I just turned 28 and I gotta say, as Drew Gehling told me at a bar last week, “28! Shit’s just gettin good!” And it’s true, very attractive Broadway star. Shit is indeed just getting good.
Anywho, if you’ve been keeping up with the blog at all you know my ex-boyfriend is from Romania and was/is super awesome. Around this time last year, we were not together but due to having been recently sexually assaulted, I was deeply concerned at my ability to ever touch a man again, let alone fall in love. So I was still very much attached to him. We spoke almost daily, facetimed frequently, and (at least I was) were still very in love.
We discussed him moving to New York City and eventually it came to this:
“MJ, I know things are hard in Romania but I want to stay so I can maybe make it better, instead of running off to America. I love my country. Can you imagine leaving your country forever? Your family, language, everything you love?”
I am not used to men acting like grownups even when they actually are grownups
Okay FINE, Zorro! Just go and be the amazing person I fell in love with. Stay in his home country so he can make it better. Choose his life instead of completely changing it for another. Pfffft. Can you believe that shit? Where were his priorities...
But I knew he was right. And I was amazed at his capacity to make such a mature decision for himself, despite being five years younger than I. I'm not used to men acting like grownups even when they actually are grownups.
So Zorro had decided that giving up his entire life to be with a significant other was not going to happen. But I am a Midwestern, steeped-in-traditional-gender-roles woman, raised by two teens who were pregnant before marriage while attending a private General Baptist college. Bring on the adversity, Universe! I will overcome for a husband!
It’s Not Like The Movies
Here’s something you must know about me. I really reallly realllly want my love story to be big and romantic and beautiful. Or at least like the plotline of a solid romcom. So the idea of uprooting my life in America to move to Post-Soviet Europe to be with the man of my dreams seemed about as grandiose as I could be, despite the reality of that grand gesture being potentially miserable:
First of all, Romania is a beautiful country with amazing people and a culture so rich in love I think I experienced the physical touch of God just by hugging one of Zorro’s sisters in a church. However, even with all that goodness, their economy is not doing so well. The average Romanian makes 630USD/month. How would I afford to fly back to the States and see all my family and friends? I like traveling and I like seeing my family! The Romanian currency and economy would not allow me that privilege.
What about a job? It’s not like Romania has a booming Musical Theatre scene, or even theatre/acting. And I don’t speak Romanian, so how would I get a “normal” job? I don’t even want to get a normal job! That’s why I’m an actor!
And then there are just the basic luxuries I would miss about living in America. Well-constructed roads, hot water, nice gyms, gaggles of wonderful gay men (Romania isn’t exactly progressive…). Yes. VERY FIRST WORLD I KNOW but these are things I thoroughly enjoy. I can go without them on vacation to experience another culture, but long term? Call me an asshole but I would miss the hell out of a good hot bath and my IRL Queer Eye circle.
Also, Zorro is 5 years younger than me, so he wasn’t even in the workforce yet. Where would we live? The dorms while he finishes grad school? Do I really want to be 28 and living in a dorm? Who would I hang out with? All his 21 year old friends who don’t speak English?
Anyway, the point is I never anticipated having to make the decision between being with a man I loved and living the life I loved
Basically, this whole moving to Romania for the love of my life got less romantic as I dissected the realities of what that would entail. Turns out, Zorro was right. Giving up my entire life to be in someone else’s is not at all romantic.
Maybe this seems like “Uh, duh Mattie Jo!” but you listen here, oh judgy one! Where I am from, people do not often build lives apart and eventually come together after they’ve established their preferred sleeping routine and paid off their student loans. No no. The time spent developing your frontal lobe and credit score is spent with another person. So, many of the happy couples I know build lives together, sort of morphing into one person literally (#oneflesh) and metaphorically.
