Yesterday I heard from a former writing professor: the one who I worked with all of last year, and the one who likes to tell me that he sees himself in me because–according to him–both of us are narcissistic and because–according to life–both of us are incapable of sustaining a man for longer than three weeks.
Both of us, it turns out, are also poor correspondents. So it was a pleasant, if abrupt, surprise when his name appeared in my gchat yesterday morning.
“How are you? How’s the MFA? How are those other creatures S and D?”
“Good!” I wrote back, initially enthusiastic. And then: “You know, same as ever.”
“Oh,” he replied. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
As we all know, the medium of online chatting is such that you can never be exactly sure how someone might have said something were they to speak it out loud. I’d like to think that he would have uttered this line, then, with a strong dose of sarcasm. But, knowing this man as I do, I can imagine that–while we surely would have laughed to leaven the moment–had we been face-to-face, his tone would have been more-or-less sincere.
Not quite as sincere, though, as that of my friend A–with whom I later spoke on the phone. This is a different A than the one I mentioned in my last post; this one is my closest friend from my years in DC–all of which were spent, not unlike those thus far in New Mexico, wandering, at times bouncing, from one disappointment of a guy to another.
I told her about my latest letdown–one that came in the form of perhaps the most startling and insulting text message I have ever received.
“Elizabeth,” she gasped. “I am so sorry.”
I responded, sincerely, that if I had a penny for every time I had heard her say that same phrase in a similar tone and similar context, I would be a wealthy woman.
“I mean, if someone said that to me I probably wouldn’t talk to a man for two years!” she said. “But what’s so great about you is that you’ll just shrug it off and move on!”
“Right,” I said. And then, as I’ve declared to her before, “I can’t keep doing it.”
“It’s true, Elizabeth,” she said. “You really need to change your luck.”
This is generally the point in the conversation when A tells me that I need to take a break–stop thinking about dating, stop making myself available ever, embrace being single and do a lot of yoga.
Before she could, I stopped her.
“I’ve tried the ‘taking a break’ thing. It never works,” I said.
“I know,” she replied. “I can see how it doesn’t work.”
“So how am I supposed to change my luck?”
She didn’t immediately suggest praying; but that–after repeated mention of imagery, therapy and self-affirmation–is eventually where the conversation went.
You see, A–a woman who is extremely beautiful, extremely charming, and extremely smart (and not, I should add, extremely or at all religous)–did not have a boyfriend before the age of twenty eight.
She moved around a lot. She did a lot of really interesting things. She didn’t take any measures to put herself out there. And then, at twenty-eight, with a reasonably stable job and a reasonably stable living situation, she decided that she wanted a boyfriend. She got down on her knees and prayed.
A few weeks later, as she reminded me last night, a man moved into her group house. A few weeks after that, they kisssed and he became her boyfriend. (A few years after that, they bought a house together and she–rather suddenly and rather messily, if, some might argue, rather wisely–decided to leave him. But truly, that’s beside the point; she was praying for a boyfriend, not a life partner.)
I had heard this story before. I was there for this story. But it had been a while since I’d thought about it.
“I can’t believe that,” I muttered when she finished reminding me.
“I know,” she said. “It was like the universe was playing a joke on me.”
“I should probably get off the phone right now so I can get on my knees and talk to God,” I said.
We laughed, and a few minutes later hung up. But instead of getting on my knees I got dressed and went out for a beer with S and then dinner at a friend’s house.
I don’t know what I need to do for my luck to change–praying, drinking, picturing an imaginary boyfriend, standing for long lengths of time on my head.
But frankly, I’m tired of making any effort whatsoever to figure it out.