I don’t know if I’ve watched too many movies, heard too many song lyrics or read too many books, but I have this expectation that my life should come together like some kind of enthralling screenplay. When I have to do something mundane, I turn into a six-year-old playing make believe. I pretend to be a character in a movie and that as soon as this boring scene is over, something extraordinary is going to happen. I’m going to get on a jet to some Greek island. Or get a call from an unknown number only to be offered my dream job. Or maybe someone is going to throw me a surprise party. Not one of those things has happened yet, but I like to think that someday one just might.
As you get older it seems less and less likely that such stories are possible. As a kid, I thought that adulthood meant freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Even as you go through college, you feel like there’s this promise of something amazing on the other side of that degree. A few years out of school you realize that with adulthood comes not freedom, but more stress than you ever imagined. And while you’re stressing, everyone around you seems to be buying up houses, getting dogs, having babies, and getting married (not necessarily in that order). And you have debt to pay, a job that extracts all your energy, and distant memories of how easy you had it once upon a time. You got what you wanted, but it wasn’t what you expected. You’re suddenly making a routine Sunday Target run and looking forward to watching reruns of Friends, which – oddly enough – is what you thought your late twenties would be like. Wrong.
Real responsibility snuck in from nowhere and smacked you in the face. Hard. Depleting you of all your spontaneity. And this shortage of spontaneity seems to be linked to an abundance of committed relationships. Once your friends have found someone they think could be the one, they go into a sort of nesting mode. They forfeit the mind of their own they once had in favor of a shared brain that, when asked what they are doing tonight, replies, “I’m not sure we have any plans.” Ah, yes, We. How could I forget? You are not you anymore. You are We. And I bet We doesn’t feel like getting her big girl panties on and going out sans dude.
It seems the We mentality is stronger with the ladies. Men aren’t as concerned, usually. For them, talking as a We would mean they’ve lost a portion of their masculinity. But girls are ready to give up their chickhood at a moment’s notice. Five dates and suddenly she doesn’t know if she can make plans because he might call. And since he might be the future We, you as a fellow she should understand. I don’t understand. Maybe this is why I’ve historically had more guy friends.
Guys are simple. Or, well, simpler than girls. I should know. I grew up outnumbered by my dad and brother and I’m fairly certain that their dude-mindedness wore off on me. They are the reason I choose beer over wine, baseball over ballet, and friends over boyfriends. I mean, not always. But as often as is necessary to maintain independent thought. It seems there’s this expectation that once you are part of a We, you must ask permission to be you. I don’t want to ask permission to be me. I just want to be me and not have to justify it. If I want to take a three-hour drive around the city and then eat out by myself, I shouldn’t have to answer why. Because I want to, that’s why. I think guys assume all girls have the We mindset, so the ones who don’t are treated as if there’s something wrong with them.
Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Um, because you’re a girl and girls travel in packs of at least two. Even to the bathroom.
I go to the bathroom on my own, thanks.
I sound like some kind of feminist. I am girl, hear me be my own person. I’m not pro-girl or pro-dude. I’m pro-have-your-own-thoughts-and-plans-and-life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be part of someone else’s version of those things. Just think how much more interesting your conversations would be if you had separate experiences to share. It would be like first dates all over again. Or like catching up with friends you haven’t talked with in a while. Those are the kind of conversations I want to have. The kind where you learn something new. The kind that cause you to pause and think differently about things. The kind you can only have if you don’t know every move the other person made that day.
I think that the only way to be a good We is to continue to be a me. And being me means I can still hope for that once seemingly attainable storybook life. I’m the main character, damn it, and I want the magic. I want music to play as I walk down First Avenue with my morning coffee in hand, boots stomping heel-toe, heel-toe on the sidewalk. I want to meet my favorite people for happy hour at least twice a week and talk for hours about nonsense and about life and about things that make us happy. And I want it to be sunny every day, and if not every day then at least on the days when I need it to pick me up.