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Love and Lust in the Bubble: Confronting loneliness

I’ve always liked to think that I’m pretty independent. I can assemble IKEA furniture, fix my computer and carry most heavy boxes. But sometime between freshman week and fall break of last year, I began to find that I was no longer enough for me. I came to the realization that maybe moving heavy objects and debugging my laptop didn’t quite make me emotionally independent. It wasn’t long before I stopped raising my eyebrows at my friends’ nighttime conquests and began to have a few of my own.

I was drunker than I’d ever been the night of my first hookup. I stumbled into Colonial, desperate to redeem a lackluster night and not particularly choosy as to how it happened. Though at first I ducked elusively under my dance partner’s predatory lips, when a good song came on I gamely let him stick his tongue in my mouth. It was awkward and forced and uncomfortable as he bent me back and snaked his arms around my waist, but I kept kissing him because I figured that’s what I was supposed to do. I pretended to enjoy it, even though it was all I could do not to push him off of me.


Somehow, making out with a complete stranger reeked of failure. I couldn’t understand why my experience didn’t match those of my friends or why I didn’t feel the same exhilaration I’d been told I should. I tried to suppress the feeling, assuming my dissatisfaction and the lump in my stomach were coincidental and entirely unrelated. I convinced myself that the night had been the exception to the rule, and so I did it once more. Nothing. Thinking, “Third time’s the charm,” I tried again. And again, and again, until I ultimately reached a place where I could indulge my hormones with only the slightest twinge of my conscience.

I found that the Street bored me unless I could barely see straight, so I made sure I put my beer goggles on every Thursday and Saturday night. My friends from high school noted a change in me, though I brushed off most of their concerns. I knew I was different, too, but not all the changes were bad. I told myself I was more relaxed and genuinely happier. The fact that most of this happened when I was intoxicated seemed inconsequential.

The facade began to crumble shortly after fall break. My roommate and I took to discussing our lackluster love lives every night as we fell asleep. When the lights were off and we’d settled safely under our covers, the wallowing began.

“Maybe I’m meant to be alone. I should just get used to it,” she sighed one night.  

“If this were the Victorian era we’d basically be considered spinsters,” I agreed. “If we’re both still single 20 years from now … let’s just marry each other. Okay?” “You’re crazy,” I said, shaking my head in the dark. I thought about it. “Okay,” I giggled. We ended all of our nightly chats laughing. There was genuine laughter at our jokes. But there was also hollow laughter that would trail off into silence as we faced the reality of being alone. We fretted that these years would flash by, and one day we’d wake up middle-aged, dubiously successful, but ultimately alone. We made absurd and outrageous calculations and estimations — “How much longer will we even be dateable?” and “You think my ovaries will make it to 30?” or “I think I’ll just adopt.” — but overwhelmingly, we’d return to the fear that the loneliness we told ourselves was temporary would in fact be protracted and permanent. 

My youngest aunt and number-one confidante found these feelings ridiculous. “You’re only in college,” she said in amused exasperation. “There’s plenty of time!” And it was true. I knew I was young and that I had my whole life ahead of me. But it was one thing to live with my independence when I thought it was what I wanted, that I was making a conscious decision to be single. But I suddenly realized that I didn’t work alone in Firestone by choice, that I would rather be curled up with someone watching a movie than getting groped by a guy I just met. 


My roommate and I talked about terrifying things by joking about them, but while we were miserable, some small part of me took comfort in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Complaining about my unhappiness with someone else helped me acknowledge and accept it. The truth is, I was just dying to know what being in a real relationship would feel like. I wanted to know more of romance than the boy I’d held hands with at summer camp, my overzealous prom dates and the coworker I’d sneak away with during lunch breaks. My dilemma wasn’t about what might be, but about what was. The reasonable part of me knew the best was yet to come, but the rest of me couldn’t help but be impatient while I waited.

Someone told me that I should just make something happen — in all honesty I wish I could. But I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship that I’d forced and could see no future in, no matter how much I wished one would just drop into my lap. I know that finding love should be an organic thing, that I can’t set up a timetable and expect everything to fall into place right on schedule. 

I’ve made the decision to stop kissing random boys. But my heart still skips a beat each time I meet someone new, start a class or head off to the Street. A year ago I knew I’d end up at a school I loved, but didn’t know which one. In the same way, I now know I’ll end up with someone I love, but I’m still anxious to find out who it’ll be and how we’ll meet. 

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