Smug or Shit

September 5, 2011 § 18 Comments

Since yesterday’s post, I have been thinking a lot about my friend who was on her own for a few months, said how happy she was about it to anyone who would listen, and is now with someone.

In my view there are a million and one ways of being a plankton but there are two prominent ones.  The first is being desperate about it and clinging on for dear life to keep the desperation secret for fear of social hell and damnation and romantic/sexual/relationship apocalyspe (cf. my piece in today’s T2 section of The Times).  Some of us are more practised at faking our smiles and waves than others but most of us in this category are pretty darn good at it.  Second, there is being happy about being on one’s own but smugging it all over the shop just to make sure that nobody for a millisecond mistakes one for the first type.  This latter was my friend.  I expect her happiness may have been genuine, but boy did we have to know about it.  And obviously not so happy that when the first man came along she not only didn’t barge pole him in favour of her continued solitary bliss, but instead snapped him up in a suspicious instant.  Both are disingenuous but the first is disingenuous in the name of survival; the second disingenuous in a way that is frankly fucking annoying.

Where do I stand?  Somewhere between the two.  Perhaps every bleeding word of this blog is saturated in desperation and I own that that is definitely a large and crucial part of my story.  The desperation I feel is fear; not for the now – today is OK; I have children to look after, work to do, and friends with whom to make hay – but for the future.  The fear of never finding anyone again.  If there is a stench about me, it is that more than anything else.  An awareness of time running out.  I sometimes think about my energy and zest for life and largely sunny nature – the things which remain attractive but must begin to diminish. I wonder how long I have left before ailments, pessimism, and lethargy set in and hope begins to dwindle?  I am being realistic here, not depressed.  I look at my naked body in the mirror.  I think it is holding up OK, but till when exactly?

Today there is, still, such zest and hope, just.  I remember the single days before I married, the combination of terror and excitement.  The terror of never finding Mr Right, but the excitement engendered by the touch-and-go business of the search.  The extraordinary highs and lows.  Call that Phase 1.  Phase 2 was marriage to a remarkable man which was by no means perfect but which bought, largely, untold happiness (to us both, I hope).  Phase 3 is now, so different to the secure, loving contentment of phase 2 and so similar to Phase 1 that it is uncanny.  All the same feelings swirling just as they did decades ago, the only difference being the blessing of children; the body alas somewhat advanced; the forces of chance dramatically reduced.  But a mind for companionship utterly unchanged.

Just as then, in Phase 1, I go about my daily business in a permanent slightly heightened state brought on by the presence of possibility, however tenuous that possibility may be.  The twinkles (Smidgen back, though no word, there might be and I could bump into him in the street; a reply from Long Shot to Janey as yet just a wild guess, but still could happen).

If anyone’s interested, if anyone asked me, though God forbid that I would protest too much and ram this smug shit down anyone’s throats unless push hadn’t come to shove (and I think my friend’s story does constitute push having come to its proverbial), I would say I was very happy in fact, not happy to be on my own, just happy, without the condition of aloneness/not aloneness.  That doesn’t come into it.  What comes into it is the children, family, friends, work, my home, all that.  And on top, the edginess of possibility (which Phase 2 lacked but made up for in a million other ways) with its associated – perhaps too-greedy? – hope of a small but preferably male addition to everything that already makes me happy, if you get my drift.

Maybe that was what my friend was really referring to when she said she was so happy.  There again, maybe not.  She did so tediously labour the fact that she was oh so happy TO BE ALONE, the only conclusion one could draw at the time was that she was full of either Smug but, more likely, Shit.

In the light of her most recent narrative, it was patently the latter.  I prefer not to hark on about my happiness but if I must, then honesty and simplicity and brevity on the matter are key: I am happy, happy in myself if you will (though that’s a loathsome phrase and I would really rather not), but at the same time – and the two feelings are not mutually exclusive – I fearfully hope with all my heart not to be on my own for ever.


§ 18 Responses to Smug or Shit

  • EmGee says:

    If your friend’s few months on her own was preceded by a marriage anything like mine became (underage women, alcoholism, drugs, angry rages; not the man I married 13 years ago but some stranger in his body), then perhaps it was a relief to be alone. I know it was for me. It was only later, after I met a man who treated me well, conversed, shared interests, etc…, that when that relationship ended, did I miss not having that male addition to my happiness.

    Plankton, I think it is natural all humans to fear being alone, the only thing to do is toss that fear away, no matter how often it returns. Like most fears, fear of being alone is made up in our minds, and has no basis in fact.

