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This was supposed to be a post about driving and why I don’t and how it’s affected my relationships with women, but before I even wrote a single word, I had one of those small epiphanies that don’t quite change your world forever, but still manage to make it seem just a little bit more comfortable to live in.
To sum up what that original article would have said: I don’t drive because I don’t think I would be a good driver and one the risks of being a bad driver is that you might accidentally kill someone and that’s a risk I am simply not willing to take -- regardless of the potential inconvenience and judgment of others. And while I am certain that my unwillingness to drive has caused me to be dismissed as a viable sexual being by more than one potential partner, I would guess that as far as my cockblocking personal flaws go, it’s not high on the list. I doubt it would even make the top ten.
In fact, whenever I hear anyone talking about the qualities they don’t find attractive in men, I always get the feeling that I could use the composite suspect sketch that resulted as a fairly accurate online profile pic (although I like to think I have more hair). And the truth is, I’m okay with this. If everyone on the planet were as innately fuckable as Jordan Catalano, the over-population crisis caused by all the 24-7 boning would have robbed the planet of its resources centuries ago.
Many of these faults I can’t do anything about. Barring my sudden possession of an ancient monkey’s paw or a magical boom box inhabited by the mystical spirit of Shaquille O’Neal, I’m never going to be any taller. And even if I did find myself blessed with three wishes, I’d probably waste them on:
A) A wish to ensure that none of my other two wishes would result in ironic or negative consequences that would make me regret having made them
B) World peace
C) A healthy zero-calorie sugar substitute that doesn’t taste like poison
But a lot of the things that currently define who I am are very much within my control, such as my unwillingness to drive. This is what led me to the epiphany I mentioned above. If it really truly mattered to me that most women don’t find me attractive, I would do something about it. I would learn how to drive and become more concerned about making money and do everything I could to disguise the flaws I couldn’t completely erase. If I were genuinely concerned about partnering off, I would have done it by now.
Because the thing is, I know I’m capable of significant personal transformation. I did it in my 20s, when I abandoned the angry, bitter cynicism that I liked to pretend was objective honesty, once I realized that instead of protecting me from the harsh realities of the world, all it really did was keep me focused on them. From that moment on, I chose to live my life as an optimist who understands that as bad as the world can be, it will never stop being a place capable of great joy and happiness.
If I could do that, I could certainly learn how to operate a stick shift (and with that I’ve just exhausted all of my automobile terminology). The fact that I had no desire to do so clearly meant that the potential reward didn’t seem worth it to me. But then that begs the question: Is there something wrong with my being at peace with the idea of being alone?
Short answer: Probably, but I’m okay with it.
To get at the longer, more complicated answer, we have to make an important distinction that a lot of people who fear being single are unable to make -- the difference between “alone” and “lonely”. Now these states share some similarities beyond their just having “lone” in them, and it is possible -- even easy -- to be both at the same time, but despite this they are not the same thing.
Lonely is a feeling. One that has nothing to do with how many people are around you at any given time. I’ve never felt lonelier as a kid than the moments when I sat in a class of odd-numbered students and knew that when the teacher asked us to break up into pairs for an assignment, I would always be the one who ended up without a partner. I was surrounded by people, but knew I couldn’t turn to any of them.
When I was 21, I was living by myself in a small apartment, working at industrial supply warehouse. A disastrous attempt to move in with friends from school ended after six months and found me completely shut off from my social group. My life consisted of nothing but going to work, watching TV, and spending hours trying to login to my brother’s university Internet account. Entire weekends would pass without my saying a single word to anyone. It felt like if I offered anyone in the world a billion dollars to acknowledge my existence, no one would come to collect the prize.
That was as lonely as I’ve ever been. 15 years later I can barely remember what that feeling felt like, even though my life hasn’t changed all that significantly since then. The one difference is that I now live in a world where I have people I can turn to. My existence is acknowledged constantly -- even sometimes when I’d prefer it wasn’t. I am often alone, but I can’t think of the last time I truly felt lonely.
In my experience, a lot of people seem to automatically assume that being alone is the same thing as being lonely. It’s why they desperately reach out to the first person that comes along after a relationship ends -- not because they’re actually compatible, but because the other person is willing to fill the relationship slot until someone more suitable comes along. Speaking as an observer, it’s never struck me as a happy way to live. I’ve seen a lot of people spend time with partners they can barely tolerate out of fear of an empty bed or movie theatre seat. This is precisely how Heather Mills happens and it doesn’t have to.
Beyond the fear of loneliness, a lot of people are terrified of the stigma that can come with being single. Fortunately for me, I’ve always been too oblivious to notice the slights and disdain that I’ve heard single people face. I’m so used to other people’s condescension, I react to it like a celebrity does their adoration -- I yawn and check out what’s happening on Twitter.
A few weeks ago Mandy wrote:
“A big thing about me is that I think I need to have hope. Hope and possibility. That's what gets me high. Authentic connection, too. Feeling like there is the possibility that maybe I won't die alone cheers me up and keeps me going. It fuels me. (Although, my relationship with myself and my girlfriends and my male friends and my family fuels me, too, but I think you know what I mean. A life partner can serve as such an awesome "reflection" of humanity. It's the best when it synchs. But when it's wrong, yeah, I like being alone better.)”
Mandy’s older than I am (by a day -- or a buncha hours at least), so I respect her wisdom. I also understand that fear of dying alone, although I always tend to worry more about the dying part than the other half of that equation. But in my case, I’ve accepted that having hope for the future includes accepting the possibility that I might have to find happiness without someone at my side. And, really, that should be the goal -- finding happiness. I like to think I’m getting so much better at this than I ever have been before.
Because I am an optimist, I can also accept the possibility that a potential soul mate might someday come my way. If that were to happen, I like to think I wouldn’t automatically push her away (although that does kinda sound like something I might do). It’s just that I’ve decided that I have better things to do besides searching for her -- especially since I’d be doing it on foot.