On Sunday morning I posted this tweet. An old friend of mine George was so touched by it, that it made it onto his ''Favourite Tweets'' page and I think I got quoted for the first time ever. I can't claim that this is an original idea. I started thinking about this after watching Before Midnight, the third in the amazing series of films by directors and writers Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I think these three films are in my top 5 films ever because they aren't so much about the traditional narrative in story or film making. All three films are essentially a series of very long and very interesting conversations about life, love and relationships, told candidly and ever so accurately. This idea where you live your life consumed by your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, your kids and all the people that are the most important to you, came up in the third film when one of the characters complains that she has no time for herself. I won't be a spoil sport by divulging any more of the plot but this particular notion inspired a very interesting change of mind in me personally.
I don't think I have ever discussed my relationship life on my blog with good reason. One, It's nobody's business. Two, and this is fucking hilarious, there is no relationship life to discuss and it has been like that for about two years. I'm 28 and when I was younger, or at least when I ended my last relationship in 2011, I thought by now, I would certainly be in a stable relationship probably heading towards marriage and all that trite we are fed as children, teenagers, and young adults of ''marrying age''. It's not complete trite that life is better when it's shared with a partner. Humans are social beings. I remember visiting my sangoma earlier this year and having a consultation about general life things. I never ask her about what my romantic prospects are because I would rather have it as a complete surprise. Sometime during the consultation, we started talking about relationships and while we didn't get into any detail about my prospects, she did relay the importance of being with someone you love and advised me to talk to my ancestors and ask them 'how are they supposed to eat if I don't eat'? ''Phela they must send you someone so that they can have cows otherwise they will starve for eternity'', she said. I laughed about it and left but at the back of my mind, it did plant a seed of doubt as to whether I would ever find someone to truly love. While I know that falling in love and getting married is not a priority right now, there's always that niggling feeling that makes me feel like...well, like shit.
In the last two years, I went from saying: ''I'm too young/I don't want to settle down yet/I want to explore my sexuality/Yeah ok let's make out and go to your house/Why hasn't he called?/There's nothing wrong with calling him first/''Sooooo what is this, What are we doing?/I can't deal with black guys/I'm done with white guys/I'm really tired of watching DVD's by myself/This bottle of wine isn't going to finish itself//Yeah no see you around/Sex without love is violence - to my current state which is ''I have not met anyone I like enough to change my life for''. In that tumultuous period of youthful indulgence, I hooked up with handful of guys, one smoking girl, some of them nice men and others rats and snakes, and nothing was ever serious. It was all just for ''fun'' even though deep down it hurt that my phone wasn't ringing the next day with requests to see me again. In retrospect, thank God because while some of them are nice human beings, we are mismatched and it took me a while to realise that that's ok, that it's not always about me. I tried the ''let's just kick it'' approach and I'm terrible at it. I get too emotionally involved and I can't help it and eventually I realised I should never have to leave my feelings at the door for anyone. After a year of fooling around, I decided that I'm not going to do anymore random hookups until I meet someone whom I actually like and can see myself in a relationship with. That was in motherfucking July of Two Thousand and Twelve. I've been very good and haven't broken my rule bar one drunken night with someone I used to date. Essentially, I've been a nun. I've been on one terrible date this whole year and for the most part, there have been no boys in my hood and I would love to say that I've been mature enough to accept that that's ok. No it hasn't. It has sucked. Mostly because of how I chose to look at it.
Unfortunately, for the last few months, I have been complaining to my friends and acquaintances about how tired I am of being single already, how lonely I have been feeling, how I need to have a steady boyfriend who will appreciate my boobs while they are still taut, someone who can help me make decisions, someone to be funny to, someone to be vulnerable and intimate with, someone who will bear witness to my existence and all the other wonderful reasons why it's nice to have a really nice partner in your life. My other single friends and I have parleyed about this many many times over dinner and drinks, all of us swinging between self pity and resentment over one little fact: there is a real and very serious shortage of like minded men of a certain age and inclination for independent, intelligent and attractive (mostly black) women of certain inclinations in Johannesburg. [This is a meaty topic for a new series I'm starting in January]. I've been living on the dark side of high expectations and have generally felt despondent, resentful and frustrated with the romantic part of life.