  • Sarah Cable says:

    If you really want to change your life for the better, stop calling yourself a plankton.

    When your friends tell you to get a dog, they might also add “Give a dog a bad name”…

    because that is what you are doing to yourself.

    The label you give yourself sticks in your subconscious. It shows how you see yourself and you will live up to that.

    I suggest- very seriously- that you find someone to help you such as a psychologist, CBT practitioner etc who canhelp you trun around you negative attitude to oyurself.

    • MissM says:

      Isn’t is funny how you see Plankton as negative, when others including myself, see her as funny, witty, charming, perceptive, and wonderfully honest. The world is made up of people of different types. Personally I’d much prefer the company of someone like our Plankton. To me those persistently cheerful, perky, bouncy, isn’t-life-perfect-and-full-of-opportunites-nothing-is-ever-negative types as annoying as a human being can be, and have to suppress an urge to hit them over the head with a piece of 2×4. To each their own.

  • Redbookish says:

    I think you’re just human, and it seems human to wish for someone to love & care for, to be loved & cared for back, for sex, for companionship.

    And then there’s the particular moment in which we live, and the way we are socialised or acculturated. Singleness is seen as a temporary stage, the model of coupledom is held to be the ideal, and an indication of success — that you are a good person, with whom someone else wishes to spend his life. Women are still brought up as relational creatures: always looking for others to care & nurture.

    And then there’s the socialisation of men: they are acculturated to look for youth, lesser height, lesser intelligence, lesser wealth, lesser achievement.

    Those things don’t make an equal or easy equation.

  • John says:

    Miss P sincere congratulations on landing a regular column in The Times. I read it today and it makes a great read.
    My observation is that for every plankton out there there must be a guy. Divorce usually involves 2 people so what about all those guys who are also looking for a mate? They all could not have had my experience of getting divorced in my 30’s and, yes, I did marry a 21 year old. Bloody typical I can hear you say!

  • DAN says:

    Now plankton, your very last statement is one that every other plankton both male and female can relate to, and all wish the same thing,
    ” fearfully hope with all my heart not to be on my own for ever “.

    You are very lucky in one respect, in that you say you have family still living with you, a good job and plenty of freinds and are obviously financially secure!

    Unfortunatly most or some other planktons are not so lucky!

    I worked 3 jobs and devoted all my spare time to my wife and family,and gave up all my freinds in order to accomplish a better enviornment at home and chanell all my spare time and energy into preparing them for life in teaching them how to cook etc…
    But while they all progressed, moved away to england, and australa and have all good jobs (including my ex wife who went back to college at age 48 which i paid for) i found myself for the last 15 months at home in my original house that they all grew up in,ON MY OWN , with just pictures, family videos, and memories to keep me going!

    So yes, i too fearfully hope with all my heart not to be on my own for ever but that seems to be my destiny, as unfortunatly i still love my wife and always will.


  • Betty says:

    Dear Plankton

    There can be light at the end of the tunnel – my husband of 20-odd years died suddenly, leaving me in a new place with no friends or contacts at the age of 72. I was incredibly lonely and so joined a dating web site or two with rather disasterous results – all men in their 60’s/70’s, it seemed, wanted 40 year old ‘popsies’ who no doubt would eventually give them heart attacks if they weren’t careful. I pursued lead after lead with the same results – silence. Then, one day, someone 5 years younger than me, thought we had enough in common to see beyond the age gap and invited me out to dinner. We loved each other from that first meal we ate together, and six months later, we are still together. I long for marriage – he wants to run a mile at the thought as he has a few failed relationships behind him, but we still love and respect each other and want to have a lasting, loving relationship of some kind. Like you, I felt this would never happen – but it has – and I have high hopes for the future after many months of nothingness and anguish. Incidentally, I have kept a running commentary called ‘Encounters Offline’ which highlights all the disasters – you may want to use this in your column!

    Be positive and brave- you will find someone!

    Kind regards

    An old fogey living in Norfolk

  • Erin says:

    You will not be alone forever, dear Plankton. You are obviously a very intelligent woman, not to mention incredibly funny, and you will meet the right man who will feel like he hit the jackpot meeting you. I feel like life is like a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe Mr. Right is missing a piece at this time in his life. Maybe he is ending a relationship or moving to your area from some other part of the world or finally making love a priority in his life – the missing puzzle pieces, the right timing – that once the pieces click into place and form a complete puzzle, he will then walk into your life.

