Jackie Summers would rather be alone than with someone who is not right for him. Still, he wonders.
This is not the life I thought would be mine.
I know that few people get to live the life they claim to want, but no one could have convinced me twenty, ten, even five years ago, that at 42, I’d be alone. My tales of Fucking in Brooklyn notwithstanding, what I want is a wife, and children, a family of my own.
Don’t get me wrong, my life as it is ain’t bad. I make a comfortable living doing stuff I love, my home is cozy, my health is sparkling, my friends are amazing. And my sex life…? Well it’s worth writing about.
In some ways I’m the consummate bachelor I never wanted to be. I have guy friends my age who have kids graduating from high school, who are thinking about retirement, who prefer watching football to having sex, who haven’t seen their penises in years, and who regard my unencumbered socialite life with a dash of envy. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not forcing myself to come to terms with the unpleasant reality that I might never have a family of my own.
Obviously if it was only about making babies I could do that; as I tell my mom every time she asks me when she is going to have grandkids from me, “be glad I’m a responsible man, or you’d have them already.” I know could adopt as well; marriage has not been a prerequisite to being a parent for a long time. Yes I can still produce viable sperm into my sixties but I really have no desire to be pushing a baby stroller and collecting social security (if it is still around by then). For that matter if all I wanted was a partner, I’m sure I could find someone who’d marry me. Despite the fact that I’m aging slowly and gracefully, I’m actually not getting any younger. So why am I still single?
Because I refuse to settle.
No one is perfect, and that’s not what I’m looking for. But I know what it is to feel that connection with a woman, to get butterflies in my stomach every time I think of her. I know what it is to spend endless hours talking, laughing, learning, sharing. I know what it is to make love all night to my best friend, and while it’s impossible to avoid chores, bills and other necessary items of daily life, I just don’t see the point in getting into an ordinary routine with someone who isn’t extraordinary.
This is a difficult choice to make, and it becomes more difficult every day. I see people all around me settle for less, for a variety of reasons, all valid. Companionship, child-rearing, sexual longing, even managing finances–these are all needs that can be fulfilled with someone you’re not madly in love with. So why not accept a little less than what I really want to attend to these other legitimate and pressing desires?
I’ve been married. I know how much compromise, how much sacrifice, how much work is involved in maintaining a household. Getting married means giving up a lot, including the right to act on the never-ending desire to chase women. My single life is varied and interesting, and I’m reticent to give it up for anything less than someone who makes me feel it’s all worthwhile, because (cue Jax’s maxim of the day) the second you settle for less than you deserve, you deserve what you settled for.
I know many unhappy couples. I hear the complaints: the boredom, the petty arguments, the vague dissatisfaction, the lousy sex, the abuse. I also know many happy couples; real friends who love spending time with each other, who’s passion for each other is not diminishing over time or under the weight of adult responsibilities. To the one, the difference is: happy couples are the ones who didn’t settle. They married because they fell, and stayed madly in love.
And then there’s my Mom and Dad. My parents were married for fifty-six years until my Dad died six years ago, God rest his soul. They had their fare share of problems for sure, but they never stopped loving, never stopped being affectionate, never stopped dating, and they were still sexually active until my dad got sick in his early eighties.
The choice to stick together and make it work is a conscious one, and one you can make, in theory, with anyone. No matter how much you love (or barely tolerate) someone, there are going to be challenges you will have to face together. If you are going to go thru all of the problems that marriage brings one way or another, why go thru it with someone you don’t absolutely adore? Why not go thru all of that with someone you’re crazy about?
The decision not to settle means I spend an inordinate amount of time alone. It means I have no one to help me with bills, no warm dinner to come home to, no one to tell my day to many nights, no one to do laundry for me if I’m tired, no movie buddy, no one holding me close at night, and no healthy evolving sexual relationship. It also means I have no one person I can share all of the good in my life with. And as each year passes and i grow smarter and more emotionally and financially stable, I drastically reduce the statistical possibility of finding a partner who meets my qualifications.
It also means I have to put up with no one’s bullshit but my own. Sure being single sucks sometimes, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be happy alone than unhappy with someone who’s not right for me; I’ve done that. I know I’m risking living alone for the rest of my life. But life is a risk, and it’s only the people who are willing to take real chances who get real rewards.
I want to make the most money I can make, doing the best job I can do, spending time with the best people I can find, living in the best home I can afford. Why would I treat my love life with any less respect than the rest of my life? I love a challenge, and it is far more challenging (and more satisfying) to try to seduce one woman night after night than a different woman every night. I don’t just want a relationship; I want a great relationship, and great relationships are a lot like baking: you need the right mix of ingredients, heat, and time. If I don’t want and try to get the best for me, who will?
It might sound like I want a fairy tale, but I’m just not ready to give up on what I want out of life and love. I’m still looking for the upside: I still want to believe I will love again. Does anyone really want to wake up every morning, roll over, look deeply into their partner’s eyes and say “honey, I’m so glad I settled for you?” Does any woman want to be thought of as “the one he settled for” instead of “the one he waited for?”
This is not the life I thought would be mine. But the life I want is still out there, hoping I don’t settle, hoping I don’t give up on it. I refuse to settle. As hard as it is, I’m willing to wait for the things I want and feel I deserve out of life.
But I sure wouldn’t complain if life would HURRY THE FUCK UP.