The Cheese stands alone

Marriage feels like betrayal. We know it isn't. We're happy for them. We still love them, but we feel betrayed nonetheless. As the years tick by, we become fewer, the tribe of the single diminishes. That's as it should be.

Remember that game 'Farmer in the dell?' One by one children get chosen as the farmer takes a wife and the wife takes a cow (don't get me started on how sexist and demeaning that one is!) until one child is left alone with no one else to choose. She is the cheese and she stands alone. Even in Kindergarten that struck me as sad and significant. (Cormier's book with the same title is lovely and I highly recommend it.)

The farmer takes a wife and the cheese stands alone. It's been a year for marriages round these parts. One of my midnight chat buddies up and married a girl in Texas. The other chat buddy is engaged. My little sister is engaged. One of my best friends got married in the fall. He is my oldest friend. We grew up together in our crazy ward in southern Florida. His engagement really hit me hard.

The first summer after going to college, I remember being back in Miami in my mother's house. He came over to watch the fireworks with us for the 4th of July. We climbed up and sat on the roof to see them better. It was muggy and noisy with toads and crickets. We joked that any Mormon still single over the age of 25 had to have severe problems. (We, being the tender age of 19 knew everything.) But neither of us wanted to get married too early. We made a wager. Whoever got married first loses. The prize? The loser has to name their first child after the winner, even if the sex doesn't match. To make it even better my friend designated my middle name as the offending price of his failure. His first name was bad enough already.

A decade has passed and we've only seen each other 3 times since then. I went to see him at BYU and he came to see me in New York. But we have kept in touch over the phone. Usually our calls came in the middle of the night and had to do with some romantic crisis. We consoled each other through countless relationship disasters. One of my roommates said she always knew when I was talking to him because I got so loud and laughed so much.

He showed me what it means to have a man love you, truly and unconditionally. The one man in my life whom I have trusted the most. Everyone thought we would get married. We might have if we didn't live on opposite sides of the country. I have a few stories about the two of us, but not for tonight. Tonight is about the cheese.

Last August he called to tell me he bought a ring for his girlfriend. After hearing this I had to shut myself away and cry, because it meant he was leaving. I would lose him. Our friendship would change if it even survived. And there was something else too. As long as he was still single with me then maybe I wasn't such a loser. I knew what a great guy he was and if he was still single... He once suggested we be each other's back-ups, that we should get married if we couldn't find anyone else. I scoffed him away but the words were said. I would lose that too.

And it is so terribly selfish. I am happy for him. But was sad for me. Singletons know how selfish such sentiments are. We grow expert at hiding the infantile reactions. We smile at the ceremonies and buy the best presents we can afford. And congratulate them with real jubilation. But that doesn't make it feel any better when a loved one leaves us for matrimony. It's very confusing to be so happy for them and so sad at the same time. Maybe this is what a parent feels when a child leaves home or marries?

The other side of this trauma looks like pettiness but really isn't, it's the pathos of love. Because the one they leave us for is never good enough. Who is this girl he married? He hasn't known her long enough! What has she done to deserve him? Then there is my sister who also got engaged last year. Her fiancee is definitely not good enough. He made her cry! A lot. He hasn't finished any education that he started and the ring he bought her was too small. But my sister doesn't mind, so who am I to say?

I am the cheese. I think she deserves at least a half carat. But I stand alone.

Our family dynamics will change drastically after she marries. She's younger but will be given authority over me because of her married status. It's silly and Victorian but only married people are real grown-ups. That will be obnoxious but not as bad as the other changes. Christmas will never be the same. We'll probably never sleep in the bunkbeds whispering in mom's guest room, fighting over the cats and complaining about our mother. My sister won't call anymore for advice on men and dating. And she better not ever call me again because he made her cry!

It makes me sad. I lose my little sister. She goes to join a club I don't belong to. My partner in commiseration graduates to better pastures. Of course I'm not really losing her. I haven't lost my friend either. But something is lost because everything changes after marriage.

Please don't forget your lonely cheese, and forgive our selfish sadness. We are truly happy for you. But let us cry for ourselves a little, unlike you, we don't have anyone to 'comfort' us at night.


Good news for a change

Last week I was totally rejected. On sight too. The good news is that it didn't hurt me. Not one little teeny tiny iota. I don't care. Woo hoo!!!! Never before in my whole life have I been able to say that. Even if I didn't care about whatever dude it was, it always cut me to the bone. So I was right that I have undergone a major emotional re-structuring. Maybe it's just age. Whatever. This makes my life easier from now on, and I can conduct my social life in a manner more befitting a 30 year old. (Kill me now!-I'm kidding. It's all ok.)

The bad news is that it reconfirms my prejudices against LDS men. Oh well.

But, the other good news is that my kidney infection, which I suffered for 3.5 months is now gone. My friend finishing medical school sent me the right antibiotics. It's amazing what not having an infection in a major organ does for one.


Dear Celibate, from Disillusioned

Just opened the Celibate mailbox and found an email from a longtime reader. He is struggling and he express what all religious celibates feel at least once a lifetime, maybe once a month, or even once a day. Here's an excerpt:

Short version, right now, all three of those prospects look very good at this point, and to be honest, I've been playing by LDS dating rules for a while, and I'm not seeing much, if any, reward for it. Just a lot of loneliness, frustration, and general disillusionment with the general social atmosphere of the Church. Then, add in the fact that once I'm 31, I'm off to a family ward (thanks to the directive from Salt Lake City concerning young single adult wards), where at best I'm an afterthought, or at worst, they think there might be something wrong with someone in the church who isn't married at 31. I've given serious thought to not even bothering with a family ward once I'm out of the YSA ward.