Not to mention the fact that women are inundated with messages of necessary matrimony to prove their value. Sure, things are changing because we have more money and job opportunities so we don’t actually have to marry men to move out of our parents homes or whatever. BUT there is still a very pervasive message women receive that says, "if you’re single after a certain age, something must be wrong with you (Are you crazy? Hard to love? Do you have sexual trauma you carry from years steeped in the purity movement? Okay that last one, definitely. But isn't that the point? Shouldn't I be in solo therapy before I drag someone else into that shit? Just a thought...). People ask “why are you single?” as if to be single is the worst thing a woman could be. Maybe I’m just single because I’ve been living my own life for a bit. Is that SO terrible?
Anyway, the point is I never anticipated having to make the decision between being with a man I loved and living the life I loved. Even though I’d spent my early twenties living out the contrary, I was still subconsciously attached to this idea that my experiences, preferences, and identity must be shared and/or heavily reliant on my (future) husband’s.
What’s crazy is that my college ex and I broke things off so that I could pursue a life of my own. He was going into med school is Missouri and I wanted to be an actor in New York City. Our post-college paths were going to directly conflict/not even merge a little bit. Even then, I was willing to work through the adversity for the sake of love. "Frequent Flyer miles are a great thing." I informed him.
However, I eventually had to come to terms with the fact that wanting him and wanting the life I would have with him were not the same. I had to choose.
But I’d been in New York for 4 years forging my own path, being an independent badass lady, knowing I was 100% a person outside of having a husband/serious boyfriend. So why was I doing this “must be a wife at all costs” bullshit all over again with Zorro??? Because, just like my still listening to The Best of Shane and Shane on Spotify every Sunday morning, old habits die hard.
Easy To Love
My parents are kind of known for their incredible marriage, and I deeply desire what they have. They’ve been married for 30 something years and are still madly in love, make sexual jokes around their (grown) children, and put up with each others’ bullshit with unmatched grace. I think this is great to aspire to, but the truth is, my parents met when they were 17 (actually like 12 but they started dating at 17). They built a life of partnership. You know my mom won't drive anywhere she hasn't been before, without my dad? She literally refuses to use Google Maps because "Oh your dad will just drive." Yeah.
"Getting a husband” doesn’t equate success or worth anymore than being president of the United States equates intelligence
I’m not saying they aren’t individual people or that things are always easy peasy lemon squeezy (lord knows 4 kids before 30 WAS NOT easy). I’m just saying, they’ve spent more of their lives together than not; particularly the part of their lives where their personality was really developing. As a result, there wasn’t much individualization to overcome in their entering into matrimony.* This is also true of my friends who got married right outside of college or in college. Together they have a mortgage and a Golden Doodle. Meanwhile, I have a roommate in an overpriced (but rent stabilized!) apartment with a few tattoos because I absolutely cannot afford to feed anyone/thing other than myself right now but I'll take the permanent skin ink, thanks (if you think wedding vows are forever...).
*I’m not saying relationships don’t take compromise. Of course they do! I mean, if I’m being totally honest I do worry about my inability to compromise because I am so used to doing life on my own time/preferences. “You don’t want me to stay over?” a dude will ask. “Not really. I want to get a full 8 hours of sleep and if you stay over you might snore or something." Sexy talk has always been my forte.
For those of us who did not enter a committed relationship in our early twenties (or before), life just looks different. Not inferior or superior, just different. The problem, however, is that I do find a lot of my single girlfriends who fair from the Evangelical/heavily Christian Midwest, do feel as though their choice to take this path is inferior to those who somehow “did it right” and “got the guy.” But “getting a husband” doesn’t equate success or worth anymore than being president of the United States equates intelligence.
So next time you go to a family or friend’s wedding and they ask “What happened to that guy you were seeing?” or“When we gunna see you say ‘I do?’” You look Aunt Petunia in the face and say “ You know what costs as much as this wedding? Five solo vacations (AT LEAST) abroad.” Or “You know what’s more expensive than marriage? A Divorce.” And then be proud of the journey you are on. A journey where you’ve done the really fucking hard work of spending so much time with yourself, you couldn’t deny your own needs if you tried. A journey that has led you to being a whole person who doesn’t need a husband for excitement and completion, but great sex and companionship would be nice. A journey that has led you to the life that you love and (eventually) the love of your life.