This Is the Part Where I Walk in Sheepishly and Say I’m Sorry

Hello, internet people. You’ll notice that yesterday, 15 February 2012, was a day in which I broke a promise and did NOT come to you with the tales of my third day in Dublin. This is me, most earnestly saying I’m sorry. By way of apology, here’s some explanation of what I did instead: I went to Peterboro on a field trip and bought an adorable monk bear guy who I have named Cuthbald. Clearly it was a day well spent.

To make up for it, I’m doing double duty today, as those of you who know me well enough to be my Facebook friend/Twitter follower will notice I’ve posted my official Harlaxton blog about what I learned in Ireland and all of that. That’s right. This is the SECOND BLOG POST I’ve written today. If it sounds like my wrists and fingers are screaming in agony while I typed this, don’t be alarmed, they’re used to it.

And I know I said I was going to tell about our third day in Dublin in my next post, but I’m just a little burnt out on Dublin (to summarize for now, we got up, we went to the book market, which was amazing, and the food market, which was equally amazing. Then we went to look at some gorgeous cathedrals, including St. Patrick’s, and did some shopping and just general looking around. Lunch in a creperie. Very good day.) Instead, I’m going to have one of my little rants, because there’s another reason I didn’t post yesterday.

To be honest, I’ve been on a major hormonal kick the last couple days, what with Valentine’s Day and being a woman and all of that. But yesterday I got sucked in to the wonderful world of the internet and started watching the episodes of the show “Once Upon a Time” that I’ve missed since I’ve been here in England. First of all, shows as brilliant and intricate as Once Upon a Time make me quiver in envy as a writer–the things they do, twisting the well-known fairy tales together so that they make sense as a cohesive whole, as well as paralleling them in the “real world” never cease to amaze me. But of course there’s another problem.

Fairy tales. Cinderalla, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast. All that Disney stuff that gets pumped in our veins from the moment we seem capable of staring at an illuminated screen for an hour at a time. It’s all about that one special thing: true love. True love conquers all, true love can break curses, true love can bring people out of a coma, and on and on. Naturally, Once Upon a Time isn’t quite capable to break the chains when it comes to dealing with these issues.

I don’t know what makes me cry more–the happy endings Disney is always shoving down our throats even though we all know Pocahontas died and a girl living in the woods with seven men is pretty damn creepy, or the way everything has gone horribly wrong as a result of a curse in this show. It breaks my heart seeing all the happy endings when cynical me is sick of hearing it, but I have to admit, watching this show has made me realize how much I expect it and just how upset I get when things fall apart.

I’m not going to say too much because I don’t believe in spoilers and if you want to see where the brilliant writers of Once Upon a Time have taken things (albeit with somewhat dreadful special effects) you’ll just have to see for yourself. But the premise is that this is a fairy tale world minus the happy endings. And it is a crushing thing. All that magic and promise and pretty girls doing slightly stupid things falls apart pretty fast without the happy ending–suddenly it’s all just incredibly real and sad. I find myself clenching my fists and waiting for the moment when the curse is lifted and everyone gets that happy ending, my cynical side curled up in a corner long forgotten as the sap in me sobs and munches chocolate and wants everyone to be happy and in love.

I guess what I’m getting at is the conditioning for a happy ending runs deep. I don’t consider myself a “romantic” person, and those of you who’ve been reading for a while know how pissed off I get at the inevitable romantic comedy cliches out there, and yet I can’t help but EXPECT this moment when everything turns out all right. It’s the same when I’m reading a good book. And I can’t help but feel a little unsatisfied and a lot depressed when things DON’T turn out that way. It’s crazy to look at it, our addiction to these neat little endings where everything is somehow justifiable, where boy met girl and then boy and girl fell in love, had a fight, but ended up with that big kiss scene (probably in an airport) at the end. It makes me worry, and I’m sure it’s a concern I’ve expressed before, that we’re setting ourselves up for failure here.

