When I was in grade school, my older sister and I would talk about our future husbands, and how many children we’d have. I chose Mr.T as my life partner. I was sure we’d make a great couple, what with our shared affinity for warm milk and overalls and all.
I started dating in earnest at the precocious age of 12; my first day of 6th grade, I was "asked out" a popular boy who was cute but very quiet. We had never actually talked to one another, so after a week I broke it off by sending my best friend off to deliver the news. He and I haven’t made eye contact since.
Throughout middle school, I hopped from boy to boy. The relationships lasted about 9 months on average, and usually ended when I got bored. Someone new would catch my eye, and all of the sudden my current flame and I would have "problems." These relationships were more substantial; steamy make-out sessions, steamier love notes, fraught with engagement rings, elaborate secret dates and ridiculous fights.
You know, kid stuff.
By the time I was 14, I started my first "adult" relationship. I hadn’t even broke up with my previous boyfriend when I started pursuing him. We were together for 2 years and 7 months -- at which point I moved on to his funnier, non-drug addled roommate. Thus was my pattern: date a guy, find a new one, break up with the old one, repeat.
I have literally never been single. Not for a week.
People usually make pretty big assumptions about me when they hear this, but I swear, I think the reality of the situation is pretty boring. Remember that old adage about correlation not equaling causation? Keep that in mind.
Obviously, I had huge co-dependency issues.
I didn’t have the most stable home life as a child -- my desire for stability is probably one of the strongest driving forces I am in control of. I am calm when I don’t owe money, have a place to live and a means of conveyance. But how does a boyfriend work into that?
It’s part of the "everything in it’s right place" feeling. Like I’ve figured out that part of my life, and therefore can move on to more pressing things. I felt The Boyfriend was an obvious part of the package of Having One’s Shit Together. The problem was instead of finding stability in myself, I would expect it from the relationship as well. So when a partner cheated on me, or used his half of the rent on drugs, I was thrown into a panic that Everything is Falling Apart.
After this happened for the millionth time, I realized that you can’t just expect a dude that lives in a van behind the 7-11 to be dependable. Did I mention that a huge part of always having a boyfriend is to literally have no standards?
Do I wish I'd made some "me" time?
Is it fair to say “Kind of”? Growing up in a big family, I never had me time. I had younger siblings and livestock to look after, there was only three bedrooms and one bathroom between 7 people. I was used to constant interaction, and the only time I had to myself was when I snuck out in the middle of the night to play in the woods.
By the time I moved out, I was used to having people around. And while I’ve always had my own friends, interests and such, I do wish I’d been free to do as I pleased, especially when I was younger and had no real obligations. I was really lucky in that I did cool stuff like traveling, but where I went, and what I did when I got there was always a joint decision.
I will always wonder what I would have done differently in life without a person in bed next to me, telling me art degrees are for weiners. Even though a good relationship lets you grow, there’s no denying that your partner will also have an eye on their best interests, and shared resources almost always mean shared decisions.
The one time I lived alone I ended up getting really paranoid about every sound outside, and covered the windows on my door with TINFOIL. After about 2 months of playing the same records on repeat (KC and The Sunshine Band, and Joni Mitchell, if you’re interested), eating tinned tuna fish and hanging out UNDER MY BED drinking wine, I moved in with my boyfriend. I felt like I wasn’t really in control when I had too much time to myself; like being around other people made me more "normal," for better or worse.
But before you clutch your cat and declare that you’ll die alone, I swear to you I haven’t been totally crushed under the needs and wants of my partner. Not always. But sometimes, yes. The crushing totally sucks. But I’m also wracked with the Catholic Guilt, so I feel like if it wasn’t my partner, it would be my friends and families’ demands on my time and energy that would be limiting; I’m the sort of person that likes to "help," even if I have no time or business doing so.
I’ve always been told that I "need" to be single for a bit, to develop "myself." I’d like to think I have a strong enough sense of self that I can do that while I’m dating someone.
We all have different experiences, and sometimes you don’t PLAN to be single, or be in a relationship. Maybe you’re a sappy sucker for a boy that lives on a boat. My best friend is currently dating, and I am HUNGRY for details. I think it’s kind of selfish that she doesn’t let me screen/Internet stalk her Match.com matches. Dating always seems like so much fun, but I’m either really good or really bad at it, depending on your perspective. Bottom line: You do you.
And while my friends had fun playing the field, I had other, different fun. Since I was always cohabiting, I had relatively low bills, and it made it easier for me save money or pay for school. I met loads of cool people, and learned so much from each person I dated, and am still friends with most of them.
Did I fritter away my youth playing house? Is dating as fun as television tells me it is? What was the most important thing you’ve learned from being alone? Serial monogamist? I know I’m not the only one...