It takes a lot of effort and energy to maintenance friendships when you are single. Most people don’t bother. I have a lot of experience writing messages to friends: would you like to go to this exhibition/ film/ club night/gig with me? I often get turned down, or cancelled on at the last minute. I have also listened to single lady friends complain that the only cohesive social group at the school I went to was a group of white men and their partners who mostly ignored the people outside of their heteronormative structures. This is a doubly oppressive situation because as artists we know that most of our economic potential is in the social network we are able to generate for ourselves. I have also heard single men complain that they have no one talk to about their feelings because they are not in the right space to have a partner or haven’t found one yet. It seems like most people are aware that making heterosexuality the only way of relating is not healthy, but no one changes their behaviour.
I got the cast off my fractured wrist a few weeks ago, and decided that I will go against the flow once more.
I plan a picnic in the beautiful Greenwich park near my home. It is a London gem, but I know most of my friends don’t often have reason to go there. It is also summer. Most of my course mates not only haven’t seen each other for weeks, but will not be re-joining the course in the Fall because they are graduating. I give two weeks’ notice and make a Facebook event. I only invite a core group of 20 people, who I’ve had actually had good conversations and social experiences with. I’m hoping that the smaller group will invite a higher level of social responsibility. It seems like the idea is working. 10 people who live nearby say they will come, about 5 of which have partners. I figure you only need 5 for a good picnic. It’s mostly women, because this is art school. I invite three more men personally and suggest they bring their single friends, considering the situation.
I send a reminder the day before and about 5 people cancel.. mostly single women. I think of this in two ways: The single women know what it’s like to be left alone, so they have enough consideration to cancel verbally, and the single women don’t know about the men I invited. Later I find out that the couples just don’t show at all. It’s as if people outside their heteronormative world don’t exist. The men cancel at the last minute…. My personal connection with them has already been discoloured by the power imbalance of romantic rejection, and for one this is his way of newly rejecting me.
Not one person comes to my picnic.
I am sitting under a tree crying, eating my own food. It is a glorious day, hot in the sunshine and just right in the shade. I am surrounded by people in the park. I text N. He is one of the men who cancelled at the last minute. He is too hung over to join, he made sure that he would be by staying out all night for no particular reason. But he cares enough to call me and talk me through my feelings for over an hour. He pretends that he is eating with me and the food I made for everyone is very good. Finishing my food I go to the shop and buy some alcohol to dull my hurt feelings. We are skyping in bed all day.. he feels too hung over to leave his bed mostly. At one point we talk about watching Magnolia together in his flat because I haven’t seen it before, but it is already too late and too far, and too much sexual tension for me to sleep over.
At around 2 am he says he’s going to tease me…like a teenage sadist. He tells me that tomorrow he is going to make a breakfast for Elena and bring it to her flat, because she has had a concussion from her dog jumping on her. I remember getting mugged last August. .. A woman smashed my head against the pavement repeatedly , but somehow I didn’t get a concussion. No one visited me. That was actually when J.W. decided to dump me. N has been talking about dumping Elena for weeks because she wants to be in a relationship and he doesn’t. He also talks about how she is controlling and can’t engage with him intellectually. I feel like no one will spend time with me unless they are planning to put their dick in me, and even when that happens, it’s like stamping a huge expiration date on your forehead. I send a text: sorry for being hysterical, I had a bad day. It’s almost 4 in the morning and I’m still weeping.
The next day I have the date with the Italian Underwear Designer. My date is someone who will have a conversation with me without massive amounts of planning, social media, texting, and skype. He’ll even pay for drinks. I don’t feel that I’m in love, but I feel that I have some human dignity and I am enjoying life.