One of life’s greatest ironies is that our proudest moments are never our most self-revealing, while our challenges show us what we’re made of.
Such is the moment when I deeply, though maybe not fully, understood my womanhood and my individuality. I say individuality not as a fashion statement, I say it in terms of who I am as a person. My singleness. My I’m-a-whole-person-all-on-my-own-ness. It settled itself into my psyche, cemented its existence in my self-concept, but I can’t say that the moment was one I could write home about.
This moment happened sometime during my exploration of a “sex life,” which is but one aspect of adulthood, formed slowly, embarrassingly and experimentally. For most women, their sex life starts in mid teenage-hood, fueled by peer pressure and engulfed in insecurity. Mine began later, fueled by curiosity, an empowerment offered only by knowing I was ready.
At the ripe age of 23 years old, I set out to master the art of the one-night-stand. Such an age might seem young, but I’m an old soul and had a strange draw to this particular kind of affair. My attempts always seemed to be going well at first; all the steps were in place, the necessary actions performed. But the next day, I’d find myself either hoping he’d call, wondering if he was hoping I’d call or a mix of judgmental emotions along the lines of, “I don’t want him to call, but I want him to want to call.” What was that? A lot of wasted energy and thought devoted to men I was not at all invested in.
In other words, a huge waste of time.
One-night-stands are tricky. They require both parties not only consent to the act of the moment but also to the impermanence of the moment. They require both participants not be expectant of long-term affect, that any and all reassurances found within the actual sex — which, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons people have sex in the first place: to feel better about themselves — that all those feelings end as soon as the night does.
That’s exactly where I went wrong: I thought I was prepared for the end, but when the morning came I simply wasn’t. I was bad at it. I’d hope for more, even when I didn’t want more. Like a surprise early spring blossom or the sun peaking out from behind a beautiful rain storm. Surprise! Your life-long love is here!
I can see now, in hindsight, you can’t get what you want until you know what you want. I didn’t want a relationship, I wanted to be a strong, powerful, single woman and to start my career. Yet, I also wanted to be wanted. It was a neediness that I didn’t feel good about, and one I had a hard time addressing.
Finally, one day, it worked. I woke up. He was gone — just like it’s supposed to be — and I didn’t feel a thing except happy with the silence, the solitude and myself. I don’t even remember now who he was.
I didn’t feel happy to have conquered another person or to have such powerful prowess. Maybe that is why I’d sought out for a one-night-stand, but that certainly wasn’t what I woke up to.
The reason this sexual excursion was so revelatory was because I woke up to myself, happy with myself and happy to be alone. I didn’t feel shame in the idea of not seeing him again. Here was a woman satisfied and confident with no need for affection from anyone else. Here was a woman who was comfortable with the silence of being alone, a woman who was no longer looking for the assurance of another person to fulfill any insecurities.
He wasn’t yesterday’s trash nor tomorrow’s promise. He simply was. He was another wonderful, worthy, complete human with whom I’d shared some time. That it had been only a night rather than a six-month relationship that ended in catastrophe only made it more special. Life is short and time is fleeting, so we shared a little, gave a lot and went our separate ways.
It was just, as the song goes, “one of those things.” One of those bells that now and then rings.
It would be a long time before I mastered my physical space and found the courage to figure out what worked for me. In other words, it took me a long time to start having good sex. It was enough to be able to have adult sex and just live with myself — happily, I might add.
As adulthood has waned on, I’ve come to realize that these moments aren’t constant, but intermittent, like tidbits of contentment that leave us glowing. When we can be comfortable alone, we take responsibility for our actions and emotions. We can use that responsibility wisely, to make good decisions for ourselves and to listen to our own inner voice more closely than anyone else’s voice. We can start saying, “I love you,” and “You’re beautiful,” inwardly, rather than waiting around for someone else to say it.
Today, I’m in a long-term relationship, but I still crave the moments of solitude in which I’m reminded that no one and nothing else proves my wholeness as a being. Obviously, I can’t have a one-night-stand, but I find contentedness waiting for me when the house is empty, drinking tea and watching the rain fall, in a long hot bath or even going for a jog alone.
It’s important because unless I operate from this mindset, I can only take love rather than give love. I can only consume his affection as proof of my own worth, rather than simply enjoy it and give forth willingly. It makes our love that much stronger; and it makes me capable of being an individual even within a deeply connected unity.
There are certainly larger skills I’m looking to master now, but if I can be the kind of woman who seeks out answers to her questions on her own, and who takes care of herself and who appreciates and respects her own mind and body, that’s enough for now.
Maybe for you it won’t be a post-affair realization. Maybe your individuality is waiting for you in the quiet of your own house or the encompassing warm water of a morning shower. Somewhere, right where you least expect it, is proof that you alone need no one to tell you or show you that you are whole, full of peace and perfect as you are. That your own love is the most important love you can receive. If you can find it, you’ll realize that your individuality, your ability to take care of yourself and accept the power and responsibility of your own emotions and existence, is right there in the palm of your perfect, loving hand.