This is how it goes.
You are a traveler. A travel writer. You spend very little time in one place, even if you have a home base. When you tell people what you do for a living, their response is usually, “You’re so lucky!” or, “You have the greatest life!” The former is false: You’re not lucky, you worked really fucking hard to be where you are. The latter is true: You’re happy and proud of how far you’ve come.
All this glamorous living is disrupted by one absence that is quickly (and uncomfortably) becoming the elephant in the room: dating. You don’t mind being single. You haven’t been on a date in three years. You’re not sure you even know how to do it. The last date was with a guy who was too young and too sweet and kept gripping your knee in the theatre. The goodnight kiss was as awkward as your first one ten years ago. But when it occurs to you that you haven’t even been remotely interested in someone for over a year…well, you reconsider.
You reconsider what it means to live a borderless life. You reconsider those epic landscape images with inspirational quotes meant to motivate people to leave their cubicle jobs and see the world. Like it’s the only thing in this world. Travel.
It’s not. Are you living, or trading one thing for another? Can you do both?
You’re envious of the couples who travel together. You don’t mind being alone; you’ve always been alone. You’re 26 years old and have no concept of what mutual affection is. Your first “relationship” was a guy you spent time with because you wanted to fit in with your friends. You didn’t even let him get to second base, and finally one night you ditched him for good so you could stay at home and play with your brand new computer.
The second “relationship” was with a guy you’re pretty sure is now gay. It took a couple of months for you to realize he was doing one of your best friends.
Does mutual affection exist? Can you miss something you’ve never had?
Nowadays, your guy friends occasionally text you to “get a real job” and “stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars.” At one time, you considered these guys dateable. Now they’re unrelatable.
When you finally meet any likely candidate, you find yourself grasping at conversation. You’re drowning. You talk about yoga in the Rockies, partying in New York City, floating down the Vltava River in Prague. You’re not even all that well travelled but compared to the average Joe you are, and he finds that intimidating. Or he finds you to be a braggart, arrogant. So you spend a lot more time watching popular TV shows because he’ll at least be a fan of Community or Dexter or The Wire. Talk about how The Wire is the greatest television show ever created. You’re in, for now.
You meet guys at bars who ask about your job. When you tell them you’re a writer, they’re bored. “Do you make much money at that?” “No.” It’s like a film over their eyes. Not that you were interested, anyway.
When you do meet those guys that are all sparks and winks and subtle touching, it’s usually when you’re travelling. They’re usually not interested in you at all, but being from somewhere else opens up the doors for conversation. When you know the option of dating is off the table because he lives on the other side of the continent and has no interest in settling down (traveller), you opt for the other route. It’s all flesh on flesh and meaningless promises, but it’s affirmation that you’re still attractive, still appealing, still desirable, still human. These experiences are few and far between, because despite the inactive date life, you cling to some thread of decency. Surely there is someone in the world that wants to see you naked.
You remember one time after it was all over you stayed awake all night just because you wanted to remember what it was like to share a bed with someone other than your ugly cat. It doesn’t matter that it’s all make-believe; you have no illusions about what’s going on. You’ve learned to accept that there is a certain hurt that comes with dating the undateable, the one-night stands. After that near-fatal car accident back in October, your thinking shifted. You thought: It’s okay to feel pain and sadness and loneliness. You are human. You’re meant to cram every possible mistake and miracle into your life. You are quoting Community now. You probably need to get laid.
And even if it were all roses and lollipops and things somehow worked themselves out, and you find the love of your life, do you really want it? The inevitable seems to happen: You’ll ground. You’ll set down roots. You’ll pop out babies and buy a car and a house and put aside money for new furniture. And that’s totally okay, you want all those things. But do you want it now? Do you want Sunday dinners with porcelain china while you invite over the neighbors and the men smoke cigars in the parlor, like in Mad Men? You haven’t even been to Asia yet, nor the Greek Isles. But the pressure is real, and earnest. Your biological clock keeps you awake at night with its incessant ticking.
Hilariously — pathetically — the only men who find you endearing are the ones who only know you via your online life. You wonder if this is why you signed up for ICQ a decade ago. You avoid their private messages and offers for dates and run away from those people when you see them in public. They’re wonderful men, just not for you. You will kindly ask that they stop stalking you, because the privacy settings on Facebook are getting out of hand.
But then you pack your bags and get ready to go somewhere new, to do it all over again, to make even better mistakes.