Turning thirty hasn't been such a big deal since, well, I live in obscurity, a surreal place where few people call my lifestyle into question. But there certainly have been moments where my age and lifestyle don't quite seem to match up. These moments come when I pop onto Facebook and see another photo of a chubby baby blinking back at me, when I'm shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding, or when I'm shivering alone in my twin bed, thinking that I really need to buy a light bulb. Sometimes, everyone seems to be going somewhere else. It is like when you are walking down a crowded sidewalk and you seem to be the only one walking upstream, and you look across the street and everyone seems to be walking the same way. So you run across the street to change sides, and suddenly everything is---fuck, everything is the same.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was in the Far East (as my Mom likes to call it), I was asked the following two questions in many iterations: Why aren't you married? Why don't you have kids?
Really, people? I would like to say that this was friendly family ribbing, but my family is really not that funny. I mean, what kind of answers do you expect here? These were also family members I haven't spoken to in at least five years, if not ten. How would they feel if I told them that my fiancé OD'd on Oxy, or that I was fucking STERILE? Because barring any sort of tragedy or lesser drama---I just broke up with someone, we're trying to have kids--the answer you inevitably get is quite boring. Because I certainly am not allowed to say that I'm trying to fuck at least fifty men before settling down, or that the idea of children is just that--an idea.
There was a Maureen Dowd column that ran yesterday called All the Single Ladies about the media frenzy surrounding Supreme Court nominee/single lady Ellen Kagan. And while it is a bit boring--because really, there's nothing that interesting about a woman being single OR married by itself--one commentor boiled it down quite nicely to say that this is all just the myth of the nuclear family being thrashed about in contemporary society. He or she went on to say that since more people spend more time at work than at home, perhaps it's more important to have a fulfilling job than an agreeable spouse.
One of the most interesting things I learned about Singapore is that they have a national dating service, free, government-sponsored. They, too, believe that strong nuclear families are not only the key to happiness, but a stable society. I mean, the notion of the family unit is how so much of our society is constructed: our taxes, our rights, health insurance, even the architecture of many homes. And in China, they have similar structures in place to secure happy families--after the earthquake left many widowed, they set up a matching system to help people remarry. (Read the Brook Larmer piece from the NY Times Magazine.)
Most of my friends are unmarried and/or single, even as we slip into our dirty thirties. Like I said, I only tend to give fleeting attention to these notions, but it is strange to have passed through two continents where the creation of the nuclear family is so central and unquestionably important, and another in which it is so central yet so singularly denied.
I want to be with someone. I really do. I may want children or I may not. But what I really would like, most of all, is for people to stop asking me why I am unmarried. Because really, the answer to why I am unmarried is that I AM NOT MARRIED. And the reason to why I am single is that YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.
Eh, maybe I am just feeling sore because of my young bedfellows. I slept with a 24-year-old the other night. We were walking through town, killing a bottle of 17-peso whiskey when he told me about this bingo parlor where the old folks go and I asked him if they gave out cool prizes. He said, "They probably give out Sensodyne toothpaste."
I use Sensodyne toothpaste. What? I have sensitive teeth.