Between Elizabeth Gilbert and Chastity: Torched Rose Petals!

Elizabeth Gilbert, I still love you. But the more I read, the more “Committed” feels frustratingly like an extended exercise in self-rationalization: of having a second marriage (would you believe some seagulls marry twice–and the second time they’re sooo happy!), of not having children (did you know Leo Tolstoy and the Bronte sisters were both raised by childless Aunties??), of Felipe, husband number two, and his liberated feminism (once she overheard him say woman’s place is in the kitchen: with a glass of wine and her feet up!).

But some sections, I must admit, still strike a chord. In particular, her inquiry into the question of why so many single women are desperate to get married despite an apparently overwhelming amount of data demonstrating that marriage benefits men far more than women, in every conceivable way. Gilbert surveyed her still-single friends to ask why, and got some predictable answers–many featuring the word “chosen.” And she offers an anecdote about her friend Christine: a woman so burdened by her longing to marry that on her 40th birthday she took a small wooden boat of rose petals and rice to set aflame in the Pacific–symbolically allowing herself to “marry her own life.”

I’m not sure anything has ever made so depressed. “I have got to to go burn some rice petals,” I thought as I read this, horrified, thinking of my writing teacher’s persistent advice (echoed, I should add, by Gilbert when I heard her speak) to “marry my writing” and the similar wisdom of my dear friend J, who last week told me that I must accept the possibility of being eternally single.

This is not because I am anywhere close to forty. It is because if I am going to be honest with myself I must admit that my idea of long-term happiness is contingent on happiness with someone else: on finding love.

I know I’m not alone. But, for me, it’s become a problem. As I’ve alluded, the past few months have been a bit difficult emotionally. Specifically, I’ve gotten attached to a series of three men since September, each of whom got my hopes up and then disappointed me severely.

I’m exhausted. And determined to somehow shield myself so that such patterns don’t repeat.

J’s advice is what makes me think I might need to take up with rose petals. Until a couple of months ago, when she embarked on a super-serious and super-healthy relationship that shows all signs of permanence, J was generally single. Just before this new thing began, she told me, she had gotten to the point of accepting the possibility that she might never find love: that she might be the dreaded “auntie” Gilbert writes so enthusiastically about. It was only then, she said, that she found the security that allowed her to comfortably, safely enter into a partnership. If I didn’t do the same, she warned, I’d continue to be vulnerable to the kinds of flaky advances to which I’ve lately succombed.

And then there ‘s my grandmother’s advice, following my most recent hiccup: “The best way to get over someone is to meet someone else.”

Frankly, I am more tempted to side with my grandmother. But the problem with that advice, as I told her, is that I can’t control it. I’d like to meet someone, but I am not about to jump on the first adam’s apple I see on campus (which is good, because there’s a chance it could belong to one of my students).

And, while it feels incredibly daunting, I can control my attitude toward relationships. Though as J acknowledged, it means in some way denying who I am to think my idea of happiness does not depend on another person.

Baby steps. Last week I sent two emails to two different men who’ve hurt me, both of which I worried would assure I’d never hear from them again. I might not. If so, I’ll be disappointed, but I won’t be crushed. I might still want to be happy with someone else, but at the very least I know that will only come with someone I can be myself with.Β Even if that someday means a wooden boat sprinkled with rice, and burnt rose petals.

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9 Comments

Filed under Love Life

9 responses to “Between Elizabeth Gilbert and Chastity: Torched Rose Petals!

  1. Erin Penner

    Ah… the dating column. And it’s not just a dating column. It’s a well-written, fun, absorbing read that’s currently distracting me from marking up student papers, which I desperately need to do.

    I’m glad there’s a voice on the Interweb that I now want to follow. πŸ™‚

  2. Technologically challenged

    Can we also talk about how emails have killed the “love letter?” They’re viciously quick and too convenient.

    • Yes, my dear, but do you honestly remember a time when love letters were a part of our lives? Besides those lil notes we wrote each other in high school? πŸ™‚

  3. jenny

    woooorrrd. just one (or 2) things.
    i wouldn’t say, it means *denying* who you are on some level—quite the opposite—admitting and acknowledging that that is what you believe on some very deep level and looking at/delving into why or into what is really underlying that…and into the fears or ????s that underlie that feeling/belief. the “denial” part is more about maybe denying oneself the immediate gratification or of acting on the instinct to love physically so fast, or something like that……but while we are in what often feels like the wishy washy or “in between-ness” of singledom, another part of the work is to just cultivate clarity in ALL of our relationships and bring in all kinds of love—
    also i think transforming the idea of what love even is or what it means—- and expanding the idea for ourselves, so that we don’t just condition ourselves to think physical intimacy=love (even though we know that’s not all there is, we still have a very conditioned response to it and to only want that as an indicator or tangible proof or gratification…and cuz it feels good)
    yes, there may still be the absence of that romantic love, but at least we can be full in these other ways and then, ultimately be less needy and be better lovers ourselves (in whatever capacity that is–romantically, as a friend, to ourselves) because we know how to love more fully! and then if someone does come along, we don’t have to look to him/her as our EVERYTHING, because we get all kinds of things from our relationships to other people and to ourselves…

    funny, a couple of years ago, i started joking, but also kind of not, about getting married to myself…i wanted to have a big ol’ party and everything. i thought that a single person needed appliances and all that shit to get started on her life, too—probably more than a newlywed couple!
    (sorry don’t know blog etiquette. this might be a bit much!)

    -oprah aka auntie J

  4. J you are too much! Thank you for your continued radiant brilliance! And we/I might need to have that party…I’ll compulsively bake and roast things, it’ll be great.

    • jenny

      we can also have a friendship wedding. since we have our own love story of missed connection spanning decades, and are now kind of newlyweds…yes you can compulsively bake things and i can get too drunk or not drunk at all and do the worm on the dance floor!

  5. jenny

    we shoulda planned it for valentine’s day!

  6. Pingback: On Dating While Blogging: How Did Carrie Do It?? « Dating in the Odyssey Years

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