The Men in 3019

“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-”

stir fry with my nook hehe

Things that provide me with more satisfaction than 99.0% of the men I have encountered in my life #628: eating this stir fry while reading my Nook! #iconic #segue

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-

2020 selfie with floral planner

Things that provide me with more satisfaction than 99.0% of the men I have encountered in my life #429: my 2020 floral planner! #welovepink #segue

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!

9 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

9 responses to “The Men in 3019

  1. You are young (sorry!) and I dated a whole bunch of toxic masculinity of various appearances all through my 20s. You are doing a good job of being you, and you are modelling sensible behaviours and keeping good friendships going. I salute you. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes, which I know you know, and keeping bashing balls into the court is probably going to help.

    Also by not being in a relationship, no one is crashing around your house at Too Late PM after going to the Star Wars film, amiright?

    • Thank you for your wise reminders Liz and for helping to ground me as always in my 20’s angst (: I appreciate you reminding me of what I’m doing a good job doing, and I’m grateful for the reminder that it’s okay not to be okay. There are definite pros to not being in a romantic relationship too. I hope you’re well!

      • I’m good, thank you, off the anti-anxiety pills and seem to be through the side-effects, business hasn’t collapsed yet (I have Brexit concerns but I’ll be OK), and running training is going well. Have a few friends who aren’t doing so well right now but I’m strong enough to help support them.

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  3. Perhaps medical science will enable you to live past 3019 and still allow you to maintain your youth and vigor.

    I think your voice and many others will eventually help change our world. I hope you don’t give up your fight.

    *hugs*

    • Thank you so much for this benevolent comment and reminder about not giving up the fight Matt, it means a lot to me. And haha maybe medical science will allow me to do that, and even if it doesn’t, I’m content with living the life I have to live, as long as I can contribute in a way that aligns with my values. (:

  4. Cat D

    My closest friend has this same issue, and goes through similar motions; she has a very tightly knit circle of friends (besides a younger sister and a close mother, I’ve been best friends with her since we were 8, and she never really had to go through the ordeal of learning to make friends, except for the one year she spent at a gifted and talented elementary school. Even in college, her first classmate ended up being her roommate/current roommate/the third person of our trio) and has often lamented that she can never find someone romantically who matches the passion and depth of her friends. She wonders a lot if the right person is out there. She feels some guilt over this issue, because she’s fulfilled in her hobbies and passions, works a job she loves, has a social circle that always keeps her busy, and a family she can rely on.

    What I’m trying to say is: at least in my experience, romantic love (especially in college and then in your 20s or 30s) is a lot of searching for what completes you, drives you, gives your everyday life some meaning. Most people still aren’t really sure what they’re really wanting in their lives, and that includes what they want in their friends and partners. But I think you know that you find meaning in a lot of places, whether they be people, places, or things. I think that you’re remarkably self-aware, but still always trying to be better. And even if it’s not all that consoling (because you deserve love! Don’t give up on this, but I don’t think it ever needs to be your focus or something you “crave”), I think someone has to be damn remarkable to be worthy of you.

    Also, maybe a moment of TMI from a cis-passing Asian woman: I once talked in therapy about how I feel like I hold myself to certain standards for love, for my friends and my family and my partners, But in all my abusive relationships (friends, family, or partners), it’s often the result of a disconnect between what I thought they deserved for me to give them vs. what they thought I should be giving (or not giving). A lot of these relationships hurt me deeply when the trauma occurred, and continue to do so. I talk about this a lot in therapy, about how I can “get over it” and have it not hurt (though it hurts less!) But my last therapist before I moved gave me a look during one session and said, “You know, even though your partners clearly weren’t good for you and hurt you, it’s still kind of remarkable that you thought to give and try to progress and be better. And nearly all of your stories have a moment where they realize and try to express that they missed out, they didn’t see you then. You’re worth more than you think.”

    Anyways, a longer reply than necessary. Just know you’re doing the best you can, love is great but knowing yourself and having a full life is better, and I hope that you’re doing well today.

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  6. *Ahem, my usual quasi-essay (I can’t help it, I swear ;-;)*

    First of all, I really hope the love you deserve will happen upon you one day. This time in between that moment I think is important in your growth, your becoming, and your questioning all these needs and feelings, so that when he does come around, perhaps you will be more prepared, knowing more of that unfathomable inner landscape than previously. A masterpiece, really. Perfect in your imperfections.

    Secondly, about the first friend you mentioned? The one you had Thi food with. With respect, I don’t want to be him. I’m 26 this year and more and more looks in my way that wordlessly ask, when are you going to get your degree? When are you going to actually date and get married? Children? You’re not getting younger.

    I’d snapped at some point and snapped back into this new shape that I am in. It’s contours convey a woman who has come to accept a solitary life, that is, sans lover. I don’t crave children. Would I adore having someone who loves me as much, that we bask in each other’s confidences? Fuck yeah. But I very much like the option of being alright with myself, even if my facade has a coat of longing sticking to it. In short, I get what you’re saying, like, really get it.

    Life, sometimes, I believe has absolutely no meaning but being creatures burdened by self-awareness and magnitude of supposed intelligence, a search for purpose is what we have to occupy ourselves until the earth reclaims us.

    I also believe it’s a combination of that and discovering the individual that’s in you and your relationship to the rest of your existence, rather than a chunk of your life dedicated toward fitting in with the masses. The search for a soulmate is an ageless ritual/task. But it shouldn’t be a task, not one for fulfillment at least, not completely anyway.

    Gah, existentialism aside, what I’m trying to get at is, we should honor ourselves with the permission to doubt our hearts, and the right to demand who we can give it to. Everything is complicated until we look up close, sometimes.

    Fecking amazing post as usual, Thomas. I’m not familiar with a lot of BlackPink as yet but what you said, I suspect, is highly controversial with regards to Fitzgerald and Hemingway especially, haha! Here’s to 3019, because 2020 sure af ain’t lookin’ so hot. (also! how’s the nook? is it any better than a kindle?)

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