AND THUS SPOKE HELEN REDDY! (Or, Perspective in a Can)

A mantra some people say is, “This is the first day of the rest of your life!” Smacks of shoddy advertising copy, si? Only there are days that seem about this do-or-die. You’ve had those mornings. On November sixth of next week, misters Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (not to mention many dramatic American people who are threatening to expatriate) will have this morning. And eventually the morning will pass, as mornings do, and the day will be over and the chips will fall where they may and everyone will get a bit of shut-eye. With luck this process will wash-rinse-repeat until we see another do-or-die day, another day to mark our lives in, another “This is it. This particular twenty four hours!” While history and reason tell us that it’s rare the events of a single vacuum-packed day can catalyze huge change, some pray, I hope, and we all thrive on the delicious drama in the immediate’s potential. Because what if the world could change right now, just with our believing that TODAY is the beginning of that next and better life? What if I could really change – and make it stick – just by proclaiming, ‘I will?’ Why, let’s give it a whirl!

I was skimming an old diary this morning on the train. Now this morning was sort of rough: I woke up with the trace of a black evening still seeping around the corners of my eyes, I woke up angry and confused and hurt. Guess what, reader? These Mean Reds were about a boy. And so, it turned out, was this journal entry:

I know, in my brain, that going home alone on a Friday night when you didn’t have too, when you’re [sic…tsk tsk, me] two cute friends did not, when you’ve blown important money at the bar and must take the subway now and listen to Liz Phair, I know in the depths of my soul this is not the worst thing, I also know that doling out fake names to people who are temporarily interested is stupid, listen dude I KNOW – and thinking of only some bartender who doesn’t like you because you were stupid and foolish and…hey. I KNOW. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. But I also don’t know, in italics. When will I know better? In italics?

It’s easy to laugh at one’s previous self because one has all the comfort of the hindsight bias (and present sobriety); “oh, you silly fool of a girl! I remember the morning after this theatrical theatrical day, it got better, it does get better!” I feel that scorn all the time when I root around in realllllllly old diaries, like from the nineties. But this day wasn’t so distant, this sad-lady-of-the-forest gobbledegook. And it also isn’t remarkably different from many other evenings when my whole world seemed to disintegrate because some Goofy Gus snubbed me in a bar, or didn’t call me back, or failed – as supposedly promised? – to appear in a beige trench coat at my window in the early hours, calling me down to unconditionalloveforever with “In Your Eyes.” In fact, this particular victim trend has underscored my whole adult life, and no I’m not exaggerating, and yes I use the V word very deliberately. Such judgments might also smack to you of the hindsight bias and the dramatic mind, to this I reply: “THIS IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE.”

I have written a lot – if obliquely – about being single in New York and twenty-two. I’ve probably told you how I wouldn’t hate to be Carrie Bradshaw when I grow up. If you are a dear friend, I have absolutely struggled to stay on point in an important political/social/world interest-related discussion because I’ve been distracted by the dashing waiter a ways down, or whoever has chipped my heart last, or whether I should call a certain someone, and etcetera and etcetera. I love men and I love drama. That said, I have tremendous admiration for the men and women I know whose lives are not perpetually dominated by their sexual and romantic conquests. Everyone knows these people are more interesting at dinner parties. I know exactly what (one of) my problem(s) is, and it is a starry-eyed preoccupation with being in love and loved. I don’t think I’m original here. The pudding’s proof oughta tell you the dream’s execution hasn’t gone according to plan. And a lot of it’s been manly evils but I’m no dummy, it takes two to tango, there are plenty of reasons – if logic and love ever marry – for why I’m single and some of them I’m very proud of, I have been cruel to men, too, I’ve met some good ones, wow I can’t underscore that enough, I have met a choice few really excellent dudes why didn’t I work it out with them?!…okay. Okay. Okay! What I mean to say is: I haven’t met an earthshaker yet, much to my chagrin. This makes me sad sometimes because it’s something I want. I fart around in a pool of less-worthy would-be suitors wishing and hoping and dreaming and praying for I guessssss Prince Charming (WHERE ARE YOU GLORIA STEINEM) and I allow the inevitably futile fruits of this effort to wreck many, many mornings. This is something I do.

