There’s a countdown going on right now. 1 minute, 12 seconds. Unless something extreme occurs, screwier than a screwball comedy, I’ll be a 40 year old virgin. 25 seconds now. There’s no fancy ball drop. No Taylor Swift or Ryan Seacrest. No fancy glasses. Just defeat and humiliation. “Crying makes you weak,” I was recently informed. And I cry, for I am weak.
Ten years ago, I wrote some Musings on my 30th Birthday. Now, on my 40th birthday, how have I done? When I was 20, I listed five life goals: PhD, marriage, tenure, solid spiritual life, happy death. At 30, I had zero, but I had some hope. I held a birthday party and while not at the pictured party, that day might have included my birthday suit.
Now, well, I still have zero. And much less hope. I weigh a couple pounds less than I did 10 years ago. Though I did lose 20 pounds in the first half of 2005, that’s not bad. When people guess my age, the median guess is around 32 and I got told 26 a couple months ago. Thus, I still have the appearance of more time. Nevertheless, I hold little of the self-confidence built during 2005 and 2006. Public appearance even shirtless? Not since May 2012. Instead of swimming in briefs, I consider long sleeve swim shirts.
Why? I’m not chemistry marriage material. When I ask someone out, I’m told I’m a 2. Instead of expressions of desire, I receive “Ultimately it felt more like having a good college or med school friend”. My kisses are on the cheek from 7 year olds. In Ladder Theory, I stand very high on friends ladders. I get to be the cuddle bitch, “getting to provide all the intimacy that a girl is missing when she’s off [dating] guys who basically don’t care about her like outlaw bikers and band members. So he gets to be the proxy father/confessor/friend/teddy bear for her, depending on what she is missing at the time.” Not often a father am I, but the others are very true.
Back in November, Ms. N said the most prescient thing I heard this past year. Her former best friend now had a serious boyfriend, and the distance had grown. She realized friendships were transient; only your partner would stay for life. Thus, she wanted to prepare herself for that partner. When talking, she sounded so forlorn that I worry about her. Yet she’s correct. Particularly in academia, people turn over. I told her the story of 2003 and 2004. Back before cell phones, I kept a person list near my landline. One September, I saw nine people beyond my family, numbers I had wanted to recall easily. Due to departures and life shifts, only two made the next list. Family stays. Partners stay. Others leave.
Therefore, that’s the primary problem. As for other goals – I should receive the PhD this year, or something went really wrong. I’ve realized tenure really meant professional security, which might happen in a bit. The problems with academia, and why I don’t desire tenure, are a much longer story. I just hope I can find another generally honorable institution like Bellarmine – not flawless, including my own conduct, but not shameful. Long time friends tell me that I sounded happy there. I thought so. But work’s not enough, nowhere near enough.
An article got a lot of attention this January, Modern Love, where Mandy Len Catron expounded on 36 questions from Arthur and Elaine Aron and others. It’s a great article, which you should read if you haven’t yet, and perhaps read again if you have. Some of her other musings at The Love Story Project are worth reading too. For now I want to conclude this lament with her summary quote. If I want to be worthy of love, to have someone to stay in my story, I must become stronger to be able to choose more strongly.
“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”