The media, my friends in happy relationships and society's unspoken rules about gender roles in romantic relationships - all of these factors are contributors to this ''What's wrong with me?'' attitude that some single women tend to have. The word ''single'' is contentious because it projects being in a relationship as the rule and being single as the exception. Plus it's always directed at women. Men are bachelors, we're winy single ladies waiting for someone to put a ring on it. I believe that that perception is where the problem starts. It's nice to have a relationship but it's very damaging to the self esteem if one is always constantly looking out of the window where the grass is perceived greener, finding little fulfillment in one's solitude. I think this is what happened to me. I started behaving as if I'm supposed to have a boyfriend, having ridiculous expectations on myself and any guy that showed a mild interest in being in my life, blaming ''society'' for daring to place these expectations on me, blaming men of course for me not liking some of them enough and just generally being a belligerent wet blanket with a terrible attitude towards myself about being living my life alone. God bless this new apartment of mine because as soon as I moved in here, my attitude, because of the environmental change, also changed for the better.
The one thing that comes and goes as it pleases is a sense of loneliness that try as I might, visits me and stays for as long as it likes. And then disappears again for an indefinite period, before is returns to arrest me. Whenever I feel lonely, all I want to do is be alone with my thoughts, my journal and a pen. The irony. I recently decided to let the loneliness in instead of cheating on it by going out to party or to visit a friend or to engage in the many ways of distraction. There have been times when I've just let it be and just wallowed in it until it tires of me and leaves and those times have inspired some special insights into myself, namely that it's the source of my creativity. I have sat for hours spilling myself onto paper thinking what is the cure for loneliness? Is it this? Driving to a place just to be somewhere, surrounded by people? Even people you don't know? Is it walking around aimlessly looking for something to need? Something that will justify your intake of time? Why does it feel like I'm waiting for someone to come and interrupt my life just so that I don't have to be in it alone?
I don't think this feeling ever entirely goes away and I learned that from speaking to married people who said they could identify with some of my feelings of loneliness. I did some research on loneliness (of course I did) and started to feel better because I found that it's a condition or state of mind that all human beings can relate to at different stages in their lives. It is the cauldron of our favourite poems, novels, films and works of art. I read quote upon quote by famous people whose work I admire and I started to look see it as an aid instead of an enemy. My moments of loneliness have suddenly become a conduit for me to discover other parts of myself and to practice spending time with that person, not until someone comes to interrupt my existence so that I can not be lonely, but because my existence is not vapid, there's something to engage with and it starts with me. I've always loved my own company but binge watching series in bed is not the same as spending quality time with your thoughts and feelings.
The result of this change in attitude is the point of this post. I have spent a lot of time wishing for a future I am not even sure I really want yet. I have spent a lot of time convincing myself that my wishful thinking will lead to what I wish for and in the interim, have missed a golden ticket of an opportunity: being in my 20s and loving the lack of responsibility that being single, child free, independent and young comes with. I have family members and friends who are happily married, who have beautiful children , something I want for myself. But certainly not right now. When you're young, your life is consumed by school, your parents, rules and most of us don't generally get to know ourselves until we are living independently. When we're in our twenties, we fall into the dating trap: we tend to rush to want to get into relationships when we are not emotionally and mentally ready for the kind of commitment they require. Then the next thing you know, you've spent the last 5 years of your life with someone you love deeply but you have not lived a life of meaningful independence. You have not enjoyed the freedom that comes with just being a human being with means to tackle the limitations of life on your own steam.
The reason I'm sharing this is because I know there are other people, including men, who have been at odds with their relationship status. I found solace in stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, that while there are some Sunday mornings where I would rather be cuddling a man than an empty box of Chicken Licken wings, I am still very young and there is plenty of time for the REAL responsibilities of adulthood when I am older.
For now, the fact that I can:
Pack a bag, head for the airport and just text my family that I'll be back soon
Apply to go and study any where in the world without consulting anyone
Go out and sleep wherever I want
Have my space to myself
Cook with only me as the judge
Make mistakes with only me as the biggest judge
Read and sleep with no interruptions
Wear a dress with side slits all the way to my boobs and be felt up guilt free
Sing and dance with nobody watching
Be inspired to write by self inflicted pain
Be bored without expecting anyone else to entertain me
Be broke because I don't have other mouths to feed
And a whole other bunch of reasons to enjoy being single and responsible for yourself only.
I'm learning that my time and space are valuable things that I must enjoy now because I might not always have enough of either to myself. Is this a selfish approach? Probably, but it's great. I still look out the window sometimes at that other grass, but with new eyes, with a new sense of relief, more kindness towards myself and a very satisfying sense of ''I can look but I'm not required to touch''. The fact that I have no idea what this prince charming will look like is the best part about going out into the world - that I could meet him today, next year or in a few years. The sense of freedom inherent in the notion ''my life could change at any moment'', is the medicine for my loneliness and real joy in my young life. I think that all human beings want to feel like they have the freedom to pursue their desires, even if we aren't always going to do whatever it is we desire, but that freedom to be is what saves us from boredom and loneliness.