Sex + Love

Goodbye Googly Eyes

I haven’t been single in more than a decade.

Illustration by Beth.

Illustration by Beth.

It was July, and the city was in the middle of a heat wave. This boy N. and I ducked into the air-conditioned Guggenheim to escape the heat. I was wearing a dress with no pockets and I did not want to check a bag, so I’d asked him to put all my stuff (ID, debit card, MetroCard, keys) in his pocket. So there’s the setup.

We stood outside on line melting for a solid half-hour before we were allowed into the building, which always feels super surreal ’cause it’s built like this giant fancy ultra-white spiraling maze. It was the Turrell exhibit, this light show that is super popular, so it was jam-packed with all these fancy people lying in the middle of the museum’s ground floor in their fancy clothes, staring at the light beaming down from the ceiling, trying to have some transcendental experience or something, and meanwhile there’s this usher who is barking every three minutes, “NO PICTURES! TURN THAT IPHONE OFF!” over everyone’s experience. It felt like a joke to me, like the artist was playing a joke on everybody, or like a big psychological experiment: How can we get a room full of strangers in their fanciest duds to lie on a floor and stare at a ceiling? N. and I lay down. Afterward, we circled up the spiraling stairs and there was a thin strip of white light emanating from a corner of a wall and a long line of people waiting to walk up to that corner and look at the light. We got on line.

“What’s this line for? Does something, like, happen when you walk up to the light?” a young girl asked me. Her friend tittered.

“Ermmm, no. Nothing happens,” I tittered back, feeling foolish for having joined the line.

I’ll admit that I’m not great at appreciating contemporary art. I mean, I like the artwork just fine, but sometimes the whole museum thing throws me off and distracts me from the art itself. That’s what I was thinking about as N. and I circled around that giant white maze—remember: me pocketless, him carrying all my stuff.

Right then this gallery attendant wearing a pin that said LET’S TALK ART walked over and started chatting me up. I babbled to him about how weird museums are and don’t you think it’s kind of absurd, all these people waiting on these long lines to just like stare really hard, and what do they expect will happen? And blah blah blah blah blah. I was just running my mouth, and he was running his mouth too. Then I turned and saw that N. was waiting near the room’s exit, staring me down. He and I made eye contact, but the dude was speaking and then I was speaking back and it didn’t seem like that big of deal? It was like four minutes or something total. I kept on trying to signal to N., I’ll be there in a sec, I just have to wrap up this convo, and I swear it wasn’t that big of a deal!?! (I admit it, I’m a flirt. I get a little close to people, and the attendant was hot.)

We talked for another couple of minutes, and then I looked back and N. was gone.and then I looked back and N. was gone. Gone. Do you know how scary it is to be with someone and suddenly they are gone? To feel all comfortable and then suddenly you realize that you are completely alone? I scrambled frantically around the museum trying to find him. I didn’t think he’d just leave when he had possession of my everything, would he? I ran around in my pocketless dress, taking periodic breaks to lie down on the ground floor and meditate under the big white light, with the thought that maybe he’d meet me there and that I should just calm down, because at that point I was very not calm. I alternated between searching and waiting for what must have been over an hour, but he was just not there. I was all alone—no phone no money no keys no identification no water no nothing—abandoned in this big big crowded lonesome New York City.

~*~*~

So, that’s the story of the recent, disastrous/comic end between N. and me, N. being a wonderful male I had been in a heavy relationship with during college. The first time N. dumped me (for good reason: I was depressed and lost and needed to find myself on my own) I was absolutely in love with him, and the breakup crushed me, in an unable-to-do-anything-except-howl-hysterically-for-way-too-long way. That was years ago, and we rediscovered each other this past summer in this sticky-hot concrete jungle and attempted to romantically reconnect. Then we went to the Guggenheim, and it ended.

