(Previously on The War Bride: female narrator gets out of a country she hates, only to discover she can’t function in a normal environment; opts for a strategic retreat, starts wondering if that’s all there is.)
I’ve seen the Ibiza thing happen in other people’s lives.
Heather, the lead in Irvine Welsh’s “The Undefeated”, chooses the very same spot for her first break from an unhappy home life, but she can barely leave her hotel room: while her friend Marie seems pretty happy “swanning around the bars in San Antonio”, Heather spends a horrifying week as a shut-in, alternatively berating herself for the failure of her marriage and bawling her eyes out. She flies home earlier, determined to ride it out, but she knows a vacation was not the wisest choice as far as The Rest Of Her Life is concerned.
I pored over Welsh’s novels in my early twenties, hoping to feel, uh, chemically in tune with someone who employed the same recreational tools I did. In the end, what really stuck was the loneliness of a single woman. Fancy that.
I started thinking about it as I headed home again. It’s an old question.
Do feel lonely, or are you alone?
I’m not truly alone – I failed in securing a mate, but I was blessed in the friends department. (Granted, most of them didn’t know me when all I hoped was to spontaneously combust, but some people who had known me for 10+ years still took me back – turns out they did want me to get help, but were afraid they’d fare much worse with an intervention. Can’t blame them on this one.)
So, I guess I’m lonely.
I know. A single woman in her thirties must be stored in one of two separate containers. There’s Box A, for those unattached and loving every minute of it, thus capable of having sex with the reckless abandon of fictional males; and there’s Box B, for those who are pretty much ready to surrender themselves to an eternity of old-maidenhood.
I’m 32, and I’m looking for Box C. But that’s not the issue here.
There’s Us Girls, with the artfully displayed banter, the tee-hee and the flirtation trigger. There’s usgirls, eyes on the nonexistent prize, desperate for a glimpse at coupledom, and oh, the lenghts we’ll go to be spared but one word.
There’s a lot of us.
You know it.
You love it.
You thrive on our lack of marriageability.
We’re the living, breathing example of When Holding Out For A Hero Goes Wrong. There is comfort to be had in the spectacle of us, keeping ourselves busy with things such as late night cable fare, 12-step self-improvement programs, questionable life choices – and unabashedly poor judgement whenever male society enters the fold.
No hard feelings. I’d probably do the same if I were you.
Call it poor-Heatherness.
I just read “Hey Nostradamus!”, and one thing hit me from the start.
When I used to read Douglas Coupland as a girl, I couldn’t really wrap my head around the amount of pain his signature characters suffered because of them being alone. It all seemed a bit much. Like the author was using “loneliness” as a plain character trait, or maybe it was his notion of style that made him choose that literary path.
I’m afraid I judged those characters. Bad idea.
Because, you see, now I know that feeling. I own that feeling. You’re thirty, you get up in the morning, you take one look at the bathroom mirror and you go, Lord, I have another forty-odd years of this ahead of me. What am I going to do.
As much as it pains me to admit it, that very same loneliness I despise is what kept me alive – scratch the past tense. It still does.
It gave me room to breathe when I needed it bad. It allowed me to pursue a career when I wasn’t happy with a job. Best of all, it stayed with me as I started writing for a living. It narrowed my focus to a chapter, a paragraph, right down to a single word.
Loneliness doesn’t have a gender. It’s just an it.
And it does have a downside, because being like this just hurts. But if I had to choose between securing a companion while carrying around such a sense of displacement, and staying alone in the here and now, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
I’ve been a fool to think I ever could.
Here I wrote something about my body being both the target and the way out for any undesirable emotion. I tend to follow similar cues when entertainment is concerned. If I want to read, watch, or listen to something, I shall. It’s not a solace thing as much as a food-and-shelter kind of thing. Sometimes you know what you need, and that is that.
Last week I was driven to watch a four hour BBC miniseries based on “Emma”.
Brutal, I know. But you do what you gotta do.
And I’m no Austenite in need of a quick fix, but something about Emma always hit the spot. (So much more than “Pride and Prejudice”, cause if that were the case, I’d have been all up in a Bollywoodish adaptation, and I can vouch on that not happening). So, I just went with it.
As it turned out, “Emma” served a double purpose: it kept me vaguely entertained, and it smacked the back of my head like an exceptionally well-spoken two-by-four.
When Harriet balks at her refusing to even consider marriage, Emma offers a reasonable explanation for such an outlook on “romance”: she’s independently wealthy, so she doesn’t have to put herself on the market; she’s occupied, what with running her own house, tending to her own needs and so on; best of all, she’s never going to end up “an old maid” like their neighbour Miss Bates, for she will always be able to rely on her personal fortune and position to avoid the ugly label.
My twelve year old self was dead on in feeling cheated by Disney’s take on “The Little Mermaid”. Losing a beautiful singing voice for a twat. Bitch had it coming.
Of course – we all know how it ends: Emma marries because she falls in love, not out of family obligations or a misplaced sense of propriety. She gets the guy and the life. But first and foremost, she stops making plans, and learns to see what’s what.
I thought I had it all in my head. I let myself get so carried away with the notion of leaving, I forgot to look around.
It had always been there, really.