It is time for a break between anecdotes from the past to offer an anecdote from the near present. Atop of it being a general rant, the aim is to set up some subsequent posts in the future. This may be a personal blog, but I do attempt to move along certain themes.
During the time between this past Christmas and before New Year’s Eve came an annual event in my social calendar; the birthday of one of my close friends. Like many of my friends, it’s one I made in high school who has since carried on with me ever since, who was slightly younger than me and just turning thirty (or “dirty thirty” as it seems to be called these days by guys I know). Even in the era before Facebook, his birthdays used to be massive affairs with dozens (sometimes over a hundred) people invited to descend upon a particular bar of choice (at least ever since he turned 21). I’ve joked that such parties usually are so massive and offer such an economic boom to some of the small bars that he chooses, that such bars likely consider his birthday to be akin to their “Black Friday”. As always, I was invited and as always, I attended. This year’s affair was at a different bar (which was within reasonable travel distance for me) and had a slightly lower turn out than the previous year. It was a good thing as the bar was a lot smaller than previous ones chosen.
I don’t drink very often; if I do it usually is in some social setting and I don’t drink very much. That isn’t to say I have never gotten buzzed or drunk in my life; I have several times. However, I don’t usually enjoy it and I try to limit it. Alcoholism runs in the family and I am very much aware of how easy it is for a misanthrope such as myself to become addicted to something; therefore I try to be selective about what I get addicted to. This is usually in stark contrast to my circle of friends, who are all varying degrees of social drunks. They spent years getting wasted at every possible opportunity on weekends or vacations or times away from work. And while some of their shenanigans have lessened with age, their desire to gather and drink socially usually hasn’t. Not even getting higher paying jobs or even significant others have seemed to eliminate their desire to mobilize and get drunk together. I have never enjoyed drinking as an activity unto itself; I don’t like losing control over myself. Naturally, this stark contrast means I didn’t spend as many years trolling bars and clubs as my friends have since college. It also means that I don’t usually see them much; usually once every few months.
It was an odd little bar; there was a fish tank behind the bar and a backyard with a small pond and tree in the rear. Many bars will air sports or movies (usually action or horror) on TV’s or projectors for patrons to watch amid the din of drunken chatter and/or music. This place aired, of all things, a DVD of “Twin Peaks” episodes. It was easily the most hipster bar I’d been to in years, and as usual I only had one drink (which I nursed for a while). As usual, there was nobody who appeared “single” at this establishment. I have rarely seen anyone at the various bars that my friends have chosen who wasn’t a part of a couple or a band of couples. Granted, that is an unfair criticism; were I to encounter any lady I even suspected of being single who was my type, I wouldn’t think of even attempting to “make a move” with my friends nearby. I don’t need witnesses to my failures.
At any rate, I did have as good a time as I could just hanging with my friends and their various associates. Not all of my pals came but a great chunk of them, and their significant others and/or related acquaintances. I showed up about an hour late and naturally by then, the birthday boy was fairly drunk by then. However, it was this moment in time where I seemed to reach a staggering conclusion. As as I looked around the bar and made my rounds (piggy backing other people’s conversations as best I could), I realized that not only were all of them enjoying far better paying and steady jobs than I had, but almost all of them were in a very serious relationship. The birthday boy had just gotten engaged a few weeks prior. Others had been with the same significant other for years, and several were even married. Even another pal, who works in the postal service and who we worried was becoming a hermit, spent most of the night making out with his current girlfriend who I’d never met or even was aware existed. The conclusion I made was that out of our entire circle, I was the poorest and loneliest member of the troupe. It seems every social circle has that one guy on the fringe who is broke, alone, and generally a failure at life, at least compared to the others. That one screw up drug addict or otherwise dysfunctional person. And for this circle, that was me. In high school I tried to act like a wise elder, but in reality all of my friends had leapfrogged me and left me in their dust. All of them had moved out, and I was still living with mom (who is handicapped). All of them had enough disposable income that bar crawls or vacations or cars were no big thing, and for me just an extra fare or two of mass transit was a major expense. And all of them had had their fair share of romances, lovers of the past, while I was one of the eldest in the room, and a virgin. Here all of them were settling down into stable and successful lives with significant others after having sown some wild oats, and I may as well have been back in grade school in comparison.
Despite how that paragraph sounds, I was not envious. I used to be, especially in high school. As a teenager I often would vent some my envy in the form of barbs as part of our teenage bravado. I used to become disgusted at times when I was the third or fifth wheel between my friends and their lovers of the moment at times. There were periods I took them for granted as friends and took some wisecracks too far (even if in terms of banter, they gave as well as they got). It wasn’t until college that I even realized that I was venting envy at my friends, and once I realized that, I realized how little I liked it and how terrible such a thing was. So once my teenage years were over I made active, concerted efforts to not allow a green eyed monster to arise, and relearned how to be happy for them. And that continued into this party a few weeks ago. I was genuinely pleased to see the birthday boy in such a state of happiness and contentment with his fiance; the two make an adorable couple. I was happy that my postal worker friend wasn’t teetering on the brink as we’d feared. They are all a great bunch of pals, and they’ve earned all of the happiness and stable lives they’ve forged for themselves. I merely became aware that despite it all, I seem to exist on a level below them. They work as bankers, postal workers, cops, and hospital workers (mostly), so none of them are rich or anything. I suppose it is easy to note social advantages; all of them came from two parent middle class homes and none of them had to grow up in poverty or serve as caretaker to a mother or grandmother for years of time. But on the other hand, unlike me not all of them went to or graduated college, and those that did had debt which I didn’t.
