Am I a grownup yet?
My current reading material inspired a fit of literary identification on the subway that messed me up darned good. The following paragraph leaped out of Cold Mountain and slapped my normally introspective self back to its senses.
All in all, she suspected that her performance had been glib. Or flinty and pinched. None of which she really wanted to be. True, those manners had their uses. They excelled in causing people to take half a step back and give one breathing room. But she had fallen into them out of habit, and at the wrong time, and she regretted it. She feared that without some act of atonement they would take hold and harden within her and that one day she would find herself clenched tight as a dogwood bud in January.
Shit. Flinty? Pinched? Breathing room? Somehow I’ve slipped closer than I’d realized to being that clichéd bitter single New Yorker never at a loss for a caustic comment about the dating scene.
I was once a petulant pigtailed girl running around the playground kicking the shins of all the boys (including the one she liked), and I’m trying very hard to feel like I’ve progressed in the past few decades. It’s not at all clear if I have. I’ve always been good at getting people to take a half step back (usually several whole steps), but that seems like a second grader’s security blanket. What’s worse, when I get people to step back, its usually compensating for the fact that I’m hurt they don’t want to get closer. How ridiculous is that?
This weekend I mumbled incoherent expressions of fondness into a closing subway door, allowed my friends to steal my mobile phone for an afternoon and send embarrassing text messages, and did laps at a party around an old crush hoping to impress upon him his obvious need to regret having given me the brush off. One saving grace of the past 48 hours is that said classy adult-like cocktail party was a perfectly decent opportunity to take the Magical Black Dress out for another unsuccessful spin. Then again, perhaps my belief in its magical powers is one more childish fantasy.
What frustrates me about the expectations of dating nowadays is that everything hinges upon this supposed lightning-bolt flash of attraction that’s supposed to occur when meeting someone new. It’s all about the catchy profile picture, the perfect headline, the eye contact at the opposite end of the bar, the sideways glance on the subway. But nobody meets anyone on the subway, that’s ludicrous.
I also am at a decided disadvantage due to my painful shyness in the presence of cute guys and utter inability to flirt. As one of my oldest friends put it delicately:
Thea, you’re awesome, but you really don’t got game.
I don’t. And that’s okay–I’m not interested in the game, the chase, or the hunt. What does interest me is the intricate process of getting to know someone, feeling comfortable enough to share my quirks and dreams, making an intellectual connection and having someone express genuine interest in me. Genuine feeling is highly underrated around here–there’s a lot of play, playing the field, and in the immortal words of Cogsworth, promises you don’t intend to keep.
I shouldn’t act so sanctimonious; I’ve been guilty of the “Oh definitely, we should do this again sometime” line, but I’d like to think that I’ve only used it sparingly when it was abundantly clear that “doing this again sometime” would be a wretched prospect for both parties.
In this perplexing and fascinating city I can most weeks manage to feed myself and my cat, battle my addiction to well-written television, get stuff done at work (and care about it), exercise a little and keep in touch with a few close friends. These seemingly trivial grown-up tasks require a surprising amount of effort.
Unlike every other fully-grown New Yorker don’t work my social calendar from a BlackBerry (hell, like half the prepubescent ones too), hoard phone contacts and cold-call acquaintances on a whim. And I can’t manage to find the headline that make people want to read the story on page A26. Or maybe I’ve just got the wrong headline, and they end up flipping through the damn paper for light subway reading only to find find a massive and meandering op-ed piece. I swear, it’s a great story! Textured, witty–not flinty and pinched at all.
I wish I could just grow up and get over my stupid desire to hide and giggle behind the biggest tree on the playground when I run into someone I like, but I’m not quite sure how to do that.
In the meantime, I’m trying not to live my life in the sad, sad state of the January dogwood.