But follow! The moral I seek to extract from The Diary and the Black Night Previous is not quite, “Today I will stop talking about boys and allowing my life to be dominated by them!” because….well, one, that’s impossible and two, I don’t think it’s all a disaster. It isn’t all a disaster. Things I believe: to be a human, you’ve gotta be on the wire; to be on the wire is life (Roy Scheider). Pain is important to growth. Seeking pain as a means to growing (or, say, nailing a Medea monologue) is masochistic and sick. Yet you’re doing it right if you’re tripping constantly and putting your foot in your mouth and taking chances on the one bozo who may yet not ruin all that therapy you’re still paying for. We’ve gotta risk, sometimes — OKCupid is actually pretty brave, gang, so stop vilifying yourselves as inauthentic for trying to meet people beyond the wood canal. Also, recall that everyone else is just as confused! Your friends are here to listen and provide rabble-rousing support! It is a wonderful life, this histrionic one! Yet there’s a key mental shift that must take effect somewhere between Perpetually-sad-lady-of-the-forest and Jolly, or at least Optimistic-but-not-obsessed. And the real question is, guys, why not be Jolly? If you have half the chance? A hard truth, semi-non-sequitor: just cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there. But also, just cuz it’s there doesn’t mean you feel it.

It’s human nature to assign whatever you lack – even if it seems superficial compared to things like food or air or water – a paramount importance. Yet more often than not, no single day is unendurable (copped from DFW). If today is the first day of the rest of my life, I preach a patience, and more importantly an abiding self-love. FYI, here are some other things I want out of life, besides a 6”4 non-horrible comedian boyfriend with a stable income and Keith Partridge-in-76 hair: to be a jazz singer, a roomy two bedroom all to myself on the corner 10th street and 6th avenue, a cocker spaniel someday, an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, a Lifetime Achievement Award. I live with these wants every day. I have my eye on them. Where they’re serious (they’re all serious), I’m at least contemplating steps towards their acquisition. And I’m able to wake up most days with a half-delusional kind of earnestness that makes me excited to have goals and wishes because it means I’m alive, and a deep faith in myself because these things may not yet be so far out of reach. And why? Oh right, I remember why!

Because I am too fucking fantastic, is why.

Then this line of thought prompts: how is it that getting an Oscar seems more realistic to me than finding some dope to shack up with who doesn’t make me weep/sick to my stomach on the daily? THAT IS BIZARRE. Yet stranger things have happened. Surely stranger lists of priorities have been arranged. Instructions for improvement, similar souls: think of your wants as a pie chart and then take deep stock of how much time and energy you expend on attaining the 6”4 non-horrible comedian boyfriend as opposed to the Pulitzer Prize. Recall what you already have – excellent friends, a sense of humor, a cat, a roomy two bedroom in Queens, a job, a computer, a pretty banging bod, fun times. And mostly people, if you love yourselves (and you must! You really really must!) remember to GARGLE with GRAINS AND GRAINS OF SALT before letting a layabout wreck even a minute’s worth of your breakfast! Because having a supposed set of “high standards” (a.k.a only being interested in people who instantly prompt you not to think of love connection like algebra) might be harder, but it also won’t be. You’ll save important time; use it wisely. Because we ladies and our perennial short-end-of-the-stick are somehow schooled to think of ourselves as ‘shrews’ when we can’t fake interest in your band for the appropriate thirty minutes of bartalk, when everyone knows a person with ideas and empathy out the wazoo just can’t be a SHREW, like what the BIRD? it’s impossible, being smart and selective is like the opposite of a bird, just nonsense.. Because think about why you want the things you want and then acknowledge their bald difficulty – it is scary, just imagining dying alone – but then rejoice in where you know you won’t be dying, at this rate. On the floor of the Chelsea Hotel! On some horrible Outward Bound adventure you only agreed to do because Todd seemed like such a nice guy! Or, perish the thought, in bed next to someone you’ve built a life with and have no feeling at all for.

Plus, you’re not even thirty yet!

And while it isn’t petty or worth self-chastising, obsessing over and falling for ridiculous people – it’s natural – in this glorious modern world having a shack-up buddy may yet become anecdotal to what’s shaping up to be a pretty thrilling existence all by herself!

Well, I’ll wait and see.

Note: there’s also an unspoken biological need here I’ve glossed over, for point’s sake. Today is about philosophical empowerment, not The Pleasure Chest.

In any case, consider me no longer willing to settle for anything less than a Richter scale 700 in the earth-shaker department. Just because. I’m actually pretty optimistic (if not preoccupied)! Can’t have a lame date to the Oscar’s, right? Dame Judi Dench is going to be there.

If you’re sad right now (which is allowed! Sad, I’ll probably see you again next Thursday!) and cannot in your heart hack Mantra One, I suggest you try ‘Tomorrow is another day!’ We all know how well “not letting some asshat with a combover wreck your life” worked out for Scarlet O’Hara. The lady could have been the first female President, had she the presence of mind.

So hello, world. Today, I have the presence of mind.

PS- The New York Times was percolating on this thorny subject too, TODAY! Do we have thoughts on The Gaggle and the term “post-dating”? Post below! I think: be stupid, but be strong more often.

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