Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Diane Keaton

Warning: Overly dramatic, hyperbolic statement used to open this post.

If someone had told me I would be completely single for at least the next five years back in the summer of 2006, I would have asked them to shoot me in my face and end my misery. 

All of my friends were getting married, I had just broken up with a boyfriend who at one time had been my best friend, and there was too much general change happening in my life to imagine going it alone for years. 

Now, if you were to ask me "Do you wish you had been shot in the face 5 years ago?" I would exclaim "Of course not!" This is because I feel like I have grown so much and now consider myself to be a real person (who loves the expression "shoot me in my face"). I make my own decisions, take responsibility for those decisions, and have thoroughly enjoyed even the low points these last few years. My twenties are great even though they haven't allowed me to update my Facebook status to "In a relationship". 

The need to love and to be loved, that's basic. Everyone needs love. Unfortunately, romantic love has been lauded as the best and most desireable form of love. And that's what makes being single so hard. Even if we are surrounded by love from our family and friends, it's still difficult not to focus on lacking that mystical special someone. This is what has been tripping me up lately. It's been so long since I've had a boyfriend, I have begun to idealize the idea of being in a relationship. And I've been open to admitting this and complaining about it to every poor soul who gets stuck listening to me. My sisters are the perfect victims for this because, well, what are sisters for after all?  They had no choice but to listen to me make this dramatic pity-me declaration when they were visiting: 
‎"If I can never look back on my life and say that I got to spend it with "the one", at least I can say I spent it with hundreds and hundreds of duds."
I'm having a hard time trying not to sound too whiny as in "Wah! I want a boyfriend!" (not the point of this post). Also I don't want to come across as completely confusing (there is a point to this post). So, an update on the last few months is necessary...

Kelly moved to LA. 

gold mini memorial.
She is dating a guy who moved there back in January but more so she needed to leave Chicago and try life on her own. I was as supportive as possible. But it's difficult when the single most important person in your life moves some 2,000 miles away. For her last night here, we met for drinks at our favorite local bar and basically just cried for two hours publicly and loudly. Something neither of us is accustomed to.  I also lost my gold mini ipod from 2004 because I was crying on the El by myself on the way to meet her and didn't notice the lack of music coming from my earphones until I was about 2 blocks away from the station. I loved my gold mini.           

This began my month long period of crying.

The day after she left I cried at my desk at work. I cried while making dinner for myself; watching TV by myself; grocery shopping; basically all things by myself made me cry.

For the first time since meeting her, I felt my singleness as being terribly unbearable. She was a good distraction for my lack of a boyfriend. Kelly and I shared everything. And we have the kind of friendship where we reminisce about our "fights" while we are having them (which just means we basically never have them). I'm lucky to have several relationships like that but Kelly and I made a life together which made the sting of her move much more difficult for me.

This might sound strange since I am talking about a platonic friendship with my female friend, but the way we met and became friends is how I would like to eventually meet my next boyfriend. Everything with her was so easy. From the beginning we just genuinely enjoyed each other while maintaining our individual lives. I didn't feel like I had to give up anything in order to get along with her but at the same time I know I've improved as a person throughout our friendship because of her influence. It wasn't perfect but it didn't feel forced either. We loved being around one another. That was never the case when I had serious boyfriends and hasn't been the case with any of the guys I've dated in my 5 years of being single. Those relationships/more-than-friendships always felt/feel as though I'm trying to fend off the "alone feeling". 

Most people who know me on even the slightest level are probably shocked to hear me say I have an issue with loneliness. When I talk about it, people think I'm crazy because my life is so full and exciting. Which is true. I do lots of cool things and am alone when I want to be alone. But feeling lonely is completely different. It's a combination of feeling lost, without a foundation, and thinking there is no one to run to when you just need to collapse. And trust me; I know that's a reality even when you are in a solid relationship. It's part of the human condition. So for the most part I try to just enjoy what is around me and appreciate my relative youth and unattached freedom. However, in the words of the wise Ken Cosgrove (Mad Men reference):
"Every once in a while you don't want to be a bachelor, you know?" 
Ken Cosgrove
Yes Ken. I do know. 

