Sunday, February 27, 2011

Defining "Normal."

Recently, I'd been experiencing some friction with my roommate. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I had a sneaking suspicion part of it had to do with the fact that she recently entered a bona-fide, label-ready relationship with the guy she's been seeing for the past two months. Maybe it was the fact that he was so willing to commit to something so freaking early on, or maybe it was the fact that she could now bandy around the term "boyfriend" and not have to stick with qualifiers like "the guy I'm seeing" (which to me, calling someone your "boyfriend" seems abhorrent if not for the fact it's just so much easier than the latter), but suddenly, our relationships with guys seemed to be affecting our relationship with each other. Was I jealous? Were we "cheating" on each other? Why was her relationship suddenly making me question mine?

Granted, her relationship has its issues, too. I've found her moping in bed when her plans fell through, just like she's found me moping in bed when my plans with TGIS fell through, and there are things about my relationship that I wouldn't trade for things in hers like labels or meeting the parents for all the money, steak, and peep-toe pumps in the world. But it made me wonder, especially in a world where all we seem to do is want the things that we don't have: How much do other people's relationships affect our perceptions of our own?

While I adore her boyfriend, seeing him around was a painful reminder that things with TGIS were suddenly ambiguous. The last time I'd seen him, he'd brought up tentative plans for drinks and a late-night movie, and dinner the night after. I never ended up hearing back from him about that, even after I texted him to see what his plans for the evening were. A few days later, we had a conversation about space both literal and metaphorical in our relationship, and how with distance and different schedules (he works odd hours; I'm a full-time college student with a part-time job,) it's sometimes not conducive to seeing each other for a few days. He told me again, straight out, not to worry if he didn't get back to a message or text ASAP, and though we were communicating perfectly clearly about our expectations, things still felt a little stunted, without much reason.

If only it really WAS as easy as a guy saying "don't worry," and you could stop worrying. Instead, I started thinking back to previous relationships and how in the past I've watched a guy go through the same distancing maneuvers, only to completely distance himself from me and our previous relationship and suddenly become one of those people who never returns your calls and never texts you back, seeming to suddenly enter Witness Protection. And the more I saw my friends, random strangers on the street, and my professors with their S.Os, the more I started to realize it wasn't just a day or two not seeing each other-- it was now over a week, something that had never happened in our relationship before. While the perfectly sane side of me knew that in the overall scheme of things, not seeing each other for over a week is perfectly fine, perfectly normal, the neurotic, Nervous Nelly side of me kept reminding me that it wasn't normal for us to go this long without him asking to come see me-- we're more of a see-each-other-twice-a-week, at-least-text-every-day couple. I asked my friends to use their relationships as a sounding board to give me advice or a breath of fresh air and a better grip on sanity. But despite all the (different-- no two responses were the same, which was probably the most frustrating part of it all,) feedback I was getting, once I started comparing and contrasting my relationship, to itself, to my past, and to other people's, it opened up a whole new can of questions and wormy doubts. Was this really better, or was I just driving myself crazy? Or, crazier?

By Day 9, I was most definitely in the "crazier" camp. I stopped bringing TGIS up in social situations, because if his absence was his way of telling me we were through, I didn't want to lead on like I was still seeing someone. I was a doomsday cloud of oracle-like beliefs that he was now The Guy I'm No Longer Seeing. I resigned myself to picking up some of the slack in my Single Girl life again, started going to the gym again, spent 8 hours in bars one night with the girls meeting some of the oddest men I've ever had the distinctly unsure pleasure of meeting, went to dinner with my best guy friend who nearly made it worse by bringing TGIS up and telling me that he really liked him from when they met, and made a big (read: truly and magnificently pathetically large) dent in my Netflix instant queue. And then, the other morning, at 4 AM, I got a text from TGIS, responding to one I'd sent him nearly 8 hours previously, telling me that he'd be able to come up and see me again soon. And last night, the dearly departed ghost returned to my doorstep. Huhn.

It was a little awkward at first, and I felt tremendously relieved when he kissed me "hello" as usual and acknowledged the fact it had been over a week since the last time he'd seen me. "I worked two events this week," he told me, and I suddenly found myself looking at him like he had suddenly sprouted a third head (think about it...). To me, "I'm working" is a perfectly acceptable, concrete reason to be busy and absent, and if I had heard that instead of "my schedule doesn't allow it," 6 days ago, I would have been so much less of an emotional little mess. I'm a word person, obviously. To me, the difference between "working and needing time with the guys" and "my schedule" is the fact that a schedule can include things like seeing other women, assiduously ignoring me, and moving away and enlisting in the Israeli army. Isn't it funny how the specifics of communication, even when you're communicating well in the first place, can make all the difference in the world to a girl?

This morning, as he left with everything right in the world again, I realized that what really matters when it comes down to your relationship is keeping a fine balance between the "normals"-- what's normal for you, and what's normal for other relationships. We're constantly comparing our own to other people's, or other standards. But as my very wise father told me, "No two relationships are the same. They're different people, different situations." At what point should we just breathe, and let it be?


...Oh, and part of my general bad attitude and issues with humanity? The fact I hadn't gotten laid in awhile. I completely forgot about that inconvenient little fact until I woke up this morning feeling like a Disney princess ready to burst into song and bake cookies for the world and had a fabulous conversation with my roommate and made plans to get margaritas out tonight. Ta-da! Maybe all it really takes to get back to to actually screw what everyone else thinks and re-define it, for yourself.


  1. Glad to hear that things are a lot better now :)! I've DEFINITELY been in the same situation as you have but I guess you just have to be patient and hope for the best.

  2. Ciao bella! I'm glad to hear things are better with TGIS :)

    As far as comparing your relationship to your friends' relationships thing... Oh man, been there, done that. I think it's such a hard line to follow. On one hand, especially when I first start going out with a guy, I tell them everything! I ask their opinions about the minute progressions in our relationship, and regale them with stories of his charm, grace, beauty, ect. Basically, I am head over heels and want the world to know. To an extent, I think I want their approval, because I do want my friends to like the guy I'm seeing.

    But I've noticed, probably around the settling point that I stop sharing as much with them after a while. When I decide to be serious about a guy, I don't feel like I should be talking about the inner workings of my relationship with other people as much. If he does something that pisses me off, I confront him about it, I don't rant to a friend. If he does something romantic, I tell him how much I appreciate it, and I tend not to tell my friends about it because, well, didn't they hear enough of it in the beginning?

    Of course, I usually don't actively decide to stop telling my friends every detail. It just happens. So when I do ask them for an opinion about something big, like moving in with my guy, the opinions rang so far in difference that I usually feel worse and even more confused after I ask for advice than before.

    I think society encourages us all to talk to our girls about our guys, but it doesn't tell us when to stop. Or when to decide if you gut feeling about something in your relationship is right, or is your high school friend's opinion right whom you only talk to three times a year?

    I'm still looking for the line between sharing vs not sharing with friends, and keeping my sanity in check. Right now, it's about as straight as the line I walk after playing Mario Kart drinking games.

  3. "I think society encourages us all to talk to our girls about our guys, but it doesn't tell us when to stop."

    Brava! WHAT a MAGNIFICENT statement, and so very, very true, too.