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.