Since deciding to stay in my condo, all I see are possibilities for home improvement and refreshment. Gazing into my bedroom over the weekend, I considered my bed. It’s a Mission style — not “missionary style” which is what I thought it was and then thought I’d better look up, which turned out to be wise — with an upholstered headboard and footboard. It occurred to me I could reupholster this bed. It would be like a new bed. But this might cost a fortune. A large or small fortune, I had no idea. I remembered that my friend Craig used to do upholstery for a living, so I emailed him.
It’s been years since I talked to Craig. He wrote back right away and said it would cost probably $1k. Craig was happy to learn I’ve returned to Chicago. He read some time ago that I had fallen in love and moved away; he referred to this blog post. The instant I read the title, “Fons In Love,” this Dorothy Parker poem sprang to my head:
“Into love and out again/Thus I went and thus I go/Spare your voice and save your pen/Well and bitterly I know/All the songs were ever sung/All the words were ever said/Could it be when I was young/Someone dropped me on my head?”
That post Craig read is two and a half years old. Good grief, I thought. Things have changed and changed and changed again since then and yes, into love and out again is a big part of the story.
A student of mine at the U of C came to class late, missed one entirely, and told me several times, breathless, “I’m a mess, I’m sorry. I’m a total mess these days, I’m just a complete disaster.” I told her in a grave tone that she shouldn’t tell that story about herself. I told her, “You’re not a mess. You’re human. Don’t say that stuff; you’ll start to believe it.” This is a strong conviction of mine.
As I catch up with a friend from the past and detail my love life since he saw me, it’s important for me not to paint my own portrait as the hapless single woman and/or an embittered Dorothy Parker because I’ve been in relationships that “didn’t work out.” I don’t feel hapless and I’m not bitter about it — not yet. I don’t believe I’m a commitment-phobe. I don’t think I have “bad luck” with men. I never say, sarcastically, to girlfriends or sisters, “I sure know how to pick ’em!” and then roll my eyes and slap my forehead. The portrait of me as flake, as “crazy” or useless at relationships is not one I want to draw, even in jest, because those sentiments can very well create a picture of a person to herself and to everyone else.
The men I have chosen to spend serious time and life with have all been exceptional. For one reason or another these relationships have not become marriages (well, except for the one) or decades-long partnerships and that’s okay. It’ll happen — or not. All I know is that when I fall for someone, it’s real. I can’t turn it off and why on Earth would I want to? Later, if there’s trouble that truly rots and stinks, or if I start to lose my identity, or either of us starts to compromise core values, (or someone moves far away) then the relationship closes that particular chapter. Does this make me hapless? Unlucky in love? Selfish? It’s hard to be single, sometimes, not because I don’t like being alone — I do — but because when you’re single and closer to 40 than 20, you start to be the subject of conjecture. She must be a nightmare to live with. She must be obsessed with her career. She might be repressing some aspect of her sexuality. She must be impossible to please. None of these things are true about me, but I found myself getting very self-conscious telling Craig that no, I was no longer in love, and the love affair he mentioned was a whole love affair ago.
Who knows. Give me ten more years of “into love and out again” and maybe I’ll eat my hat, erase this post, and drink vodka all day like Dorothy Parker did and make cutting remarks about men and their faults. But today, I don’t want to feel hard toward love or my choices in love. I don’t want to feel impoverished or insane as I tell an old friend about my heart’s thrashing around. I just want my bed reupholstered for under $1k because that is not happening right now.
Dottie, bring us home:
“Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song/A medley of extemporanea/And love is a thing that can never go wrong/And I am Marie of Romania.”