Something that is very hard to learn and accept about real life is that a lot of people, a surprising number of people, don’t really care about anyone but themselves. They pretend to care, and they can go through the motions a little bit for a little while, but when real and sad things happen that last longer than a few days, they lose interest fast. It is best to not have these people be your best friends, because they are terrible. Unfortunately, they are everywhere.
You’ve Been Playing “Duck, Duck, Goose” Wrong Your Whole Life
BREAKING NEWS: Your childhood was probably a lie.
As a youth in Minnesota, I was a sometime-participant in a playground game called “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.” In it, a group of child humans would sit in a circle while another circled round them, tapping his peers upon the head, pronouncing them various colors of duck (i.e. “purple duck, blue duck, orange duck,” etc.) before choosing his prey, whom he’d tap on the head before yelling, “GRAY DUCK!” This child would then jump up and attempt to tag the caller before he ran fully around the circle and took the seat where The Gray Duck had been seated. If she didn’t, she was “it,” the new caller.
Playing it in our home state, most of us had no idea how very alone we were in our version of this simple, stressful game. But many of us would grow up, and leave home, even if just temporarily, and it’s there (the Non-Minnesota areas) we’d happen upon a startling discovery. If this is the first time you’re hearing about it, I’m sorry.
The entire rest of the country is playing this game wrong.
They are playing some abomination version called “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
If you’re, well, breathing, love is a topic you can’t escape. It’s everywhere: songs, movies, casual dinner conversations. “Are you dating anyone?” is a question girls get asked a million times once they hit puberty, and when you get a little older, it can seem like everybody’s coupled up. But what about if you’re not dating someone—and what if you never have?
Something that is very hard to learn and accept about real life is that a lot of people, a surprising number of people, don’t really care about anyone but themselves. They pretend to care, and they can go through the motions a little bit for a little while, but when real and sad things happen that last longer than a few days, they lose interest fast. It is best to not have these people be your best friends, because they are terrible. Unfortunately, they are everywhere, and, to make things worse, they sometimes procreate.
In fact, I think that’s probably what the Bermuda Triangle is up to. It doesn’t mean to do any harm, and it’s actually pretty nice once you get to know it. It’s just that Bermuda doesn’t know how to handle itself when somebody sails into its territory, because that hardly ever happens.
Katie Heaney, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far Without a Date)
What was really going on, I’d learn that day, was that Leigh was starting to go to parties, where both boys and alcohol (the deadly duo) were present. And no, I was not invited. And yes, a lot of that is probably because I would have disapproved, and because I probably would have said no anyway, because I was scared. And even though I knew that, it still hurt so much. I was being left behind, and that made me angry and sad. I wanted to go with her and I didn’t. I definitely didn’t want her to know me well enough to know that I would have been too afraid and reserved and rule oriented to go with her. I wanted her either to stand still and then reverse, or to twist my arm into growing up. She didn’t.
This is what I was thinking about on her floor, listening to Leigh tell me about her raucous, hard-lemonade-fueled night, and how much fun she’d had there with her new boyfriend, Andy, who was in the same group as Laura’s boyfriend. She was saying she was sorry that she couldn’t always hang out when I wanted to, but that “when you get a boyfriend,” he becomes the only person you want to spend all your time with. He becomes your best friend, and (this part was not said, but was definitively implied) the only friend that really matters. “You’ll know what I mean, when you get one,” she said.
So that’s when I gripped my upper jaw and pulled back the skin and muscle of my face to reveal an alien, like the one in the film Alien, and I jumped through the glass in Leigh’s window and ate every boyfriend in the city, and the country, and the world. I swallowed them whole, and many of them cried, and those were the ones I liked best.
