Living in New York, alone or partnered up, is fucking hard. Carless, I carry home seven plastic bags of groceries that leave ligature marks around my wrists, climbing the long flights of stairs to the apartment I share with a roommate and a rabbit. I take the subway to work and two homeless guys fight with their canes in an enclosed car, swinging wildly and scattering commuters. Once, I fell asleep for a moment on the 1 train and woke up without my expensive new sunglasses; someone had literally stolen them right in front of my eyes.
But I love New York, because anyplace else I go, places with Costco and parking lots and backyards with people raking up their leaves, these places are filled with married people. I go home for Thanksgiving and the only other person who is not married is my cousin’s 14-month-old baby. There are new pictures on Facebook all the time, mom and infant in matching outfits.
I’m not going to lie; I do feel the pressure, to try to approximate something normal, to just find someone who wants to slap their last name up on me before I go marching off towards menopause. But the thing is, I don’t want their lives, these married women. I don’t envy their actual partnerships. Sometimes I think Sketch saved me, because in my late thirties, tickled by the novelty of getting a normal job and starting to do some normal things after years of living like a wild animal, I really wanted to get married. I grew back in my pubic hair, and I wanted a funny little disguise too, a disguise like a marriage license. And I might have gotten trapped in a thing like so many people that I know, who have bill-paying life-partnerships with people they find intrinsically irritating.
Instead, I have the freedom to do what the fuck I want. H.L. Mencken said it: Marriage is a great institution, but who wants to live in an institution?
On a day off from school, I go out to lunch with two badass older women I know. Leticia is Bolivian, 65 and still somehow sexy. She owns a house in Sunnyside with a garden, does yoga everyday. Kate is a yogini and retired teacher who owns a co-op in Jackson Heights and plays banjo in a jam band. The two of them are planning a trip across India together; neither one is married, nor feels they need to be. They are my heroes.
So I stay in New York, where the single people are. The walk home from a stranded subway train is long and cold, like something out of Jack London novel, but the people I admire are out here, in the thick gray snow.
In January, I go to a Superbowl party in Park Slope with Sketch, despite my hatred of the Superbowl. I hate how everyone is always yelling and I have no idea what people are yelling about and I feel like even more of a space monster than usual. It’s all his friends and family at the party; they like me fine, but they think the sun shines out Sketch’s ass. When I make a joke, no one responds; Sketch repeats what I just said, with more volume, charisma, and having a penis, and everyone pounds the table and falls on the floor howling. It’s annoying. The party is filled with married people who are ignoring me.
I’m coming to realize: the sex addiction is really an attention thing, and that’s a fucking affliction I’ve had since childhood. When I was seven I was cast as the star of Bethlehem in the Christmas pageant, and afterwards at the spaghetti dinner in Fellowship Hall, I walked slowly and meaningfully past each and every table, to see if someone would stop me and tell me I did I good job. I kept count of my “likes,” not all that different from what I do today, thirty years later.