I know that not much happens in this anecdote, but I find it a little too perfect, too allegorical, not to use here. A boy and I were in this place and he had my everything—my identification and my ability to get around on my own and access to my own resources—in his pocket. This is a hilariously fitting metaphor for how I feel when I’m in a relationship with a guy. Through no fault of theirs (it wasn’t N.’s idea to hold on to all my shit), it always ends up like this: The guy takes possession of my identity, my mobility, my independence, my everything, and I am rendered utterly dependent on him.

~*~*~

I found my way back home eventually. I got there by sheepishly approaching the LET’S TALK ART attendant and explaining the situation, then following him to the coat check, where he brought out his laptop and I went on my Gmail and convinced my friend George, who lives a time zone away in Chicago, to call up N. and persuade him to come back to the museum and return my stuff. I waited on Fifth Avenue, sweating in the heat, and then finally N. came storming up and said, “I’m going to get DRUNK,” and he shoved my possessions at me and stomped off. And the strangest part of that strange day came at the end, when I was passing around a bottle of wine with my friends, and I found myself laughing. Laughing, not crying, because, duh, I was OK. I was always OK.

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53 Comments

  • jenaimarley September 4th, 2013 3:41 PM

    Ahhh Anna, you’re my favorite!

  • ellemiza September 4th, 2013 3:47 PM

    Anna,
    DHDKDJDHSKALALAJSGDMDK. Thank You for this.

  • rottedteeth September 4th, 2013 3:57 PM

    “Eh. I feel. Suck it.”
    I’m going to live by this now.

    http://empassant.blogspot.com/

  • Amy Rose September 4th, 2013 4:07 PM

    Fuck. Anna McConnell, the queen supreme.

  • cryingflowers September 4th, 2013 4:10 PM

    This was an really interesting piece. I found myself wanting to sprinkle glitter all over you in the act of love and support c:

  • maxrey September 4th, 2013 4:21 PM

    I needed this SO much today. It seriously could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you.

    • maxrey September 4th, 2013 4:45 PM

      To make this piece even more relevant to my life today, apparently my assigned reading for my Gender & Culture course is the introduction to The Second Sex!

  • LittleMoon September 4th, 2013 5:20 PM

    This is so important, I’m glad I read it.

  • Chloe22 September 4th, 2013 5:24 PM

    I love this article! It’s so me. I just have no interest in dating or ”love”. Basically I’m asexual, which is INSANELY ABNORMAL for a teenage girl. Anyone I mention this to treats me like I’m a cruel child hater who will live with cats for the rest of my life (what is so wrong with cats?), or i’ll see the err of my ways when i’m really old and adopt 7 children (yeah, someone said that to me). I’ve never seen anything evil in romance, or thinking someone’s attractive, but I don’t experience that attraction. Romance makes me scared (and not in the cute butterfly way). I know the article wasn’t about asexuality, but I definitely saw myself in it. An article by someone who’s asexual would be greatly appreciated, though!

    • sophiethewitch September 4th, 2013 7:07 PM

      You should write that article! I would love to read about your experience being asexual.

      • sophiethewitch September 4th, 2013 7:09 PM

        Also, I’m sorry about all the comments you’ve been getting. People need to grow up.

      • Anaheed September 4th, 2013 7:23 PM

        I second this request!

        • Issmene September 5th, 2013 8:41 AM

          Me too! Loved this article btw. I had never heard of Woman In Love, but I recognize it.

      • lxmldrt September 5th, 2013 9:28 AM

        Write that article! The world needs you.

    • illhelm September 5th, 2013 2:10 PM

      i feel exactly the same way! i literally just had a very bizarre argument with my mom about this because she pretty much asked me why i don’t have a boyfriend or any hook up buddies and i went a little crazy… is there something wrong with me? i’m not sure if it’s actually a physical thing or a psychological one… urgh!

    • blueolivia September 5th, 2013 10:25 PM

      i think you should write an article like that too! i am kind of feeling like i identify as asexual too, and i’d love to get some perspective on it!

  • Sophie ❤ September 4th, 2013 5:24 PM

    Incredibly interesting- this is definitely one of my favorites!

    http://theneonpapaya.com

  • ru September 4th, 2013 5:30 PM

    this is as apt for what I’m going through now as your woman in love article was to me last year!! single-go-getter-power-suit-bitches UNITE!!

