It's almost too easy to deflect the semi-embarrassment that many people expect from me when they ask my age and then ask if I'm married.
No, I'm not married, I would say. There are a hundred different reasons (perhaps you can even say a thousand, if you like) why it is so, and if you choose to believe them, I can start a list. Of course the catch is if you would believe.
Some people just can't get away from expectations. What else is our purpose in life, they would say. Men who hold out being single as long as you have must be gay, are you sure you aren't?
And then comes the right question, to put it into perspective: Do you really want to get married? As if this were a rhetorical question that asks: Do you really want to be happy?
It could be called semi-tragic, but when I answer all these questions most people walk away with two conclusions:
1) That fellow is downright strange.
2) Hmmm. Too picky. He will die alone.
3) It won't be long before he admits he's gay.
Ehem, I seem to be jumping the gun here. If people would bother to listen, before they conclude anything about me, my state of being is simply explained.
(And before I start, since I'm writing parenthetically, there was a time that one of my uncles, in a drunken stupor, debated me on this subject. It was a good thing I wasn't drunk at the time. I could almost quote him word for word. But then, that would be unfair. Abusing drunks that way would be like stealing milk from a baby.)
I am myself, first and foremost, defined only by my BEING.
I am not just someone's son, brother, friend, enemy, employee, co-worker, fellow citizen. Hard as I may try to be someone's husband or life partner, right now I am not.
I am not because several series of choices brought me to this time of my life where I don't have a relationship. Some would say wrong timing. I, on the other hand, would admit that many a time, I had fallen into foolhardiness. Came on too strong too soon for one girl. Came on too weak, too little, or too late for another. Not altogether impossible to change direction, but not an easy task either.
I wish that there would be someone in my life right now, but my wishing won't make it so, and in the meantime, it would be rather stupid of me to wallow in self-pity over my state. I'm like the best friend in the movie who's loveable but for all the wrong reasons. Like Janis Ian, I learned the truth when I was seventeen.
And finally, it would be oh so very convenient to say that I'm gay. Makes life simpler, a lot easier to fall back and become a stereotype. Naturally that isn't fair to me nor is it wise to stereotype homosexuals. They too, have deeper reasons for who they are beyond the understood convention.
So no, I'm not gay. Not even close. Not even that I love showtunes, dig the theater, or appreciate art. Gay people don't have a monopoly on the things I like.
Which goes back full circle - certainly it would be great to be in a relationship, to have additional purpose. But since I am myself, my own being, I am not and will not be validated by a specific relationship.
Wouldn't it be great to have my life defined by one?
I don't know. In the past two years, even here, I've had my chances. But no, still no ring. If it's not other people, it's probably me.
And that's the heart of it - I am not ready. Yes, I have a character defect. No different from others who get married and cash in on all the cliches - including infidelity, marital violence, or abusing one's children. No different from others who embrace misery for the sake of filling the social obligations of a marriage. They picked their poison, and so did I.
For now, I'd rather take the sin of omission.
Being married is not a bad thing - but it is not a good thing to get into because of social pressure. It will happen in due course. I won't be in this state of mind forever, or maybe someone will come along and help me take the next step.
Until then, I am single. I survive.