't. agree. with you. more!!!

you said it quite well, the feeling we feel, on birthdays or other major holidays. and the thing is is that sometimes i really like being single, but i feel like i'm not suppose to feel that way, ever. and then there are times i wish for that thing that everyone else seems to have, especially on birthdays.

we hear ya sista and happy belated.

 
At 8:54 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Caryn said...

Another commenter said it, and I'll give you another "Amen!"

 
At 11:54 AM, June 22, 2004, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

So you understand why I haven't had a big birthday bash in years. Instead, I made up a holiday where I don't have to feel totally threatened if no one actually shows up. (My New York Anniversary Party) I admit that this resolution is somewhat lame, but there is really only so much my tiny pride can take.

Also, I was also watching BJD last night on TBS and I thought Colin Firth looked like a jerk and not even a gorgeous jerk at that. He's no Hugh Jackman. (You were expecting Hugh Grant, weren't you?) What I found much more mortifying was when she was at that dinner where there were 5 couples and . . . her.

 
At 12:44 PM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Polichick said...

Yes! Totally, right on, word.

 
At 1:09 PM, June 22, 2004, Blogger Michael said...

See, this just goes back to what the Idle Gossip said a few days ago. Men get in the way. We can spend years without women (not without sex, that's different), but women seem to feel something is lacking without a man. I wish I had a better answer, but I know enough now to realize that women don't always want answers. Talking about the question is enough.

 
At 9:11 PM, June 22, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, after years and years of holidays spent by the side of some old significant other, I sort of feel the opposite. I was more touched this year when my best friend gathered people together to go out to dinner for my birthday than I ever was by a boyfriend doing the obligatory boyfriend thing. Who needs 'em?

-jenn

 
At 2:21 AM, June 25, 2004, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Thanks, everyone, for your words of encouragement. Much appreciated to know I ain't alone!

 

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