Unfortunately, I have a strong aversion toward all things dating. I hate it. I hate being asked out. I hate going out on dates. I hate deciding about a second date. I hate being set up. I hate waiting around for a phone call. I hate avoiding calls if I don't want to get them. I hate professions of emotions; negative or positive. Alright, alright, I know that is another exaggeration, but honestly, I hate it because rarely do two people's feelings for one another match up. As I get older, I realize it is hard to find in new friends, let alone a new dating scenario. It's too much of a process which is what I mean when I say I want meeting someone to be like when Kelly and I became friends. No process. It just happened and was great.

I have had so many relationship miscarriages, accompanied by all the excitement and hopefulness of what could be, only to vanish without explanation. Too much failure to launch which I wish would make me less open and more cautious, but that's just not my nature so each and every time my level of disappointment is as intense as if I shouldn't have known better. I'd take a full blown, relationship-has-run-its-course break up any day over these measly little should-be-insignificant-but-add-up-to-a-lot-of-hurt boyfriend almosts. It's  exhausting.  (Goodness, I'm being horrifyingly honest about my feelings again.)

Don't worry about me giving up too soon or not putting in the proper effort to meet someone. I'm online dating. It's been more than 6 days. Which, if you know my meat packing history, you know that I usually quit things I hate on the 6th day. (Meat packing is not a euphemism for anything; I was actually a meat packer in a factory for 5 days + 1 "sick" day.) It's been a mental battle. My roommate Lauren, had to talk me off the proverbial ledge 2 weeks ago because I was ready to quit dating all together after a more than annoying discussion about "what men want" with a guy friend at lunch. I told her I thought I should have some more alone time and she logically said I've had enough alone time. So, I stuck with it, and honestly, am happy I have. I am, at the very least, trying to not die alone. 

There is pressure for women and men alike to settle down, get married, and have kids. That's the way our communities are structured. It's advertised to us from our toys to our movies and TV shows. Everything tells us to find a partner and make a life together. Our government even rewards us with tax breaks if we get married. Sharing life as a couple is expected and viewed as the logical way to establish oneself as a contributing member of society. It's a gender neutral requirement in a way.


Single women, especially older single women are always looked at with more than a little pity if they haven't found "the one". I mean one of the most popular card games in history is called Old Maid for goodness sake. In Ken Cosgrove's quote, he has to concede that it is hard sometimes not to have an old ball n' chain like his other coworkers. How many of us cheered for Don Draper when he finally became single? And subsequently booed when he became engaged again? We LOVE the unattached male who has evaded the desperation of all the lonely single women that want him. George Clooney anyone? And no matter how catchy Beyonce's Single Ladies is, no one wants that to be their anthem permanently.

So, sigh, I struggle with the fear I will be doomed to wander the Earth alone forever and every moment of my life will be pure agony because I don't have someone to claim as my own. And then I listen to songs like this on repeat which I think was intended by Ben Gibbard to make abandoned women feel better but mostly it just pisses me off:

Just when I thought the "alone feeling" had its choke hold on me for the duration, CBS Sunday Morning came to my rescue with a great interview with Diane Keaton, a notoriously private celebrity.

Normally, I like to write about lessor known women. Those not applauded by the masses. Diane doesn't seem to fit into this category when you simply look at her career in the spotlight. She is an Academy Award winning actress who has made dozens of successful movies which have made her quite recognizable. But what I like the most about her is what she isn't as known for; her personal life. 

Keaton has never married and when she was 50, she decided to adopt her first child. She is now 65 and has two kids and says  she was moved to become a mother after her father passed away. She has also given up on finding romantic love, even after dating some very high profile men in the entertainment world. After her dad died, and she realized she couldn't be a daughter forever, she felt raising her own kids would fill something in her she hadn't realized would feel empty. 

In college, I learned there are several different words for love the ancient Greeks used. Each qualifies a different kind of love, thus making loving emotions a bit more clearly defined.  These definitions are helpful because they make all forms of loving relationships better understood. Each word and definition break down the idea the only type of love we should strive for or honor is that of a spouse or sexual partner. In regards to Keaton, and her deep love for her parents and her children, it shows Storge, familial love, has had more importance in her life than Eros, romantic love. Obviously, I'm not a scholar on love, but maybe if in our modern American culture, we had more definitions like these, instead of one general word,  we would have more of an appreciation for the different types of emotional bonds that exist. 

