July 23, 2006

How did it get to the point where honesty deserves admiration?

When I was little, I used to think that getting a flu jab wouldn't hurt when I grew up. That getting older meant things became less painful. But no matter how old you are, it's still a giant needle piercing the flesh. It hurts just as much. I don't even hide it better.

About 10 years ago I had a crush on a man named Toby. He told me he taught his five-year-old niece sarcasm. He'd trained her to go up to her grandmother and say, "Nice dress," and to make a face. Things like that are what I liked about him. But he was unreliable and hated plans. So it didn't work out. Then, a few weeks ago, I ran into him. He looked the same, I looked the same, and out of the blue he told me he missed me. I was flattered. It's nice to be missed. But it was strange, too, being missed by someone who I never felt knew me. I called Liza. There I was, talking about the same boy, in the same way; all the old feelings were resurfacing. It was 1996 all over again.

People say you live and learn, but sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes you just live and keep going. Or what you do learn you forget. Once again, I found myself in the same position I was in 10 years ago: waiting for him to call. Why is it only the bad patterns that get repeated? Ten years ago I was also getting up early to go running and feeling fit, but for some reason that pattern's been retired. The call never came. In its place, an e-mailed explanation that said he shouldn't have said he missed me because he's not in a position to do anything about it. When I read it I thought: "Progress." This is what it's come to: instead of wondering if he's avoiding me, I'm relieved to have it confirmed. Are there so many unreliable people in my life that when someone does something normal, it's a big deal? It's like when someone says, "I'm just being honest with you," and I feel grateful. How did it get to the point where honesty deserves admiration?

Every emotional lesson that I've ever learnt in my life, I've forgotten. There's no growth, no inner peace. Just anticipation of what's to come. The rejection I feel now when someone dumps me? Exactly the same as when I was 15. Worse, even. Because now I factor in that I should know better.

There are times when I'm walking down the street and I'll see someone with a scar across their face and think: "I shouldn't feel bad. It could be worse: I could have a giant scar across my face." For about three blocks, I'll walk along appreciating what I have. But later that night, looking in the mirror, I realise it's still me. And the woman with the giant scar isn't going to be standing next to me at a party next time I'm feeling invisible, to remind me what's important and boost my self-esteem.

A lot of elderly people I've met tell me that, even though they're 70 on the outside, they still feel like they're 20 on the inside. I find this profoundly disheartening. Does this mean that at 70, I'll still be sitting by the phone wondering why someone hasn't called me back? Forty years from now, am I going to hear myself saying: "What bingo game? No one told me about it"?

There is no comfort knowing that as I get older, I'll still feel youthful. Because this means that all I have to look forward to is me the way I am now, but with wrinkles and thinner hair.