Friday, September 14, 2012


So, this is just pathetic. It's been nine days since I last posted and in that time I have almost finished one new book. I have been re-reading all of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks mysteries, but even that has been snatched in brief moments, because Adulthood has taken over my life.

Adulthood, damn. When you just have to deal with things, because they are happening and you are a grown-up. It's certainly not always bad, but sometimes it is. Arranging the ultimate fate of my dead car is bad (and so stressful, even though it looks like it will be relatively straightforward in the end). Tearing the house apart trying to find a phantom cable box which the cable company swears I have and without which they will not turn off the cable, which I wanted to get rid of because I'm not using it, is bad and irritating. Attempting to not have a panic attack every five minutes when I think about my mammogram next week is very bad.  

However, there are also the good things about being an adult. And chief among those things is dating as an adult. Dating one pretty fantastic guy, that is, as opposed to being actively on the dating scene. I have no idea what playing the field is like, and frankly would rather never know. I had an OKCupid profile in the last year, but deliberately peppered it with things I knew would mean I'd never be contacted (doesn't drink, recently divorced, stays home, bores you), because I was terrified to date. And to date a complete stranger, whose word you have to take for everything...? God, no. Not with what I've been through.

It's funny; when friends asked me when I was going to start dating, the thing I always thought and never said was, "When one of Olivia and Feste's guy friends is single." I didn't even consider that thought, or come up with reasons why their friends would be the type of guys for me (logically, it makes sense, but the thought popped into my head without weighing it). And so, when Olivia sent me a text slyly suggesting that I come up to their beach house on this specific day for specific reasons, instead of responding that I would be busy hiding under my bed that day (which I probably would have done had anyone else sent me that text), I thought, Okay, let's give this a try, and put on a shamelessly flattering dress and indulged in AC on the drive there. AC! In a car with a black interior, on a 90-degree day, in New England! Why don't I just move to Las Vegas and live on fried cheese, hedonist that I am! 

My monstrously decadent effort to arrive neither shiny nor sweaty apparently worked, though our first date was on a day when it was, at a conservative estimate, eight million degrees and two thousand percent humidity, so that by the end of it he could probably see his reflection in my nose. He called me for a second date anyway.

For several years now I have been watching friends who are in their thirties meet significant others, and fall fast, and move fast. I know several people who got married within a year of meeting their future spouse. I viewed this with intense concern, from the interior of a failing marriage between two people who fell fast and hard for each other.

"It's different when you're in your thirties!" my friends said. "It's so much easier! You know who you are!"

Oh, please, I thought, remembering the way Claudio and I, twenty-three and twenty-four, knew that we were meant for each other forever. How different can it be?

And then I was single and thirty-five, wondering how I would ever feel confident and desirable enough to date after having my world-without-end bargain turn into a rejection of everything I am.

"It's easier!" people kept saying. "Dating as an adult is easier!"

My ass, I kept thinking. My confidence is shot. And it's about confidence, right?

Well. It turned out that, after living by myself for a year, after dealing with cancer, after figuring out a lot about my priorities and what I want and need from the people in my life, it wasn't about walking into a date with some sort of mythical bottomless confidence. It was about walking into a date knowing what makes me happy. Not what validates me as a human being; not what gives me the right to exist, loathsome as I am, because Look I Have a Boyfriend! But what makes me happy. 

That really is what it all came down to. I am still self-conscious about lots of things, my complexion primary among them (especially in summer). But at twenty-four I would have spent that whole first date staring at the floor, pre-emptively crushed because I knew that no one will ever fall for me with my red greasy July skin, and I would have already resigned myself to never hearing from him again, and of course I wouldn't have. And I would have been fixated on that to the extent of not actually processing whether or not I wanted to hear from him again. With that self-loathing voice in your head, you can't hear anything else. You can't get out of your own head long enough to see if you actually like the person you're with. At thirty-five, I was interested in what he had to say, and whether I liked what I was learning about him, and there wasn't any committee in my brain working overtime to try and construct responses he'd like. When he asked questions, I just answered them. Because I knew that if we didn't delight each other then we'd simply call it a day and move on, and it wouldn't mean that either of us was permanently unlovable.

(Of course, that makes me sound like I had it completely together and wasn't nervous at all. Ha! At one point he said something mildly suggestive and winked - literally winked! - at me, and my flirtatious response consisted of stuttering and then saying, "UH." Lauren Bacall, eat your heart out.)

This seems to be adulthood. That, and never for one second not being myself around him. I had a brief spate of panic when I wondered what will happen when the real, boring Beatrice emerges, after all these exciting dates during which I pretended to be spontaneous and social, because that is what happened when I was in my early twenties; and then I realized that the real, boring Beatrice is not waiting in the wings. Berowne has been going on dates with her all along.

"So," says Adulthood, "what was it that everyone was saying about it being easier? That you scorned?"

"Yeah, yeah," I say. "Come back when you can help with this body image thing."

Because, alas, one thing I don't seem able to outgrow is the body image problem. Now - and this is important both in that people who worry about me read this and in that I know what a major change it is - I do not engage in disordered eating any more, and I haven't for years. I am justly proud of the fact that when the old self-hatreds loom at me in the mirror, five minutes later if I'm hungry I am going to damn well eat. I love food. I love the social ritual of eating. I hate being hungry, and everyone around me hates it when I'm hungry, and my little exercise addiction and a decent metabolism mean I can usually eat what I want and stay relatively slim. Less so as I age, of course. But I refuse to ever starve myself again.

So my eating habits are not being affected by my body image issues. But my feelings are, and that is still hard. I am regaining the weight I lost in early June; unfortunately, I'm not regaining it because I am eating lean protein and putting muscle mass back on. I am regaining it because I can no longer watch a BBC period drama without eating an entire pint of ice cream, and Netflix has a lot of BBC period dramas available. Next week I have a work physical which involves finding out my weight and body fat percentage, and I am worried about the result making me unhappy. It is very, very hard for me not to believe that thinner is always better; not to feel sexier and worthier of attention when I'm ten pounds underweight. I don't know if that will ever change. Maybe not acting on those feelings is the best I'll be able to do.

Gah! Let's talk about something more cheerful.

On the good side of self-image, my hairdresser has taken to cutting my already-pixie-short hair shorter and shorter, just because (she says) I can get away with it. Last month I was startled by the shortness, and this month she went even farther. I look like Joan of Arc, if Joan of Arc was thirty-five and had opinions on air-conditioning (she probably would have, if they'd had it). And I really like it. The morning after having it cut, looking at myself with my cropped hair and nothing to hide behind, I thought, "This is my face," and experienced a deep pleasure at the thought.

It wasn't vanity, I'd hope; and the thought wasn't, "This is my beautiful face." It's just my face. Asymmetrical and long-nosed, with frequently bad skin, deep laughter lines around the eyes, and one age-spotted area where I apparently missed with the sunscreen every day for decades. And I like it more the less ability I have to hide it behind anything.

Adulthood. A mixed bag, but on the whole miles better than what came before. It's working out for me, at any rate. Now if I could just find that cable box and have time to read something.

1 comment: