“I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member. That’s the key joke of my adult life in terms of my relationships with women.” – Woody Allen, in the opening scene of Annie Hall
Substitute the word women for men and you have the answer to the inevitable question of “why are you still single?” A question every 20 something year old woman who’s never been in a serious relationship inevitably gets from nosy relatives, potential suitors, people who have no potential of being suitors, coupled up friends, hairdressers, the woman you cat-sit for, her cat, well you get the gist. For years my answer has simply been “I haven’t met the right person” to which tilted heads and sympathetic smiles ensued and sometimes even an “ah don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll meet someone soon. You’re still young after all and you’d better focus on your studies at any rate.” I’d nod and think to myself “yes, yes I will,” yet it never even crossed my mind to think that I was the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been dating quite a lot. I only realised quite how much when in a game of Truth or Dare my conservative approximation of the number of people I’ve kissed was twice that of the second highest bidder. I’m not that much of a flirt so I can only put this down to the lengthy period of my being single.
I’ve dated some weirdos to be fair but most people I decided to end things with I had found perfectly nice but boring. Yet, looking back I’ve realised the people who ended things with me weren’t that much more interesting – in fact I’ve definitely dodged a few bullets along the years. What played with my heartstrings wasn’t the value I saw in them and thought I’d missed out, it was a case of false excitement when things went badly. I’m now starting to realise that I took pleasure in things going wrong. I blamed them and victimised myself over and over again. Finally, things weren’t boring.
I remember in primary school we used to play games where we’d fight over who gets to be kidnapped, or hurt or killed. We got a thrill out of being the victim. I suppose it was attention-seeking by and large but what if it shows something deeper about what I, like many other girls expect from a whirlwind romance? I used to always get my favourite dolls to be the damsel in distress. Sometimes a neighbour’s son would come over to play and he just didn’t get it. The time came for one of them to die or disappear, something negative in any case and I naturally cast Carmen my favourite Barbie to be the leading lady of this melodrama. To this act he objected and said I should choose the one I least liked. He didn’t understand. Perhaps it’s a girl thing? Is it in our DNA to want to be rescued? Or can we attribute this to the hundreds of fairy tales where the beautiful princess falls victim to something or other? Is there no other way to catch a man’s attention but by needing his help?
Fast-forward a few years and here I am listening to Billie Holiday singing the blues in the middle of the night and wishing I’d been as hurt as she was so I can fully experience the songs’ heartbreak. But it’s not heartbreak I’m after. Contrary to the image I’ve painted so far, I’m not a masochist. It’s excitement I’m after. You wouldn’t think it just by looking at me but I’m a hopeless romantic. I want someone to meet me at the top of the Empire State Building, to have Breakfast at Tiffany’s with, to tell me “Here’s looking at you, kid.” I want passion yet that often comes with pain.
Once, after being asked by a friend if I thought I was getting too emotionally attached to someone I answered, “well he hasn’t given me any reason to get emotional of yet.” And ay, there’s the rub: the heroine can’t simply fall in love with someone attainable. People would leave the theatre ASAP and ask for their money back. So, I blame my rejection of anything too easily gained (and obsession over being the one rejected as the other side of the same coin) to those romantic Hollywood stories, the Jane Austen novels and last but not least my failure to grow up and discern reality from fiction. I need that club to reject me in order to desperately seek its membership.
We’re Durham students after all and rejection will always strike a chord.
Featured image by Sally Nakai