My Life

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be coupled.

When I was five and in kindergarten, I passed Vanessa a note on which I drew some sort of building and scribbled: “Do you want to go to Mann’s Chinese Theater?” (Note: I did not live in Hollywood, nor had I ever been to Mann’s Chinese Theater.) She gleefully agreed, which meant that she would ask her mom if she could hang out with me afterschool. Her mom, for some reason, allowed her (and chaperoned) this oddly premature dating experience. Both of them came to my family’s duplex, and we played on a toy-covered living room floor crowded with Legos and GI Joes. Although the event may actually have been my first date, I don’t consider it that. Not with her mother there.

Six years later, the fifth grade dance churned the pressure to find dates for school functions. Ashley brought Esperanza and I to an empty spot on our school’s concrete playground and made us admit that we wanted to go to the dance together. So we did. At the dance, we promptly split apart, blaming cooties.

Another dance memory: the eighth grade Halloween dance at my middle school. In a packed, sweaty, and dark auditorium, I wrapped my arms around Hillary, she cradled her arms on my shoulders, and we grinded away… only to be split apart by a teacher, shining her flashlight between our gyrating hips. It was the first time I became aware that being coupled wasn’t a private venture; it was something that was also perceived and watched.

This perception of coupling became more important in high school. Students—and even teachers—gossiped about who was going out with whom, and it became a symbol of popularity. It was a microcosm of the real world: power couples from student council, science geeks holding hands, misfits awkwardly finding their fellow misfit—we were puzzle pieces experimenting for our other half.

In the eleventh grade, I caved into this pressure and made a big deal out of a simply having a crush. I told everyone that there was someone I wanted, someone that I wanted to write songs for, someone who would help me realize the American Dream of having a high school sweetheart. Look! my move screamed, I’m just like everyone else! I can have a crush too! Maybe I’ll even end up in a couple!

It didn’t. My year-long infatuation with Anna deflated (she poked the hole in my balloon, and I was devastated), and for the first time, I learned the pain of singlehood. I didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want to be perceived as one who couldn’t be with another. My desire to couple grew even stronger. In the way that only a teenager could, I posted emo-tinged lyrics in my instant messenger profiles; I longed publicly—perhaps through accepted shame and embarrassment – for someone to love.

College didn’t seem different. When Barbara put her head on my shoulder while riding back from a formal, and her best friend Sara trotted to my room the next day with a cutesy hand-drawn card, I read these performances as coupling opportunities. When I came out a year later, within a month I asked a guy out on a date; the pressure to couple apparently transcended sexuality. Indeed, maybe there was even more pressure in this new gay world: I had to prove I was gay enough for it! And in a way, my official public switch to homosexual identification enabled me to continue my surge toward coupledom. I wasn’t going to achieve my objective as a straight man—and so I had to come out.

And it’s been that way ever since. Through mutual friends, at parties, at clubs, on and offline, I’ve been on the look-out for some sort of completion of a void, convinced, at times, that I was actually feeling incomplete. This blog has tracked my journey, providing a post-adolescent space for my stuck-in-gear adolescent emo-guery. I don’t interpret my desire as desperation—otherwise, I’d just hop into bed with Tom, Dick, and everyone else as they come; instead, I think a true and deep belief in coupledom as the materialized version of Platonic ideals, as a fulfillment of some sort of coming of age’s manifest destiny—this hardened belief of a larger and more gratifying interaction with another human continues to drive me. As I age, the specter of a coupled future only becomes a greater haunt: weddings, anniversaries, and even the political advent of gay marriage institutionalize for me the pressure I’ve felt all my life.

Which is why I find it very unexpected, after all of this time, energy, and effort I’ve spent searching for The One in my relative youth, that I’ve come to a turning point.

Two weeks ago, as I picnicked in Sharon Meadow at Golden Gate Park, I felt it for the first time: the happiness and quietly sweet satisfaction of being single. I detected no clear impetus, have not been able to self-psychoanalyze any rationale for why this and why now. I just know that since that afternoon, I’ve felt not only a contentedness with being single, but also a strange tinge of aversion to putting myself on any dating market of sorts. I cherish my time alone. I’ve declared my newfound independence to my colleagues. I feel unburdened and sexy and still very normal. Life goes on, and for once, I’ve asserted emotionally that it’s all mine: my life. Not my and someone else’s life.

I gladly shake myself free from the expectations I’ve carried since I was five. And this feeling of renewal—though I suppose it’s less of a renewal and more of a first acceptance of singlehood—is something I plan on hanging onto for as long as I can.

Creative Commons License