September 25, 2017

My Turn: Or, Why You Shouldn't Ask Rude Questions

After a year and a half of being engaged and 8 years together, my sister got married this weekend. She planned a gorgeous ceremony and reception with countless small details and personal touches. The DJ and photographers were amazing, family friends expertly coordinated, and the venue was stunning. She asked both sisters to walk her down the aisle and I could not have been more proud to play such an important role in helping her start this new chapter of her life. We partied well into the night, she got a bus to take us back to the hotel, and even booked out a whole boutique hotel for her closest friends and family for the whole weekend. They took care of everything and everyone for two whole days. I couldn't stop hearing about what a wonderful wedding it was, and how fun it was, and how beautiful we all looked (especially my sister). Unfortunately I also kept hearing some variation of "so when is it your turn?" The Boyfriend and I have gotten this question more than once. Weddings bring out the best and worst in people, and my well-meaning relatives just want the next event to be excited about. It didn't help that The Boyfriend was the officiant... Normally I shrug and say we're not in a rush - and I did tell a few relatives to focus on this one before thinking of the next one. Fortunately also my youngest sister had eyes for the DJ and made it known she might be next. Being older, in a serious long term relationship, and both of us being in this wedding added more pressure. This is probably the most un-feminist thing I've ever written. I'm embarrassed by what I'm about to write, but am going to because we have this culture where it's not acceptable for women to talk about all this. This time it bothered me more because I actually really want to get married. I always liked the idea of getting married and figured I would as long as I was sure it was right. I've known for a very long time that I want The Boyfriend to someday be The Husband, but because we aren't having kids there's no pressure to hurry. Plus, my sister and her husband have been together longer, I'm in grad school and do not have wedding-planning-level free time, and I really wanted to not get married in my 20s. But "boyfriend" makes the relationship seem temporary or unimportant. We live together, have animals together, our families and friends know this is it. But if we decided to not get married and simply be together without the formality I'd be fine with that, too. I don't need to be legally married, and part of me thinks that might help with the bit of anxiety I have over the permanence of marriage. So why did it bother me this weekend? The only answer I have is the timing. The Boyfriend and I talk about getting married all the goddamn time. He's a wedding photographer so he's seen the intimate details of of hundreds weddings. When he tells me about them he'll say why he would or would not want to do that for our wedding. We've basically already planned our wedding through these small conversations - all we'd really need to do is book the things. We also couldn't do anything until my sister was married, which I didn't think she would take a year and a half. Now that the coast is finally clear, I'm about to head into my last year of grad school which is going to be the busiest. If we get married in the next year I probably won't be able to enjoy much of it - I'm already stressed to the max between work and school, how could I fit a wedding in? But the alternative is waiting at least another year, and we've talked about moving away when I graduate because there aren't jobs for me in San Diego. We'd either have to plan a wedding long distance or ask everyone to spend a ton of money flying for it. There's one more reason this bothered me this weekend. I can't help but wonder if getting married is actually a priority. We talk about it and I know it is, so why these doubts? I didn't like not having an answer for the questions. It's frustrating to be asked that, like we haven't talked about it. What do people expect me to say when they ask when I'm getting married? My sister told everyone she was waiting until she got her master's - but I don't want that to be my answer. Not only is it not true necessarily, but I don't want a wedding to follow my degree like I checked a box. My generation is more educated than any other generation so a master's is almost at the same level as a bachelor's was: first you get your bachelor's then you get your master's then you marry your live-in boyfriend. I'm not just checking some box - this degree really matters to me. Maybe no one else actually thinks this way, but it still bothers me.

June 23, 2017

A bad kind of weird

Sometimes I morbidly look at my pets and think about how I will feel when they die. I not so secretly hope that my cat will live forever. Or at least another decade. Same with the dog. There's no reason they can't - they're both super healthy. But even the rabbits, who haven't been easy pets, I know I'll be devastated. I would get so attached to my rats, even though they only lived a couple of years. When they died I was heartbroken. Sobbing, sadness, guilt, anger, true heartbreak. So much more than I've ever felt for a boy.

I've never lost a person that I was very close to. I don't have any living grandparents and have been to quite a few funerals, but still no one that made a real impact on my life (other than reproducing so that I might exist). I know the day is coming, but sometimes I think about what my reaction might be when that day does come, and I can't help but wonder if I'll feel the way I do about my pets. If I'm being honest, probably not.

And then I think I just shouldn't exist among people.

I've always had kind of a weird reaction to death that really, really unnerves people. I smile. It's because it's that uncomfortable, because I usually know how much other people are suffering (like my mom when her parents died) and I don't know how else to react. As a kid I didn't realize I did it until someone would angrily point it out. As an adult I am extremely conscious of my facial reactions and words so that I don't seem like I"m happy someone is dead. But I've still been accused of callousness around death.

How will I react when it's someone I love? Will I cry? Will I care? Will I maybe go back to work to focus on something else and be accused of moving on too quickly? If I don't care about wills or inheritance or legacy, does that make me a bad kid? If my world doesn't stop, did I ever really love them?

My dad and I don't speak anymore (long story) but other relatives have said that he has cancer. I truly don't know if I believe it, but even if he does I don't really care. He hasn't been in my life for over 6 years and my peace is made. Will I suddenly be hurt when he dies? Will I regret our estrangement? Will I wish I had made amends, even if it meant apologizing when I wasn't in the wrong? Maybe, but I really don't think so.

But then I think about those who I do value, who I am very close with. Assuming I live long enough, surely I'll be devastated at the loss of my sisters, my boyfriend, and my best friends. Right? I think I will. 

But what if I'm not? What if I do move on? What if I move on too quickly? If I don't I'm just normal. But if I do I'm a bad kind of weird. A kind of weird that people think of when they hear about sociopaths. Am I a sociopath? Should I go live in the woods with a dog and a cat and lose my phone?

I'm not religious. I'm not romantic. I'm not maternal. I'm barely even sentimental. People wouldn't describe me as warm. So, what is it about me that makes me human outside of biology? I love, deeply even, but I don't think that's an emotion exclusive to humans (and I'm not talking about cats, though I'm pretty sure deep down my cat does at least like me). Maybe reincarnation does exist, and I was a snake in my last life and I haven't quite shed those tendencies yet. 

I recently took a strengths assessment for school and discovered to absolutely no one's surprise that I'm a strategic thinker: intellectual and analytical. The only outlier was harmony, which basically means I don't assert myself (also true). I love being alone, I miss living alone, I worry that I'll always miss it. I believe I could be alone my whole life and not miss people too much. But do I want to be?

I don't think so. But maybe that's my problem.