    I was single for many years, and like you, a single parent. I finally at age 47 met my husband and we were married 5 yrs later. I’m not going to go on and on about how perfect life is now and how I’m gushingly happy every day since we found each other because let’s face it, no one’s life is like that – it is not realistic. I said to him one day, just imagine, we lived 30 miles away from one another for years and never met – so sad that we meet now in our later years. He said even if we had met, we wouldn’t be together because I was married at the time. He had a missing puzzle piece that took time to click into place before we could be together. Fate, kismit – it’s all really out of our hands. It’s all about timing. When it is ready to happen, it will happen, and it will happen for you : )

  • june says:

    Well yes plankton i do agree with you but do worry how you seem to thnk you will go to seed so quickly. i am considerably older than you,have no kids, my parents are dead and i am an only child, so my siuation is much worse than yours. However i still am very slim, look years younger im told and am very healthy, i do have very good genes which serves me in good stead.

    However i do think we all fear being alone, i have times when i hate it and times when i quite like it. i have a friend who hates being alone so much, she will do anything not to be,i could never be like that. My contact from the dating website still in touch and says wants to meet this week . gave me his mobile, i gave him mine, suggested a venue, now havent heard,is he going off the idea, he is quite a bit younger than me,but said didnt matter, as i look so much younger.Told him had girls night out saturday but said free rest week,part of me thinks o god another no hope, part thinks o well who cares, but i guess i do really, i dont want to live with anyone but yes the thought of all these years stretching out on my own all while,and i do have friends,mostly though with partners, its something i try not to think about too much.

  • Lydia says:

    1. Plenty of people are happy single

    2. Most of us can find someone if we want to

    3. You seem to have a lot of possible contenders because the only place you are a plankton is in your head.

    4. Most women end up alone as they marry youunger men you usually die sooner than women anyway. So even if you have the marriage of the century you are likely to have 5 – 10 years alone whatever you do. I can’t wait. I was married 19 y ears. I live with lots of children. I have never in my life got the chance to be alone. I have so many plans for what I will do in those yearsd – 75 – 85 is going to be so good if I’m alone…. I’m a cup half full person and I might even try Jane Fonda’s suggestions of testosterone in your 70 s for sex drive mmmm what fun one shall have……

    5. Vast numbers of people in relationships aren’t happy in them and we are single and free. How great is that! Plus we get the chance to see men whenever we choose and meet loads of interesting men even if mostly they don’t turn out to be someone to whome one might plight their troth.

    6.It’s worked. You got a column in the Times which presumably means a fee, publicity. You picked a topic which interested enough people to generate interest. Your cup over floweth. You probably aren’t short of men who are reading this asking you out either. It’s all good.

    Also why would anyone be alone if they have children? Why wouldn’t they be around? Esther Ranzen bravely wrote about being lonely recently and was on Woman’s Hour talking about it. It seems to be a state which does not affect everyone. Some are alone but don’t feel lonely. The loneliest I ever felt was in my long marriage. I will never be as lonely as that again and I am so lucky that that be so.

    • Lynda House says:

      Well said Lydia! Keep topping up that cup of yours! My cup also overfloweth – my mantra is ‘If life hands you a lemon, you can always make lemonade’

      Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so! One of Shakespeare’s quotes, somewhat hashed about but the meaning is the same.

    • Mezzanine says:

      Hi Lydia

      Ref point 6: It is good. I missed The Times column but I’ll catch up when I’m back. Long may it continue and I’m looking forward to the book!! ;0)

  • missnovember says:

    Plankton – I absolutely love your hilarious take on life and look forward every day, to the latest developments from the bottom of the sexual food chain. You really make me laugh, with your very refreshing honesty. So similar in age and circumstances to myself, as we’re both in the same boat, fishing in a very small pool, for the elusive Mr Right. Does he actually exist?? Keep on looking, Plankie. Never give up. The right man for you is out there and what a lucky, lucky man he will be too, to find YOU – the treasure at the bottom of the sea.

  • Erin says:

    Actually, ladies, you are at a good age to find single men. The 30s is a vast wasteland – everyone married with small children. Even your married friends have no one to introduce you to. The 40s come and people are getting divorced, even losing spouses to illness (sad, but true) and there is a much larger pool to choose from. Also, you have lessons that have been learned in the first marriage that hopefully won’t be repeated in the second, but yes, you also have those with emotional scars – the yin and the yang. Perservere and don’t get discouraged or even worse, depressed. It will happen – timing, timing, timing. Keep thinking positively and know that special person is also out there trying to find you!

  • Leftatforty says:

    At least your naked body is still holding on…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Smug or Shit at The Plankton.


%d bloggers like this: