Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Love, Love, Love
My senior year of college, a good friend went home for her sister’s bat mitzvah. Two of us attended the event to keep her company. We hopped in my jeep early in the morning, changed into appropriate attire in the synagogue parking lot and set off for a day filled with lots of Hebrew and lots more food. After spending 40 years hungrily traipsing through the desert, my people have a habit of going overboard with food.
At the luncheon afterwards, waiters waltzed around the room with smoked salmon topped crostini and pigs-in-blankets while couples waltzed around the dance floor. My friend’s sister did a superb job reading from the torah so there was good reason for friends and family to come together and celebrate her success. I contributed to the joy by crying.
I didn’t cry out of elation or pride. In fact, at the moment, I wasn’t all that certain what was making salty tears release out of the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks. My startled and confused friend turned to me and asked if I was okay. I answered her, my sentences interrupted with gasps for air.
“It’s just that….(gasp)….I’m watching this….(gasp)….couple dance and….(gasp)….they look so….(gasp)….in love.”
“That’s a good thing. Especially considering they’re, like, fifty something.”
“I know....(gasp)....but what if….(gasp)….I never find….(gasp)….that?”
The friend nodded a code red signal across the dance floor to the other friend and escorted me out to a side room that had been previously used for the cocktail hour. Servers ran around tidying up emptied goblets stained with Manischweitz and crumpled napkins tainted with greasy fingerprints. It took me a few minutes to calm down and a little longer for my support group to convince me I'd find love. I was only twenty-one, after all, and had more than enough time to experience true love. With my two friends now on mental breakdown watch, I rejoined the rest of the celebration.
I can honestly say that while I have loved all of my ex’s in one capacity or another, I’ve probably only been in love with one of them. It was a whirlwind romance that ended with him back in the arms of the woman who preceded me. Perhaps it was more lust than love but I was crushed either way. I haven’t felt that hardcore I-could-die-without-you affection in almost ten years now and I’m starting to get concerned.
After things ended with Ex, I went back to seeing a therapist. I agreed with my friends that I didn’t actually need counseling but it felt like the right thing to do. I shared the issues cluttering my head. One of them was whether I could find love as is. Or did I perhaps need to consider changing my caretaker ways in order to avoid always taking care of someone who rarely takes care of me. Dr. P gracefully sidestepped that landmine and steered the conversation elsewhere.
“Tell me,” Dr. P said. “Is there a couple you envy to the point you wish you could emulate them?”
I sat silent.
“Okay. Well, we know that immediate examples aren't the best. How about parents of friends? ....Paige?”
In a world where divorce is more expected than a successful marriage and where at thirty-three, I have more single friends than married ones, I struggled to come up with a couple I envied. Finally I found one and I identified the pair to Dr. P. She exhaled a sigh of relief, noting that a solidly functioning couple has become more extinct than the bald eagle. True words but not necessarily what this gal needed to hear at that very moment. I know I'll fall in love one day, marry a man I can't imagine a life without and we'll do our darnedest to see it through to the end, Depends and all. But those silly statistics that a woman is more likely to die in a plane crash than wed after age 35 doesn't help me remain confident.
I got home late the other night and while settling in and calming down from a long day, I flipped through the channels. I ultimately stopped at HBO which was airing a documentary about the Rosie O’Donnell cruise through the Caribbean for families with gay parents. A few couples had commitment ceremonies while at sea, providing interviews along the way. I would have never intentionally selected this documentary as my entertainment but somehow I got sucked in the way I do with infomercials for Winsor Pilates and that crappy bullet thing that you can use to make pesto sauce, guacamole and margaritas. I know you know the product I'm talking about. And if you bought it, I'm curious, is it as great as that annoying Australian bloke claims?
In one segment of the documentary, two men talked about their family. When the state of New Jersey made it legal for gays to be foster parents and adopt, they were at the front of the line taking in two foster children. They soon learned that one of them had two sisters also in the system, so they took them in too. Just prior to adopting the four children, a social worker notified the men that the non-sibling child’s mother was pregnant again and would they be interested in adopting her yet-to-be born child. Without a second thought, they said yes. So here is a family of two white men, together for ten years, having a commitment ceremony on a ship, surrounded by five adopted kids they love as their own. It looked like the UN. And I cried. Not because I was sad and not because I was happy. Just because. Because even in the most untraditional sense of family, I see something I so want and something I’m not so sure how to get.