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The early nineties lied to me.

February 10, 2013

Valentine’s Day is nigh, which means I have to wander through the aisles of grocery stores with my eyes downcast, mumbling lines from what few heavy metal songs I know. A solid glance at the floor is usually enough to prevent me from having to see mass-produced heart-sprinkled cupcakes and irresistible deals on half-wilted roses and usually also enough to prevent me seeing the weird looks I invariably attract. But when I run out of metal to mentally mumble along to, I’m forced to take the auditory assault of whatever soft-rock love song plays on the overhead speakers.

Usually I just shake my head and carry on mumbling, which generally gets me to the front of lines really quickly. But the song playing the other night was enough to shake me out of my reverie long enough to exclaim, “Bullshit!” loudly enough to earn a few headshakes of my own.

The offending song in question was this charming little ditty by Michael Bolton, a.k.a. the King of Pap. Indeed, some of you may have already spotted a trend: I don’t think marriage or babies are so hot, and I definitely do not think love is a wonderful thing.

This doesn’t come from a place of bitterness for having not been able to find any in my life. Quite the opposite. When I was younger and less cynical, I could’ve been convinced that Michael Bolton was singing the  truth. I didn’t know any better, but I also didn’t know any worse.

It took developing feelings for another human being to put me off the endorphins Keats and Shakespeare were smoking. The first year I was solidly in lust with my now-ex was the worst of my life. I couldn’t focus on my summer job for thinking about how much I missed him. When we were back in school together and I couldn’t spend an evening or weekend with him, I felt certain I knew what those emo kids were talking about with feeling like they’d been separated from a limb. When he went to study abroad, I might just as well have put on heavy black eyeliner and a fishnet shirt–it honestly felt as though my life was a giant abyss without him, and nothing I did came close to filling it.

Even though that was six years ago, the memory sickens me to this day. Honestly, I was relieved when the infatuation wore off. It might be simply my own inclination towards being an independent person capable of making her own happiness, but I loathed being so reliant on someone else to make me feel like a whole person. I imagine that must be what other single people I know talk about when they sigh and say, “I want to fall in love again.” Given my own experience, however, I can’t imagine why they would want to fall into such a deep, dark, dank pit.

In spite of an internet survey to the contrary, I suspect I might, once again, be in the minority here. Given my suspicions that I am not, it’s probably no wonder that I spend quite a bit of time on Is It Normal?  On this particular occasion, I stumbled across a post that asked, “Is it normal that I don’t believe in romance?”  Once the poll creator clarified that they were asexual and neither desired nor felt capable of a romantic relationship with another person, responders were more affirming, and the post was deemed a perhaps shocking 70% normal.

I somehow doubt the responses would be similar if a straight woman created a similar poll and went on to explain that she liked to look but not necessarily to touch, lest that lead to all those bothersome bonding-chemicals. In many ways, I wish I could simply turn all sexual desires off. I have the feeling, though, that this is rather like every other aspect sexuality where we have significantly less control than we’d like. After all, it would make it so much easier, as one of my gay friends who grew up in the same conservative Christian neighborhood I did, if he could have just decided to be straight. Really, did our tongue-clucking high-school circle actually believe he woke up one morning and said, “What a fabulous day! I believe I shall become gay!” and prance from the room on a cloud of rainbow sparkles?

Obviously, hetero vs. homosexuality doesn’t work like that, and neither does sexuality vs. none. I still find myself nodding and thinking, “I’d tap that,” about some of the fresh-out-of-college ski instructors I work with. Worse still for my resolve is the gender imbalance that plagues ski towns, making me start to look similarly tappable to those boys after a few months of a dry spell.

But I can’t let myself fall off the wagon. After all, even though I feel happy, liberated even, now that my ex is out of my life, I’m still wary of potential residual effects from the breakup. I’d worry that the chemical-production facilities in my brain, not having gotten the message from the higher-ups, would start kicking into overdrive if I so much as held a handshake a little too long.

And so it’s best if I just keep mumbling heavy metal to myself as I change out of my instructor’s uniform. After work, I’ll go back to the eighties for a reminder of the real nature of life. Then when the hot guys notice my odd behavior and ask, “Why are you acting so weird?” I can look them straight in the eye and respond, “Love stinks.”

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