I feel I'm at the end of my rope, and I'm looking for a good reason NOT to take the first such offer I think I can live with as opposed to continuing with the status quo - and having a hard time coming up with one. I survived the last Valentine's Day - alone, as usual. Just for once, I want something different than being alone. Any sort of relationship (to include "friends with benefits") has to be better than my present situation.

I know how you feel. I've been there. I am there. The first thing is to consider your relationship with God. Remember the promises you made at baptism and why you made them. You didn't do it because He promised you an easy life with a companion on earth. That stuff is icing. Why did you get baptized? Have those things changed? For me the answer was 'no', so I decided to keep on keeping on. It also helped to put my own suffering in perspective. Just remember the horrible lives of the saints and prophets. Choose anyone from the scriptures and their lives probably suck more than yours.

We weren't promised joy in this life. This life is a trial by definition. I think a lot of people in this church forget that. They develop a sense of entitlement, believing that because they've followed the rules they deserve a perfect life. We are promised blessings but we weren't promised we'd have them NOW. Are we more righteous than Christ? His life was terrible! We don't necessarily get rewarded on earth for obedience. This is where faith comes into play. It takes a mountain of faith to keep going when we can't see the benefits.

Another thing that helps me is my belief that God is absolutely fair. So even though I'm alone and bored and hopeless about love, I really believe that everyone struggles as much as I do, just in different ways. So people who have lovers have some things better than I do, but they have other things that make their lives a lot harder.

Then I try to remember that I chose this life I'm complaining about. It was my own devising that got me here. I could have married one or two of the losers from my past but I knew that would cause me great unhappiness. So I suffer this kind of unhappiness instead. Everyone's path is different but we made them ourselves. I am celibate and alone because I chose to be. I'd like things to be different and I look forward to changes but I don't want to compromise. Taking ownership of our circumstances helps alleviate the feeling of victimization. [Can you tell I spent 19 years in therapy? Yuck!]

Disillusioned, you could have one of the skeezes at your fingertips and you'd probably feel better, you'd be less lonely and more relaxed. You'd probably be happier. I'm not going to tell you that you wouldn't. But it is a trade-off. Are you ready to give up your religion for temporal happiness? This is probably the hardest choice religious people have to make. Do you sacrifice happiness now for the truth? I had to remind myself that I think truth is more important than enjoying earth life. Isn't that what it means to be a saint? Isn't Christianity about sacrifice? You're not a Christian because you were promised wine and roses. See the wine and roses for what they are and compare their value to your religion. Which is more important to you?

...I could go on and on with this topic. I've thought about these things for years and years now.

Take care of yourselves.


A little V, a little that

I decided to try to ease back into regular blogging. And regular living. I'm finally rid of my kidney infection. I was sick from about Christmas until last week. It wasn't pretty. The only reason I got better is because my dear friend in Philly sent me some super expensive antibiotics. He's an intern/doctor and was appalled when I told him the treatment I received for my complicated upper UTI. So 10 days of that stuff, a severe cold and a 30th birthday later, things are looking up.

For my return post, I shall review the movie I saw last night, V for Vendetta. Good picture, entertaining, beautiful and moving. However, there were some spots when you just wanted the characters to shut up already and do something. The dialogue got heavy and boring in parts, reminiscent of the Matrix sequels, but the rest of the movie made up for the slow spots. The other beef I have with the flick concerns the kiss between V and Evey. Give me a break. She kissed his mask. Truly an eye-rolling moment which cheapened the relationship between them. They loved each other so I don't see why it had to be sexual. Can't people love each other without sex? Yes! That's what this blog is all about. But the kiss was unbelievable and distracted from the friendship. And not at all sexy either. Other than that I liked the movie a lot. I saw it on IMAX and at times it was breathtaking. It makes me less ashamed to be American. Yes, we voted that buffoon in office but we also make pictures like this one.

Before anyone gets up in arms about my 'ashamed to be american' comment, hold on to your horses. I love this country. I'm proud of what it stands for. But I'm not proud of our administration. The president's fumblings in front of the press and his insulting dependence on cheap rhetorical tricks to get out of answering questions horrifies and shames me. Because I'm partly at fault for his election. I didn't vote for him and I bribed my urban students to vote with extra credit but I probably could have done more. So could we all. That's all I'm saying, I'm ashamed of our leader and mea culpa.

Tomorrow I kind of have a date with someone I've never met before. He's coming in from out of town to see me. Don't worry we're meeting in public etc etc. I'm not sure what to make of this so I'll just try to enjoy myself. He seems like a good guy. I don't have any expectations, I'm going to try to be open to whatever life brings me. The past two years I have been running away from life. That hasn't given me what I wanted so it's time to stop.

One scene from the movie really struck me. Evey chose death over the alternative and was told "You aren't afraid of anything anymore. Now you have real freedom." Me too. Socially I'm there. In terms of my job and teaching, I'm there. I thought I had achieved that for my research but I'm not sure yet. I don't fear failure anymore, I've already failed and survived. Now I have to re-learn ambition and desire, but keep it in context. It won't destory me again.