"'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.