Monday, April 27, 2009

gravity works slowly if you notice it at all

"'Love is like butter,' Mom used to tell me, 'it goes well with bread.' What she meant, basically, was that love wouldn't pay the bills. True, I had been in love a lot, and the power was always getting cut off, but I sort of liked it that way. 'Happiness is being sad and broke and in love' is what I liked to say."
-Aaron Cometbus, from Marta--A Library Love Story

When I woke up this morning and glanced in the mirror, after laughing at my fuzzy strange sleepy hair the first thing I noticed was that the lines running from my nose to the corners of my mouth were far more pronounced than normal. I bore a remarkable resemblance to a ventriloquist's dummy, or perhaps a monkey. It was a little alarming, frankly. It's calmed down a bit now (and yes, I did just pop into the bathroom to check), but my reaction is what was the most interesting to me.
In general, I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of getting old. It will happen, so why would I worry much about it? Besides, I'm only twenty-seven, and it seems a little excessive even to me to spend a lot of time worrying about something inevitable. But there are moments, mostly related to physical signs of ageing, that make me re-evaluate my stance. My god, when I started getting silver hair in grad school (hello stress) it was a massive weight on my mind for a while. I think there were several reasons for it--a relationship that wasn't going as well as I'd hoped, the extreme stress and pressure I was under at school and work--but I became, for a while, convinced that I was going to get old and unattractive and die alone, watching all the young dykes hook up at the bar while I downed a double pint of Blue Moon in solitary misery. That's an exaggeration, of course. But the first thing I thought this morning was "Wow, my face just got older." Does this matter? Am I still afraid of dying alone and unhappy because of some wrinkles or silver hairs?
Short answer: No. I know that really, it doesn't matter. Change is what happens, and to consider something like this good or bad seems... illogical to me. That doesn't mean I don't think about it sometimes, but it does mean I think I'm a little more objective than I was at twenty-four. To put it another way: I'd rather not look like a monkey for the rest of my life, but I'm not afraid of dying alone so those things aren't so tied together anymore. My ideas of what "happiness" consists of are changing.
As I do, in fact, get older, it is becoming increasingly evident to me that relationships between people can take so many different forms that I could never document them all. It's easy to whittle them down to a few categories (single, relationship, open relationship, slut) but those words each have so many different meanings that they become pointless placeholders that stand in for real descriptions of connection. It's also evident to me that, although I have experienced a few of those placeholder connections ('single' briefly and 'relationship' at great length), I haven't found the balance, the unlabeled form of connection that will make me the most happy. It's all butter, or all bread, or something completely different, a cracker or a mango. I don't give a shit about finances really, but if I change that homily to mean that bread is a solid base, a sense of self to be occasionally combined with someone else's butter (or jam, or cream cheese, or olive tapenade, or...), it makes sense to me. For now, I'm concentrating on baking bread, on making sure I am the strongest and best and happiest version of myself that I can be, while I explore what my connections to other people actually consist of. I think I'm making headway. If I someday find a person or persons who will butter my bread without overwhelming it that would be great, but if not I think I could be happy with who I am without the label of "relationship." Being single doesn't mean a lack of connection, it just means a different sort of connection. For now, I'm at peace with it.

9 comments:

Rosiecat said...

This post is crazy and beautiful, Ammie. A mango! Hilarious. Reading this crystallized something that I was struggling to describe in an e-mail to Matt today: how do I find happiness in my life, here and now, when he's almost always far away and not with me? How do I stay connected with him while I build a life that doesn't require his presence? It's hard. I don't have all the answers. I just keep living.

pulley-whipped said...

you lost me a little bit with all those food metaphors. love is like olive tapinade? but i'm glad you're coming to peace with aging. I was worried for a while...

ammie said...

Rose-Anne: I'm glad this provided some clarity! I think that, food metaphores or whatever, my point is that there are so many ways of connection that it's silly to just confine yourself to one idea, one concept. Not that that's easy, necessarily, but hell, life is hard. I just know that I always seem to end up in the same place (or very similar places, anyway) and it would be nice to actually break that cycle.
And Anna: Sorry I was such a stress ball that year. I'm content with my silver hairs and potential future monkey mouth now.

Shawn said...

I remember looking in the mirror and noticing alarming crows feet around my eyes about a year and a half ago. It was like my face was becoming someone else's. Vanity got the better of me, and I started using lotion on my face, which is apparently working because I've been carded a ridiculous amount in the past year by people who seem genuinely surprised that I'm not a fibbing 19-year-old.

Other changes are different in nature. I no longer think like a 19-year-old, and my body is starting to get quirky. My patience to dapple in improbable relationships has somewhat lessened also. I'm less interested in cake and more in bread, I suppose.

Also, I'm pretty sure olive tapenade is love.

Lauren said...

this entry made me hungry more than anything else. :)

ammie said...

Haha, apparently I got farther into the food metaphores than I meant to... And Shawn, olive tapenade is absolutely certainly a kind of love.
I'll leave this with another quote from last year's journal: "Am I finally getting older AND wiser? Hot damn!"
That remains to be seen.

erica said...

"It's all butter, or all bread, or something completely different, a cracker or a mango." beautiful sentence, visually, rhythmically. you're also making me hungry.
i'm still having problems with flour. i'll get to the bread-baking when i get that first basic step figured out :-P

Lauren said...

Erica, have you tried using mesquite flour?

erica said...

not too available in the alaskan interior, unfortunately...