"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Friday, September 25, 2015

what even?

Now Playing: Someone New by Hozier (some like to imagine the dark caress of someone else, I guess any thrill will do) 

I'm nearly twenty years old, I am about to graduate uni, and I've never been on a date.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not really sure how to date.

I spent most of school not having a boyfriend; and I spent all of that time really needing a boyfriend. High school is a pretty conservative place, and single women are treated kind of like lepers, but also like lost property; we were unclaimed baggage.

I very briefly had a boyfriend in year eight or nine. And by 'very brief' I am not joking; it lasted three days, two of those days being the weekend, which we spent on the opposite ends of the vast Perth suburban sprawl. We were a thing Friday night and not a thing Monday afternoon and absolutely nothing happened in the interim. My thirteen year old self took the whole thing a bit personally, but evidently not as personally as my beau, who is in the habit of drunkenly stealing phones off of our mutual friends to beg forgiveness, six years on.


My friends, my mother, and all and sundry assured me that I would meet THE ONE at uni; I'd lock eyes over lattes with some cute boy in the back of sociology and things would hit off and we would raise our kids on our mutual love of Shakespeare and Annabel Crabb. Three years on and I can no longer afford the daily brew, I dropped out of sociology, and the one boy I did like from that class turned out to be Kinsey-six gay, so that turned out really well.

What did happen was that I joined student politics; and, in the back end of fresher year, I found myself very drunk and surrounded by a lot of other really drunk student politicians in shitty student bars. I refer to this point in my life as the time of poor life choices, but they weren't really choices, given that I wasn't really conscious for a lot of it.

The one thing that I did learn at the end of it is that white people do actually glow in the dark, it is possible to have such a cold sexual encounter that you literally catch a cold in between the lack of clothing and the lack of human contact, and my poor sweet innocent seventeen year old self learned some hard lessons about not conflating sex with anything else.

That was a really, really hard lesson to learn; it was unlearning everything I had ever known, trying to force myself to see this weird, strange, cold, alien perspective on life. And it's not really a lesson that I've ever fully accepted, anyway; I learned other things. I learned that there's a lot to play with between 'vapid disconnect' and 'true love', and that intimacy and privacy are strange things that sometimes coexist and sometimes there is a certain heat in the moment, a certain quality to the fractured light of the l'heure blue, that is beautiful and exciting and ethereal. I learned that love is complicated and romantic love is vastly overrated and that you don't have to turn yourself into a block of ice to interact with people on a not-so-platonic level.

I think my greatest fear when I was younger was that being single meant being sexless; it meant living a life totally devoid of human contact. I've always been a very sexual person and having no outlet for that was unbearable; but admitting to yourself and to the world that you are a fuck love, give me diamonds kind of person is not really an option when you're sixteen and at school. I have a really fulfilling life and I'm more secure in myself than I ever was in high school, both in my three days of being a girlfriend and my thousand days of not. And that fulfillment comes not just from friends and pasta and sex but also spending a lot of time by myself, enjoying my own company - which is always something that I've needed, but in my younger and more vulnerable years had a bit too much of. I've realized how much time and energy I spent making myself Appealing and Attractive, how much of my time and energy was wasted on what other people thought of me and I just Don't Care anymore. It's delicious, living your life solely for you. I didn't know who I was, when I was in high school, outside of my grades or my ferocious need for a boyfriend. Now I know so much more about who I am and what I want outside of my dubious grades and my no longer very pressing quest for The One.  

Most people have a period of serial monogamy between being a high school wallflower and a BNOC party animal; I didn't (I also don't have the commitment issues and habit of failing units and changing my degree to stay on campus long enough to become a proper BNOC). So here's the thing; I'm getting on a bit, you know. It's weird, being my age and never knowing anything else aside from singledom. I love my late night rendezvous and short lived flings but I'd like to mix it up a bit and here's the clincher - I don't know how.

It took me a long time to learn how to navigate hook up culture and keep some semblance of self and sanity intact. I don't know how to date. I don't understand how you can meet a total stranger in the understanding that you are potentially romantically and/or sexually attracted to each other, or at least are attracted to the notion of a romantic and/or sexual relationship, and I don't understand how that can't be the most awkward thing on the planet.

Anxiety has had the unpleasant side effect of making me nervous, jumpy, and perpetually awkward. I avoid this state by avoiding people, and occasionally by avoiding sober consciousness, and in the context of hook up culture a great deal can be achieved in an impressive state of inebriation. I don't even feel like I'm hiding behind it, but more that I become more of myself after a few drinks - I used to be a really loud, bubbly person and you get some of that back when you drown out the anxiety with a few overpriced cocktails; I don't really get drunk enough to do anything monumentally stupid anymore. I really am in awe in alcohol's role as social lubrication and it is extraordinarily freeing, when you spend most of your life trapped in endless doomed spirals of really toxic, or sometimes just really twitchy, trains of thought. But somehow I think it is poor form to show up at a date blind drunk.

More to the point is that I like how blunt and honest and forward you can be in hook up culture; we live in a society where women are supposed to be quiet and have a really florrid, indirect way of speaking and of articulating their needs and wants and rights, which just turns out bad for everyone involved. It's scary, being a go-getter kind of person as well as a person with very particular and specific boundaries that need to be constantly spelled out and reinforced - especially as a woman, and I've become the brave, bold, no-bullshit kind of person I wish I was before I ended up elbow-deep in some nasty shit I was too timid to talk my way out of. I don't know how to be that person in a situation when nobody is being upfront about what they want.

My generation is constantly being accused of being in love with disconnect, and I strongly disagree; we just seek different kinds of connection. I'm big into online video and I love the communities that are created between people who have something more in common than geographical proximity. I am of the unpopular opinion that there is real value in relationships that don't last forever, and that a lot of love and respect can exist in spaces that have been stigmatized as seedy and sleazy. But we are not a generation of dinner dates; it's just never anything I could get into, for the longest time, and now I feel the desire and also the expectation to date, and I have no idea what I'm doing. I've enjoyed the independence and autonomy of being a single young adult; it's an interesting break from being a Child who is always told What To Do. But this is not how I imagined living out my life, and as much as I enjoy the varied company and the emotional privacy of the life I've had as an undergrad it's no longer imperative that I have vast quantities of time to myself. I've never felt the need to collect as many lovers as I can; it's more like I've found myself in this culture of blue hour romances and enjoyed the ride, but I won't entirely be sad to see it go. But I don't know how to date. That's a class I clearly slept through.

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