My 30th birthday happened to coincide with a farewell lunch. X points to me, and announces to the table, and to Y, that it is my birthday. Y asks me, “So, leaving early today?” Before I could respond, X replies, “Where will he go? He is not married, and he doesn’t have a girlfriend.”
I have never been one to quip back in these situations, and this was no different; I kept smiling, though deep down that hurt. I thought it was insensitive, and it hurt because it was true.
The older I grow, the more I realise that there is no escaping this line of questioning, regardless of where I am and who I’m with.
The days I work late, I’m often reminded to get a life. Last week, I was told I’m not doing what people my age should be doing plenty (sex). Basically, if you don’t have any plans for the weekend, don’t have dates, don’t have any friends to meet, don’t have a long weekend charted out 6 weeks in advance, don’t have anything to do on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas Eve or New Year’s eve…sorry, you don’t have a life. Because apparently this is what life is about.
With family, you more or less expect these questions, so it doesn’t bother me that much. Plus it is well-intentioned. The tone is more like, “Please get married, you’ll have company and be happy.”, and not “You’re pathetic for being alone.” There’s a significant difference between the two. However I am sure there are others out there who have to face snarky remarks from the odd relative every holiday, reminding them of their colossal failure.
People will be people, however, so there’s little point in decrying the fact that they can be unpleasant. We all have to swim through mud, and our life experience is ultimately a result of how well we swim. That should be our focus, instead of how to keep our clothes as clean as possible.
While I might sound level-headed about this whole thing, I am by no means immune. Any number of triggers can set me off now. I could be at home alone, watching something contentedly, and out of nowhere a giant Batman-like signal flashes in front of me; except instead of the bat sign, it reads You’re alone & you don’t have a life. Once the thought takes control, it’s impossible to get rid for a while. I delve deeper and deeper into it, look back into my life, and beat myself over squandered opportunities. I should’ve gathered the courage to ask her, I should have responded when she was showing interest, I should’ve just gone for it.
Never mind Instagram — sometimes just looking at a WhatsApp display picture is a trigger. The better looking the couple, the more perfect their life looks, and the more empty your own one looks.
Do I think being single is inherently bad? No. Do I actually think anyone’s life is perfect? No. I was single at 25 too, but it didn’t matter then. The key difference? Most of my friends were single too. I could call them up at odd hours, I could text them on inane matters, I could have fun over weekends without having planned weeks in advance. It was easy. I even had the luxury of picking and choosing company.
But as the months roll by from that age, one by one they all move on. I don’t know whether it’s like this only in India, or even in other countries. It’s like I am on this ship full of single people in the middle of a great lake. The lake looks gorgeous in sparkling blue, and is so inviting. But the only way to jump in and enjoy this heaven is if you’re a couple. So one by one they all jump, and two things happen. One, you notice how they’re all having fun but you cannot join them. Two, you notice the ship is emptying fast. And thus, when a friend tells you he/she’s getting married, you congratulate them, but you also stifle a sad tear, because the ship becomes lonelier. The closer the friend, the harder it hits. As the ship empties, the pressure mounts every day to find someone, just so that you have someone to turn to when you come back from work. When the weekend arrives. Someone, who for the foreseeable future, is your ticket to the great lake and a happier life.
I don’t like to be told it’ll happen, you’ll meet the one, you’re so x, y, z and deserving. I’ve been listening to that crap for ten years. I don’t think it helps anyone. On the contrary it makes one feel more entitled, and makes them feel that somehow life has been unfair to them. I am sane enough to know that life is random, and aware enough that more opportunities will come my way. And though it’s a struggle sometimes, but I like to believe that life without company or sex is still worth it. A stray asteroid or a slightly more potent virus could wipe us all out, that’s how fleeting our life is. The ship isn’t really empty, and there’s a lot I haven’t explored yet.