I’m getting to that age where it’s perfectly acceptable to sit around with my girl friends and discuss marriage. And that’s scary. I would like to freeze time right here, please.
Earlier tonight, five of us were sitting around the dining room table in our apartment discussing the fact that now that we’re in our twenties, the search for the Eternal Happy Ending, or, at least, a 2-point Engagement Ring and Iron-Clad Pre-Nup, is on. Though some of us aren’t actively looking, or some of us, in fact, aren’t looking for that storybook ending at all, we all could agree on one thing: Being with men is getting scary. It’s a total Goldilocks syndrome for your twenties: you’re scared out of your wits if you’re perfectly happy with them and see it ending all rosy and blissful, but you’re also scared shitless if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere with them.
“It’s so weird to think that the next person we’re with could be our potential future husband.”
“But I feel like every guy I date is just getting farther and farther away from who I would want to marry.”
“That’s why I like Sex and the City. Carrie didn’t get married until she was sure he was The One.”
“That’s the inherent flaw,” I interjected, having been over this thought a few times before. “Making the same mistakes over and over again isn’t called ‘failure’. It’s called ‘dating’.”
Two weeks ago, I downloaded the episode of SATC in which Carrie first says “I love you” to Mr. Big. When he doesn’t return the statement, she proclaims to the Ladies Who Brunch crew that unless he antes up within a week, she’ll have to end their relationship. When I watched it, I was initially floored. How could a woman end a relationship right after she admits to something like that? Isn’t that kind of the equivalent to Indian-giving or saying, “Oops, just kidding”? Isn’t that a bit quick to retract all those big emotions?
I get it now. You can say what you want and what you feel, but there are some things that you have to do because in the end, keeping yourself and your dignity is worth even more than anyone else is to you.
Maybe it’s because I’m an only child. Maybe it’s because I’m not good at sharing my feelings, or, in fact—sharing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been screwed over one too many times. But during my two day hike in Cinque Terra, I did a lot of thinking, because other than focusing on screaming calf muscles or the fact that my smoking has finally caught up with my respitory system, I had a lot of time to mull it over, and over, and over again. There’s nothing quite like being alone in nature with your thoughts. Coming back to Florence and civilization clinched it for me.
I’ve always been preoccupied with looking out for Number One first, something that I lost sight of in Italy, of all places. It’s not selfishness—it’s self-health-ness. My eternal problem is that I give and I give and I give and forgive and forgive and forgive, until the point where I’m not happy with myself, my lot in life, or what a push-over I’ve become. I am willing to do a lot for other people. But I’m done with the competing to prove it. The only thing I am not willing to do is sacrifice myself, or that maybe-unpromised Happy Ending in whatever form. I am young, and I am alive, and I am in Italy—quite possibly the Land of Love. If there is nothing else to love, there is always the sights and the sounds and the smells and the newness of living here for three months, which is not something I’m ever going to be able to get back. While there will always be some things you can work at, there are others that are fleeting and fresh and will never appear again. So it shouldn’t be squandered under dark clouds of doubt and regret and indecision and unhappiness. I’m not going to keep counting down the days until I leave. I am going to live instead for the Now and the Here and the Why Not? And if you want to squander, you can live however you wish.
If I can get out relatively unscathed, with my dignity still attached, then I’ll keep moving on and making my mistakes. As Passion Pit says in their song “Little Secrets” (on heavy repeat on my iPod), “Let this be our little secret; no one needs to know how I’m feeling.” There is no feeling quite like finally making up your mind. I feel lighter and more content with life than I have in months.
So maybe your twenties aren’t for being afraid of what’s ahead. Maybe your twenties are for wild abandon and enjoyment; late nights; new things; drinking and smoking too much; discovering yourself and new places; making up your mind, and brief moments of clarity and maturity. Maybe, as Carrie discovered, there is time later to go back and mend bridges if want be.