  • lizziefranalan September 4th, 2013 6:18 PM

    I’m so glad you feel victorious. I feel victorious too, reading what you have to say. But you don’t have to be a “loveless bitch in a power suit”, you can very much be a “loved-up bitch in a power suit” loving a whole world of things. Your friends, yourself, your beau. I haven’t been in a “romantic” (I put this in quotations because the definition of romance includes mystery and the type of love I’m interested in nowadays doesn’t seem to include mystery. Or at least the mystery part seems empty because no matter how much/how long you know someone, they change. You change. Mysteries.) relationship for a long time so I feel like my advice isn’t reliable. But no, just because I’m not in a relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want. And I think that’s just a friend. Your beau should be an animate friend who wouldn’t “let” you suck the secrets out, wouldn’t “let” you put on their personalities (as if someone wouldn’t notice that), wouldn’t “let” you psychoanalyze them.
    Because friends wouldn’t psychoanalyze and friends wouldn’t let you psychoanalyze them.
    And I don’t think a relationship, ANY relationship should be a ‘fusion of souls’ but more a bridge between two separate souls, one that both sides want open.

  • poetess September 4th, 2013 6:20 PM

    Wow. I feel this. I’m going to read this all the time. Thank you

  • Fee September 4th, 2013 6:37 PM

    This line: “I’ll look at the guy and my googly eyes will malfunction, or maybe they slipped off while I slept.” is brilliant. It’s one of those sentences that will bounce around in my head for the next few weeks and in a few years time I’ll write it in something and then think, “No, that’s not mine…”. I related a lot to this in a way that sucks but it makes me feel good about where I’m at now and glad that you’re there too, thank you, Anna!

    http://contraluna.blogspot.com/

  • mizuna September 4th, 2013 6:59 PM

    iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou

  • ebcstar September 4th, 2013 7:14 PM

    I LOVE THIS, THIS IS MY LIFE/ THE LIVES OF SO MANY OTHER GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN I KNOW!!!

  • illhelm September 4th, 2013 7:44 PM

    i feel like you are in my mind!!! i was so taken aback to read some of this because it literally echoes so much of who i am/my thoughts & behaviour. i find myself completely unable to just be physically attracted to someone – i always have to date people i want to be like, people who are smart and relaxed and rebellious in some ways… i’ve been single for two years now and, like you, i love being alone. i don’t want to be in a relationship again for a very long time. but i’m scared i’ll just lapse back into people the woman in love and take a backseat in my own life. i give too much of myself and i put that other person over myself. pretty shitty!!! but thank you so much for sharing :)

  • jflg023 September 4th, 2013 9:03 PM

    This is fantastic and exactly how I’ve started to feel recently after spending WAY too much time pining after a boy that never made me happy in the first place. I have to keep reminding myself that all the negative feelings are just a byproduct of fear and lack of self-confidence, not any true need for another person. Overcoming those hang-ups are a million times better than any crutch relationship. Thank you so much.

  • waltzedout September 4th, 2013 11:30 PM

    This is fucking awesome Anna. You be you.

  • abbeysoda September 5th, 2013 4:10 AM

    sooo good!!

  • Pemmsan September 5th, 2013 4:48 AM

    Wow. I really needed to read this right now. Once again, Rookie saves the day with its impeccable timing!

  • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 5:41 AM

    i know this may sound very weird, but i envy that you were never single for a whole decade. i’m already eighteen and i’ve never had anything remotely close to a boyfriend. i’ve never even had a first kiss. i don’t know why things are like this, but i’m perpetually single. no guys seem to take interest – it’s always me liking guys and them not liking me back – and it’s driving me crazy, and taking a toll on my self-esteem. which is terrible, because i’m like the woman in love, only i don’t actually have a lover. i obsess about these guys i like who don’t like me back, and how much i want a boyfriend, which sucks and i don’t know how to stop it OR finally get a guy so i can get over it. i know you talked about the merits of being single (and i’m happy for you for discovering that), but i’m actually sick of being single. i just want to be loved, and i feel incredibly alone. i just want to feel something, and i feel pathetic because i am already so old and i haven’t experienced what most people half a decade younger than me have experienced.

    • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 5:47 AM

      it’s just… i don’t understand why i’ve been single for so long. is it because i’m not good enough for anyone? that’s one of the downsides of being single, at least for me – i tend to place all my self-worth on the fact that i’m single, which is kind of similar to how anna felt about NOT being single, only in the opposite situation. am i making sense? it’s just the whole issue of placing self worth on people who do or don’t love you. i admire you, anna, for working on getting over that, and i wish i could do the same myself.

      • Anaheed September 5th, 2013 6:11 AM

        Babe, you are NOT “so old.” Many, many people don’t have their first romantic relationship till they’re out of their teens. You have all the time in the world, and there’s no deadline here.

        Being open to love and SAYING that you are open to love are incredibly hard, brave things to do, so accept that you are awesome and that if you want to find someone to go out with, you will. I know it’s hard to be patient but know that you are not “behind schedule” and that you are constantly surrounded by tons of people in your same situation—they’re just not as conspicuous to you as the ones that are coupled up.

        • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2013 7:40 AM

          thank you so much anaheed. :) i can’t express my gratitude for your comforting words enough. :) i was actually getting very depressed after reading the article and writing the comment just made me realize how “incomplete” i’ve been feeling because of this self-imposed deadline and that whole Woman In Love thing! but reading your reply made me feel a lot better. i know it takes time but i guess i have to stop feeling bad about my situation since there’s nothing i can do about it anyway. anaheed, thank you, thank you so much! i was incredibly sad earlier, but i am feeling a lot better now. :)

    • Glenny September 6th, 2013 4:10 AM

      But still, I don’t think that you have to be patient for anything. If you want to have a relationship just to test the waters, there’s no waiting that you have to do. Women are often told that we have to WAIT for the right guy/ prince charming/ Mr.Soul mate to approach us. Honestly, how is that going to happen? If you want a man in your life, or even a fling, why not pursue someone? Of course, not in a desperate, I WANT YOU SO BADLY way, but become friends with someone and take it further/ use some other approach. YOU can CHOOSE a guy (as it seems like Anna did) and just test the waters. I know it seems kind of evil/soul-less, and I’d be cautious not to get too emotionally invested. You could just go to coffee shops and approach some dudez ‘n like start dating casually if you’d like to.

      Just create whatever experiences you want in your life and don’t wait for your fate to come upon you. Even sign up for a dating site like OkCupid if you feel like it. HAYL. Do whatever u want and maintain your independence in this way. Taking control of your relationships and your life will give you more independence, even if that means finding a way to be in a relationship… just cuz.

      Also, in my experience, a lot has to do with getting out of high school and making it on your own. I’m 19 and I’m just starting to pursue the dudes I like.

      • Glenny September 6th, 2013 4:24 AM

        Actually** it shouldn’t make you feel evil/ soul-less because males do this all the time (CHOOSING the women they want to be with and actively pursuing them).

        • Nikilodeon September 10th, 2013 5:58 AM

          You DO have a point! But I’ve tried pursuing guys I’ve liked and it’s never worked. I don’t know, I guess some people are better at it than I am! :P Things have never gone the way I wanted with guys I’ve liked, no matter how well we clicked as friends or how much “chemistry” (I thought) we had. So it’s kind of a tactic that hasn’t worked, and I guess I gave up. The fact that it’s never worked is one of the reasons why I’m going crazy about this whole thing! Haha. But thank you for your advice! :) And don’t worry, it never made me feel evil or soul-less at all. :)

  • seemoo September 5th, 2013 7:16 AM

    This article is wonderful, one of my favorites! Thank you, thank you, you wonderful Independent Woman.

  • Flavia September 5th, 2013 7:26 AM

    Awesome :)

  • hannahmaxine September 5th, 2013 8:26 AM

    Anna, I admire your courage. Thank you for being open and raw and real and smart and fabulous!