Quote from Marvin's Room
Looking at her as an actor, I have appreciated Diane's choice of rolls showing all different types of relationships. When I was in my most major cry mode after Kelly's LA departure, I decided to indulge my depressed, ultra lonely self with a Saturday night in and the movie Marvin's Room. I'm not going to give a complete synopsis, but if you haven't seen it, Keaton's character is diagnosed with terminal cancer and reconnects her with her estranged sister, played by Meryl Streep. She devoted her life to caring for her ill father and aunt, foregoing romantic love, while Streep's character chased after the unrequited love of her ex while unappreciative of the love of her children and family. At the end of Keaton's life she is over come with all the love she was privileged to experience and Streep misinterprets this to mean the love she gave to their father. Diane says she means the love she was given by them which is a changing moment for Streep. Basically, I was crying alone for hours afterwards.

At the end of her character's life, she is so happy with the love she's had and almost none of it was of a romantic nature. It made me not want to be so down and mopey about the not-having-a-boyfriend-thing because I really want to be OK with myself and the love that I receive from the people who are already in my life. I know Keaton was just acting but I feel like this is a virtue she has displayed in her own life and another reason why she is someone to admire.

When Katie Couric asks her why she never married, she said it was because she would have had to compromise too much and she wanted to take a more adventurous path. This is a direct result of the influence her mother had on her and knowing all of the self sacrifice she exerted as a homemaker. I admire the relationship Diane had with her because she honored her life so much while still choosing a different path for herself. "Keaton" is actually her mother's maiden name she took as her stage name when she registered with the Screen Actor's Guild. Another cool little tidbit.

Keaton with her kids.
Even with the unapologetic denial of a romantic love interest, Keaton acknowledges she has had some regret about not being married. But what life isn't stained with some "hindsight is 20/20" admittance? She has still offered us a positive example of what modern single womanhood can look like. That is an incredibly valuable contribution to our collective culture.

There is this misconception out there that to be a feminist, a true feminist, you have to be full of hate; hate toward men; hate toward other women and their traditional choices; hate toward society at large. Diane proves this isn't the case with her deep love for her parents and the fond memories she has of the men she has dated. For me personally, I feel more loving than ever before and I credit feminist influences for encouraging that within me. Inclusion, equality, leveling the playing field, so to speak, that's about love. Wanting change doesn't mean you can't see any positives in the way things are; you just know progression is the only way to benefit everyone. Feminism maintains a "The more the merrier!" mentality which is an extremely loving concept. 

Agape is the Greek word for love used by Biblical scholars to define God's love for his people; an unconditional love. I'm going to use it in a more humanist way and suggest it's a fitting term for the way we as humans should feel toward one another.  If my life is full of agape, maybe there isn't a need for me to experience romantic love with one exalted person. I'm not going to shut down my OK Cupid* profile or ignore male advances any time soon, I'm just saying I think I'm one step closer to fully appreciating the love I already have, and for that, I'm grateful. 

*Ok, lie. I did delete OK Cupid. ;)


  1. I feel so Oprah/Gail about us right now, I'm the Gail part.
    Thank you for taking the time to write, and to put into words some of the thoughts we all have but can't say.
    Obviously Diane Keaton rules.

  2. Great article!
    I can completely relate to you (or was it Diane Keaton?) So I’ve been single for quite a while (not 5 years) but long enough. And like you, I love it but hate it sometimes too. After graduating college, I landed a sweet “career” job and within a few months my serious relationship ended. This was an end to a good “run” and the start to a great beginning. There is no feeling (except maybe for this “true” love everyone talks about) greater than achieving complete independence. I got a taste of freedom when I finally had an income and no one to tell me what to do or hold me back. It’s the wave I’m riding now but yet there is something missing…I hate to admit it…but it is loneliness.
    My best bud “Gedi” also moved away from Chicago to Sweden for some girl. I really miss him too. Then my dad asked me the other day “So when am I gonna get grandkids?” Shit…I never thought I’d hear that. It just told him the English proverb, “Children are a poor man’s riches”…not that I believe that but I had to come up with some witty response instead of the honest answer “Haven’t met the right person yet.”
    So now I’m trying online dating. Messaged this cute girl who is independent, driven, passionate, political, and a great writer….and then she deletes her profile! She could’ve been my future wife or just a good friend. Guess I’ll just mope around listening to Death Cab for Cutie.