(Midnight Oil song title from the album Red Sails in the Sunset)
Talking with a very independent and strong female friend recently, she revealed a vulnerable side to say that she feels cheated in a sense by the way society has demanded of women to show their independence with very little support. She's been in a weird relationship the last 7 months - on and off with a guy she finds very little satisfaction with anymore, but she admitted that while part of her doesn't want to hurt him, she also is sure she is in it just for the sheer affection, basic weird love feeling she gets from it. It's not abusive - just - bland.
Now, why would someone who is gaining in her career, has traveled and lived abroad, owns her own home and keeps very fit stay in something like that?
"It's a backhanded compliment and I get it all the time," she sighed, referring to all of her coworkers and friends who say, upon meeting her or not knowing her well, that they "Can't Believe She's Still Single at 31, and What With Her Being So Pretty and Smart and All." Guess what? She can't believe it either.
Even when it is said in the most ostensibly supportive and encouraging manner (not to mention all the times it is literally laid down as a thinly veiled form of relief or insult), she feels the whip of it. For so long, she felt so "ok" being "alone." "I didn't really *need* relationships for a long time," she pointed out, and I well know this to be true, following her independent escapades all through out her 20's, the length of our friendship so far. I think maybe something happened a couple of years ago. One, she hit her Saturn return, that powerful turning point of no return, where what is working gets smoother, even if challenging, and clearer. She focused her career, went back to school, bought a house. And what doesn't work? That falls apart. She got into a very satisfying - or so it seemed at the time - relationship, and eventually it showed its true colors. That relationship revealed to her all the places she'd been avoiding for so long, and it hurt horribly, beyond measure, upon break up.
Since then she has had to hobble through the field of living and being alone with only peripheral support. Being wounded, open-hearted, and vulnerable may be a sort of "goal" in the sensitivity sense, but the fact is that it hurts like a Biatch. I managed to survive about a month of the state she's been in now for a couple of years and then I found Dylan - or we found each other. I cannot even imagine being there again, something Dylan and I talk about again and again. Not just the early 20's part of flailing around in habit, trying like crazy people to do the same thing again and again and expect different results, but then the part where we KNEW what we wanted, needed, or a hint of it anyway, and we didn't have it.
Would I put up with something mid-range, hoping it would tide me over until the real thing appears? Hell yes. Sitting in her house, talking with her, at one point she paused and said "After a busy day at work, at school, I come home to my home and this is what I've got:" (silence, not even the sound of cars or birds). "You see?" Oh yes. I do.
She's not dumb. She knows she has friends - me and others who understand, her family, and a world that needs her. But increasingly this request, this admiration of the world that those things are somehow enough when in fact, they aren't, pains her. Understandably. The double-standard puts her in her own way. Independent her in the way of Vulnerable her. Putting up with it just to get some love her in the way of Knows what she really needs her. In this way all the others who commentate on her life (myself included) contribute to the double standard with backhanded compliments and advice. Behind all of it, a sense of (and I am guilty of this, too) "Thank God It Isn't Me."
There's no advice to give. Slowly but surely she is learning to believe in her core self and feel the thirst for love. One day all of this will synchronize with the right person at the right time. In the meantime we drink wine, make fun of her crushes and the back hands of others, and I give her all the hugs, text messages and goofy presents I can, knowing it is enough, and yet also not enough.
There is no replacement for the kind of love she is seeking. I know you both cannot seek it and yet must seek it, my dear. If I could give you a formula, I would. So I'll give you laughter instead.