  • hollysh September 5th, 2013 9:48 AM

    Anna, this article is wonderful! I’m in admiration of your self-awareness. I recognize a lot of these traits in myself, but have been unable to put words to them in such an eloquent way.

    I feel like it’s worth noting that you can shed the negative aspects of the Woman in Love while staying in a relationship, although it probably happens a lot quicker when you’re single. After a long and mostly terrible relationship where I defined my self-worth and interests through my boyfriend, I made a concerted effort to change the way I deal with romantic relationships and it’s worked so well! I have a really great boyfriend and maintain my independence (I also moved to a new country and started a new school and got a new job and lots of other stuff that coincided with that shift). It took a few years, but I feel like a 1000x better person now. So yeah! Let’s be great awesome ladies together. Even though it doesn’t sound like you need it, best of luck to you!

  • l_ala September 5th, 2013 1:29 PM

    This is literally me, except it’s only been 5 years (I’m 20). This is me in every aspect, even the feeling great on my own part. This is awesome and every girl should feel how you feel now. Thank you for this.

  • Monq September 5th, 2013 2:15 PM

    Amazing Article! This Speaks to Me on So Many Volumes…I Don’t Even Know What to Say. Thanks, Anna!

    xoox

  • tiniest_bee September 5th, 2013 4:37 PM

    I am currently trying to get out of an abusive (emotionally/physically) relationship and I feel like this was my push to get it done. I’m crying (blah) but I’m happy and so nervous. Thank you thank you thank you

    • Anaheed September 5th, 2013 4:39 PM

      Love to you, tiniest bee! YOU CAN DO IT.

    • Anaheed November 14th, 2013 2:34 AM

      Checking back in here to see what happened…PAGING THE TINIEST OF BEES…

  • elliecp September 5th, 2013 4:54 PM

    this is really awesome. I love how open you are – it’s so liberating to hear about and able to talk about things like this :)

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • Emma September 5th, 2013 6:36 PM

    This is so hitting home for me. For what it’s worth, for me it is possible to be the Woman in Love even if you are single and pining after someone or have an intense friend-crush or when the object of love is a girl. For me it’s more a mode of being that must attach to someone else or some pre-programmed way of living so that I don’t have to face making my own decisions of how to live. But I’m finally facing that reality and trying to learn how to be myself, and reading this really helped. So thanks.

  • loonylizzy September 5th, 2013 11:02 PM

    This is so amazing… In fact, I’ve had the same experience since I’ve been old enough to date. I rarely go more than a month without a new guy on my arm. This article definitely brought about some self-reflection. Beautifully written as well, I might add!

    http://www.theflightoftheflamingo.blogspot.com

  • Sunshine September 6th, 2013 10:45 AM

    This article absolutely ROCKS :D

  • Yani September 8th, 2013 2:22 AM

    resisting these relationships… has taught me to see the person rather than something I hold onto and they me. I wonder what would happen if every person broke up this evening with the lover they felt it simply wrong to be with. what would happen? would they finally be free to be with someone they felt guilty about being attracted to? would people then refuse to be with someone they felt less for than another person? what would happen?

  • Sparkie September 8th, 2013 2:56 PM

    This is so beautifully written, and so inspiring !

  • kendallkh September 9th, 2013 9:12 PM

    anna you always write the most interesting and complex articles! stuffing myself with immanence is one of my favorite things i’ve ever read and made me think so much and reconsider myself and this was just as thoughtful a piece. thank you so much for writing and sharing your experiences i love your articles so much ^_^

  • lotusmarina September 27th, 2013 5:39 AM

    These comments that are so constructive and this network of girls who support each other and this article, it really gives me hope that there are amazing lovely and STRONG girls out there. I just can’t wait to meet more.

  • juliaw November 20th, 2013 4:32 PM

    hi, are you me? thanks for writing this article, it was tough for me to read because i saw so much of myself in it, but i’m glad that you – and, slowly, me – can discard the googly eyes and see the world for ourselves.