One of the great divides, I think, between people who date a lot and people who date never is that people who date never don’t understand putting up with ‘fine.’ I can’t begin to conceive of why anybody would voluntarily spend great chunks of her free time dedicated to someone she doesn’t adore, because I never do that. My dater friends, on the other hand, do this all the time. I know this because I’m the one they meet up with after, and I’m the one who has to try to understand why my otherwise brilliant friends keep hanging out with people about whom they only have bad (or very, very mediocre) things to say. A person who has spent her life planning her free time based only on herself, and the friends she knows she loves, can’t understand this. Why would I want to go out to dinner and a movie with someone I’m not completely crazy about when I already know how much I like eating dinner and watching a movie by myself, or with Rylee? Getting someone else involved means I have to put on a nicer outfit and stress out about the way I look chewing my food. If I’m going to have to consider my chewing face, I only want to do it for someone I think I might be able to really like. I know that might make it harder for me. I know there is a possibility–a very little one, though, that I have a hard time really believing in–that chemistry can grow where there wasn’t any to begin with. I know that if I don’t put myself out there, I won’t just answer my door someday to find my perfect spouse waiting on the other side of the stoop. AND I know that if that did happen, I should probably call the police.
Katie Heaney, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date
I have lived twenty-five years in this body by myself, and I feel pretty confident that, by now, my personality is staying as it is. I’m going to stay a little uptight and anxious. I’m going to continue enjoying plans and Post-its and clean, orderly spaces. And though nobody has been dumb enough to say anything close to “You need to get laid” to my face, I resent the idea that anyone might think, if they knew my history, that I’d be slightly different by virtue of having a penis–however briefly–inside me. That is some phallocentric bullshit if I ever heard any. Hypothetical penises don’t make the rules. I make the rules.
“I think the most important thing is that young women are assured that the way they want to live their personal lives is OK, no matter how it is. Placing a high degree of importance on platonic friendships is never something anyone’s going to regret, even if it means you didn’t get to make out with the basketball star after the game or get asked to homecoming with a basket of roses in your locker. Those are things that feel meaningful at the time, and it’s not like I think anyone should avoid them if they’re available and they want them, but they’re so much less important than they feel at the time, and there should be so much less pressure to worry about them.” —Katie Heaney, Never Have I Ever Written a Book (Until Now): A Conversation With Katie Heaney | The Hairpin
You always forget that it’s impossible to grieve every minute of the day. You always forget that a mourning period can include laughter, but just because it’s there it won’t mean that you’re really okay.
Katie Heaney, Never Have I Ever: my life (so far) without a date
The Bermuda Triangle is so far from sailors’ minds that it isn’t even really on the map. They’d rather not think about it. Even if a few of them knew, theoretically, that the Bermuda Triangle was out there, they wouldn’t be able to find it if they wanted to. They would become lost, possibly forever. For the most part though, they don’t want to try. The Bermuda Triangle is scary and confusing. Sailors hear bad things about it. They’d rather just go around it, staying away as humanly possible.
I know that sounds like an exaggeration. And sure, to some extent, it probably is. For instance, there isn’t anything about me that is analogous to the Bermuda Triangle’s ‘rogue wave’ phenomenon (at least I hope there isn’t). I don’t capsize sailors, much less entire ships. I keep myself to myself, you know? In fact, I think that’s probably what the Bermuda Triangle is up to. It doesn’t mean any harm, and it’s actually pretty nice once you get to know it. It’s just that the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t know how to handle itself when somebody sails into its territory, because that hardly ever happens. It hasn’t had much chance to practice, and it’s used to things going a certain way. So if a sailor DOES come around, it gets a little nervous, freaks the fuck out, and creates hurricane-like devastation in every direction around it. And then it gets embarrassed and sad and calls its friends.
Katie Heaney describes herself as a “Bermuda Triangle” in Never Have I Ever (My Life so far Without a Date) as a metaphor to her perpetual singleness. I totally get it.
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With a night focusing on “the total agony and creeping insanity of dating,” you know it’s gonna be good.
And indeed, this was one of the most hilarious literary events I’ve ever been to. Five fantastic storytellers gathered at Housing Works on Wednesday to celebrate the publication of Kate Heaney’s recent memoir, NEVER HAVE I EVER, about her life (so far) as a singleton. Chiara Atik, author of the rather excellent MODERN DATING: A FIELD GUIDE, moderated.