“The guy for me doesn’t exist,” I told my therapist during one of our Tuesday morning sessions. “I’ve been alive for 24 years and not one guy has sustained my interest, so he just doesn’t exist.”
“So many of the men in your life have disappointed you,” she said. “It must feel really disappointing.”
Um, yeah, I thought to myself. All the men in my life besides like, my iconic former therapist, one mentor, an ex-friend, and my author crush Adam Haslett though I don’t actually know him so he could be garb-
“You are 24 though,” she said. “That’s pretty young. Maybe it’ll take time.”
“Yeah, like maybe if I existed in 3019 instead of 2019.” I leaned forward on her couch. “Like in 3019, maybe as a society we will have conquered toxic masculinity and men would actually be worth dating. I mean, we’ll probably all be dead because of climate change, but dead in like, a potentially non-toxically-masculine and emotionally intelligent way. Like in 3019, maybe men-”
Most of the time, I feel pretty alright about feeling hopeless about romance and men. Throughout the years, I have observed a lot of mediocre to outright harmful men: Trump-supporting men, men who say they value social justice and then treat their students and others like garbage, men who refuse to go to therapy and use their girlfriends as therapists instead, gay men who have had their emotional development stunted by homophobia, etc. Because of these observations and my multiple negative experiences with men, I tend to regard the idea that I will never find a romantic partner as fact, similar to how the sky is blue, Jeni’s ice cream is the best ice cream in the world, and BlackPink has contributed more to art than Ernest Hemingway, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, and F. Scott Fitzgerald combined.
An example of me feeling pretty alright about never finding a romantic partner: when I got dinner with a fellow queer Asian male acquaintance last week. At one of my fav Thai restaurants in DC, he told me about how he still feels not over a breakup that happened in 2018.
“How does it feel not being over him?” I asked.
“I mean, not great,” he said. “I think before I met him, I was okay with the idea of being alone forever, but now I’m not so sure.”
“You feel that way?” I lifted a forkful of chicken pad Thai to my mouth. “That without a romantic partner, you’re alone?”
He nodded and said yes, which made me think to myself: lol, well, that makes one of us, because I am so not alone without a romantic partner, like I have my books, my friends, a blog where I over-disclose about my life to the internet-
But really: I feel not alone, or at least not lonely. Even without romantic love, I love the love that I have and have had, from my closest friends, my grandmother, myself, and more. One of my friends I decided to take a break from told me, at some point after she started dating her current boyfriend, that she has always “craved” a romantic relationship. While I will always wish this friend the best, I cannot relate to that feeling. I think at this point I more so crave another role model, like Caroline Knapp, of a single, more feminine person who has cultivated an iconic, fulfilled, connected life without a male romantic partner. When I feel this craving the most, I remember: I can role model that for myself.
Still, at rare times I do not feel alright about how hopeless I feel about romance. Like the other day I played around four hours of tennis and got all moody thinking about this post and how I will never experience the emotions Ariana Grande described in her iconic song “Into You” about a romantic partner until I’m reincarnated in 3019, where I’ll then meet the man of my dreams. At my moodiest, this lack of hope – because no one can actually prove to me that a guy will show up – feels like feeling out of control, because I obviously cannot control which men so happen to inhabit the earth at this given moment.
This lack of control brings to mind the Angela Davis quote “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Because even though I can practice radical acceptance that I won’t date a guy in my lifetime, I refuse to accept that the state of masculinity and men must exist like this forever. So, through my research, teaching, clinical practice, and more, I’m fighting for a society in which more men are capable of self-compassion and help-seeking, active listening and caring for others, and dismantling white supremacist patriarchy as a whole.
Sometimes I do feel hopeless. But then I remember the radical queer activists who dedicated their lives to the cause and fought so that I could write about my super boring lack of a romantic love life and life overall on this blog without immense persecution queer people could exist in the open. I think about Caroline Knapp, a woman well ahead of her time, who wrote about how she fought through the sexist notion that she needed to be skinny or to own things or to date a man to be happy, how her writing itself contributes to the fight against patriarchy. If these people didn’t give up I’m not gonna give up either. I’m fighting for the men in 3019, those who will know them, those who will love them.
Reactions, cognitive or emotional, to this post? How do you give yourself hope when faced with what feels like an impossible or inevitable defeat or hardship? Why am I writing about my individual feelings when the United States is engaging yet again in an imperialist rampage (I mean, one could argue that the roots of that coincide and intertwine with toxic masculinity, but anyway)? Until next post!