Among my friends was a lady friend, who I will dub Sonia. She is actually someone I have known for a long, long time; since I was about 18-19 or so (and who is about 2-3 years younger). I haven’t mentioned her before because I honestly don’t know at what point in my time lime of dating failures to list her, as she’s remained a figure in my life for a long time. As a quick summary of foreshadowing, she used to be the roommate and sometime lover of one of my friend’s ex’s and we began to communicate via AIM once I went onto college and became pals. She moves around a lot, either to upstate New York or New Jersey (where she has family) or one of the five boroughs. In fact, one of her dilemmas is she’s rarely had a stable home environment for long. At any rate, I hadn’t communicated to her online or otherwise in almost a year, and not for lack of trying. At some intervals, we could chat almost every day; and at others months could pass between crisis points. However, she was among the cast assembled for the party, and like the others, we chatted for a bit. The guys were busy boozing and the birthday boy’s fiance offered some assistance looking for a better job, although the dilemma with that is the jobs she is privy two have pay schedules on a once a fortnight schedule, and with no savings that would mean going a week without money; as someone with a handicapped mother that is something I cannot endure. Yet it was Sonia who caught me off guard asking about my love life.
Sonia and I had talked about that stuff for years in the past. In fact, it was routine for me to offer her advice or a shoulder to vent to regarding most of her past boyfriends (some of whom were abusive). She is one of few people who knows my deep dark secret of being a virgin, although she didn’t bring that up. What most surprised me about her bringing up my love life is that such a thing is something I rarely talk about in public. I’ve been single so long that my friends usually accept it as my identity. At the moment, it is one of the least of my concerns, as I have been actively working to concentrate on leaving it behind me in the trail of life. Yet here was Sonia bringing it up as if it was no big deal. She suggested OkCupid, one of the biggest online dating sites which I have an account with, but I only sporadically check; she even offered to set up an account for me. The irony is that this is not even the first offer from a pal to essentially play Cyrano de Bergerac for me; I have another chum (a unique fellow with Asberger’s) who I only know online who once offered to create a Match.com account for me. Naturally, I turned down the offer, listing several reasons. Thankfully, the often fluid nature of a bar left this conversation ended.
Online dating will play a hand in my next recollection of my adventures with the opposite sex from college. Therefore, much as with Sonia, I figured it is best to offer some foreshadowing now. Why would I reject having someone else do the work of online dating for me? Pride is one reason, if I am honest; what little ego I have left would be offended to have a friend go through all the trouble I have failed at all my life. The other, however, is that it feels patently dishonest to have someone else reach out to a perspective date on my behalf, pretending to be me, only for such a deception to be revealed or exposed later. Online dating has been offered as a solution to me many times; because I have interest in writing, it is seen as some sort of magical alternative. It isn’t. It isn’t that I fear that women are being dishonest online or that it could all be traps for muggings. It is that no matter the format, I only have myself to work with and I don’t believe that any relationship, even a date, should have a foundation in dishonesty if not lies. The fact of the matter is that I offer little which is appealing in an attractive, potential lover for the women within my vicinity, online or off. I’m neither tall, or handsome, or in spectacular shape, nor have any money to go on dates with, a car to travel in, or my own place to take someone to. While my hobbies lean on the geek side, my lack of funds limits them compared to others. I am not a musician or any kind of artist, the one type of man in NYC who can survive as a mooch and still be considered potentially attractive or successful. Those traits which I do offer, most single women could get out of a good friend or a pet. I cannot even fulfill any satisfaction on a pure physical level, being a virgin who has no idea of what to do. And sure, either I or someone else could spiff up a bio and fudge these details, but that feels wrong to me. It feels wrong to con some poor woman who’s already fended off hundreds of cyber stalkers or rude commentators into some outing with me, only for her to get someone like me with no prospects. After all, this isn’t high school or college anymore, this is real adult, post-30 life. Most women want to settle down, and quickly, not hang around a guy who can’t afford anything who wants to make up for lost time. So the fact that I never know what to say in an online dating greeting is irrelevant; you can’t sell a shoddy product without resorting to outright fraud. If I am unwilling to do such a thing myself, I certainly would not want a friend to do it for me by proxy.
The night ended quickly, and despite it all I did have a pretty good time. Yet at the end I couldn’t shake the feeling of life having passed me by, and me being caught in its’ dust. I am happy for my friends, and seek to be content in what is left of my life. There is a part of me that wonders how life would have been like had I had a successful teenage romance, a college fling, a few lovers worth of experience or some genuine happiness in my adult life beyond a particular comic, film, or cartoon. But then again, there’s a part of me that wonders what it’d be like to fly, or have super powers, or other impossible things. I am no longer envious of my friends, and that is something I am proud of. Yet I cannot shake noticing the gap which exists between me and them, and that such a gap has never been wider.