Being single at 37 is pretty awesome if you’re George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio. However, I’m not George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m me, a dude with a ’99 Corolla (with a tape deck!) and more than $40,000 in student loan debt. For nearly six years, I’ve lived in my dead grandparents’ house in a Los Angeles suburb. I have type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, asthma, two cats, back pain that gives me headaches and an undiagnosed stomach problem that causes violent diarrhea and mass vomiting. If those aren’t enough to get a woman to swipe left, I’m also vegan.
February marks six years since I’ve been in a serious relationship. Much of that time has been spent doing all the things I didn’t do during the 11 years when I was with my ex-girlfriend. Yes, these “things” involve one-night stands and spontaneous trips to however far I trust my car to take me, but the freedom to drive to the desert to play blackjack at an Indian casino on a Wednesday night is getting kind of boring. And although I don’t miss my ex’s penchant for dropping her bags in front of the apartment door or hanging a wooden frog above our green couch, the older I get the more I realize that, similar to Al Green, I’m so tired of being alone.
I try not to think about how much I’m despising being single, but making a concerted effort not to think about something is the best way to ensure you’re constantly thinking about something. Which, I’m pretty sure, is why alcohol was invented. Thanks to my diabetes, I’m not supposed to drink booze, but once I got the invite to a pre-Thanksgiving party at my friends’ parents’ house, I knew I’d have at least one beer to drown lonely blues.
As always, I arrived late. Upon my entry, I discovered a living room full of people I knew: my brother Kevin and his new bride Caryn; my brother Sean and his girlfriend Charity; and our friend Prem and his girlfriend Dao, and Prem’s cousin, whom I had never met. At some point between bites of asparagus and avocado salad, I overheard Dao ask Prem’s cousin if he had a girlfriend. He replied—with a massive grin—that he had been seeing someone for six months.
“Ah, the good era,” I said. Everyone who heard me knew A) I was single, and B) I was the oldest person in the room, a depressing combination for anyone whose last name isn’t Clooney or DiCaprio. What they didn’t know was that I get really depressed coming home to only my cats, and that I’m dealing with these feelings of sorrow by writing bad poems and playing Tetris on my Game Boy.
Everyone in that room—some of my favorite people in the world—seemed so happy. And I wasn’t. This, I told myself, is why people kill themselves more often during the holidays. Except, they don’t. According to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention, the idea that suicide rates in the United States increase during the holiday season is a myth. In fact, the CDC suggest that the suicide rate decreases during December to less than any other month. My guess, however, is that no one at the CDC thinks a big night out is asking your mom to take a walk at the beach.
Once I was surrounded by happy people, I became miserable. And drunk. The holidays do that to me. Naturally, I kept drinking. Even with the beers, I couldn’t stop thinking about how different my life could—and should—be. Recently I met a woman who instantly became the person I wanted to wake up next to for the rest of my life, the girl who brought me out of my selfish-jerk coma. You know, “the one.” Turns out, she disagrees.
During my twenties, two-thirds of a sixer would have been the pre-game to me singing “Gin and Juice” at a karaoke bar. Now, this amount of beer makes me even more depressed than usual. It also makes me text “the one” because, apparently, I can’t shake this woman even though I’m fully aware that we’ll never be together.
Contacting her is a mistake because I get sad anytime she sends something that isn’t “I miss you.” And that message hasn’t come for months. Still, I was surprised when she answered so quickly and, like a fool, I drunkenly mistook our back-and-forth communication as a sign that maybe I still had a chance, that if I could just not be such a loser she’d want to be with me. However, rather than the witty banter and inside jokes we used to share via electronic devices, this girl—who once picked out a name for our future daughter—replied with nonsequiturs. It’s a game we play: She sends random texts to make sure I’m still in love with her and I hope she’ll say she’ll be on my couch later that evening to binge-watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
I wanted to teleport through my Samsung Galaxy and bring her home to me. Instead, I told her I was drunk—something she knows doesn’t happen often—and, as per usual, her response had nothing to do with staring at the TV with her legs stretched across mine. Then my friend’s mom emerged from the kitchen with miniature cupcakes and a turkey-shaped chocolate cake. Because I’m vegan and diabetic, watching my friends eat enough sugar to send me into a diabetic coma did nothing to my mental state. However, watching the men finish the women’s large slices made me even more depressed because in that moment I missed having someone in my life whose messes I’d gladly clean, a person worthy of an extra thousand calories I don’t need.
Thanks to the beers, I don’t remember much about the rest of the party. I do, however, recall getting a ride home from Dao and Prem and eating handsful of chocolate chips while watching Law & Order: SVU in my pajamas. I also remember turning on the heater, taking out a bottle of tequila only to opt for more chocolate and my cats plopping their fall coats next to my legs. For much of the previous six years, a buzz, felines, and Law & Order have been my idea of the good life. But this time I felt like Louis Prima—sad and lonely, sad and lonely.
Thanks to good drinking genetics from both of my grandfathers, I woke up the following morning without a hangover. I also woke up without a text wishing me good morning from “the one.” It was Thanksgiving morning, the official beginning of the holiday season, another year in which I had no prospects of being in a relationship, zero girl to kiss under the mistletoe and no good reason not to fall asleep on New Year’s Eve before 10:30.
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