Art for 23 And, Sadly, Me.
Still from "The Lady from Shanghai," 1947 | The Baffler

23 And, Sadly, Me

Too young for love in a world of foolish men

Still from "The Lady from Shanghai," 1947 | The Baffler
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In DESIGNS FOR LIVING, columnist Marlowe Granados dispenses sound advice in a noisy world. Send your rants and pleas to [email protected] for Marlowe’s consideration.

 

Hi Marlowe, 

Yesterday, after a stressful day at work, I cried while cooking eggs to your film at 10 p.m. I’m twenty-three, and I’ve never had anyone *I liked* romantically [be] interested in me. So I’ve had a couple of flings here and there, but we realized that our attraction didn’t go beyond sexting while at work and hook-up sessions. 

I’m not going to ask you how to find a boyfriend because I don’t think you can help me in that department. But I want to know how can I stay true to myself and not mould myself to what I think a guy wants? Typing that out sounds really insane, and the feminist in me is appalled that I even feel that way. However, I truly feel like there’s something wrong with me and that’s the reason why I’m still single. Also, it doesn’t help that I don’t think I know myself. Maybe the right question is: How do you figure out who the hell you are? How did you become sure of yourself? 

Sincerely, 

23 and, Sadly, Me

 

Dear 23,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, and plus, having a long-term partner in your early twenties is a bore! I don’t ever suggest it, simply because you are at your most mouldable. I recognize the feelings of angst, and I want to assure you that everyone feels that way at one point or another—and repeatedly. I like to return to Emily Witt’s essay “Expectations” in her book Future Sex (2016). It describes the way we perceive love as a destination that we must move toward in order to feel fulfilled. She writes, “I thought of my situation as an interim state, one that would end with the arrival of love.” She describes love as out of her control. You can’t plan for love, or even fondness, and you definitely cannot plan for when it ends. There’s no sense creating your identity around something you can’t rely on. Love is as spontaneous as the future.

The world is on fire, why spend time with someone who resists who you really are?

There is always pressure to present yourself as desirable, even if you aren’t interested in the other party. I have friends who will lightly scold me when I recount stories of first dates where I have revealed myself too openly, or showed too much of my personality. I have watched a date lose warmth toward me over the course of one dinner—silently (and then sometimes not silently) counting the ways I would make an unsuitable partner. Striking out, as they say in baseball. Even still, I never get suckered into the mentality of thinking “What if?” What if I kept that thought to myself, what if I was more careful with what I shared. I simply don’t care. The world is on fire, why spend time with someone who resists who you really are? They’ll find out eventually, so why not now? All of this leans too heavily on worrying about some stranger and trying to accommodate whoever they seem to be. I want to be able to choose for myself and distinguish whether someone feels right for me. The bigger discussion here is the pressure to mould to someone else’s sense of propriety—how one should or shouldn’t act. The feminist in you should not feel ashamed, because that is what we’re all up against.

When I was just a little younger than you, I had been flitting through life from one phase to another. I dabbled, had encounters, but never pursuits. I moved through the world with a sense of work ethic and dedication, but there was nothing that sustained my interest for longer than a year. One day someone asked what my passions were, and I drew a blank. Was I passionate about anything at all? The question nagged at me. It stayed in the back of my mind. Only after working on a manuscript for a long period of time did I realize that all I wanted to do was write women characters. This interest came from the many ways I cherished my relationships with women, the stories that mattered to me, and how I structured my political beliefs. My love and admiration for women in my life was also how I created my own value system. These questions will never fade for you, but it’s important to try to establish a foundation, and the easiest thing to do is ask yourself what aren’t your values. It’s true that I’m sure of myself because I know who I am, but it’s also because I know what I love.

When you’re twenty-three, it’s always the perfect time to have a little fun. That’s my advice to you. Don’t worry about maintaining the affections of men. There are just so many in the world, and most of them are silly.

Marlowe Granados is a writer and filmmaker based in Toronto. She co-hosts The Mean Reds, a podcast dedicated to women-led films. Her debut novel Happy Hour will be published in Fall 2020 by Flying Books.

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