Real life, like Storybrook, doesn’t often have a neat little happy ending. For one, the ending in life generally means we’re dead, and what’s happy about that? The trouble with life is you’ve got to keep going, past that kiss in the airport (or in the mall, or your dorm room, or wherever the hell you first kissed your significant other) and past that first “I love you.” And isn’t it after all of that, when the magic wears off, that the real living begins? I understand the appeal of the happy ending, and I think I even understand why we almost need to see it, a little reminder that good things DO come out of the bad. I’d just also like to see us remind ourselves, every now and then, of how life goes on. How first love doesn’t always mean true love, how sometimes a kiss really is just a kiss, and how every now and again, the happy ending can just be me, curled up in bed with my laptop and the assurance that my roommates are having a night in, too, and that’s a perfectly acceptable way to spend the night.

Why I Love Being Single, and When I Don’t

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve had a proper rant. Running around the UK has kept me so occupied I haven’t had time to get offended in a while. Or, almost no time to be offended, anyway.

It seems that whether I am in the US or the UK, Valentine’s Day is going to find me. Lately, the shop windows have been full of pink and red and hearts and chocolates and it’s quite frankly making me sick. And admittedly, just a little bit sad.

Here’s the thing, though. Most of the time, I actually love being single. I know a lot of people say that, and you instantly think they’re this giant sad sack who spends their time eating ice cream and adopting cats or something, but I genuinely mean it. I’m 19 years old, for heaven’s sake! What do I want with long term commitments that extend past the deadline for my next paper? Why should I be tied down to someone who doesn’t even know who he wants to be yet? Being single means spending time with your girls, going out and getting just a little bit crazy every now and again. It means smiling at that cute guy in the street and knowing there’s no harm in it. It means having no one (but the law, of course) to answer to for your actions. Maybe I’ve just not had the best experiences with relationships, but frankly at this stage of the game, they’re just exhausting. I mean, yes, kissing is nice. But only sometimes. Other times I would really rather curl up in bed with a good book and the promise of tomorrow, rather than trying to figure out how to tell the boy I want to go home and no, actually, I DON’T want to make out right now. Again. Frankly most of the time, it’s a hassle I can do without.

And then there’s Valentine’s Day. With the cards, and the hearts, and the ads involving cute little couples holding hands. When you’re single, that kind of sucks. Every year, it’s this reminder staring me in the face for the several weeks they spend advertising for it. Sure, they’re encouraging people to spend money on gifts, but what they seem to be saying is, “You there! Remember this time last year? And the year before that? Remember how you were single then, too?” It’s like New Year’s, but for my love life. I’m forced to check in for change and realize that nothing has. At all. Same old, same old. And that’s even true when I’m in ENGLAND and romance should be the LAST thing on my mind. I’ve got mountains to climb, places to see… what do I care about getting chocolates from some stupid guy?

Except that obviously, I kind of do. I mean, it’s a little impossible not to when you’re being bombarded with it from every angle. I don’t just mean Valentine’s Day, either. Love is this integral part of our culture these days–it’s a central theme in movies, in books, on TV, on the radio, all over the internet. It’s like people forget there’s something to be said for just being YOU. We’re not all walking around half formed or anything, so why are we always acting like it? The honest truth is, I look at myself and I see someone who is doing just fine. I’m happy, even.

In fact, I worry about upsetting that balance with some stranger who gets to decide half of everything for the rest of forever. I think “I want to get married here,” or “I want to honeymoon there” and then I remember I’m not the only one who’s going to be there (at least, I hope not). Marriage is actually kind of terrifying, when you think about it.  It’s about a melding of identities, of taking “me” and turning it into “we” and all of that. And someday, that’ll be great. But right now? I’d rather buy my own chocolates, hop on that plane, and head off wherever I want without having to tell someone I love him first when probably, I don’t even mean it. Not yet.

So basically what I’m driving at is this: being single is one of those things that’s both terrifying and wonderful. Kind of like hopping on a plane and flying eight hours to another country, actually. And no, you’re not always going to be happy that you have the freedom to do whatever you want, because sometimes a hand to hold sounds better. But there’s also no reason to sit around feeling sorry for yourself, either. So this Valentine’s Day, if you’re single, just remember you are NOT the only one. Do something fun, like exchange gifts with friends instead. And if you’re in a relationship, well, shut up and enjoy it because none of us want to hear about it. (I’m only joking. Well, sort of.)