I was struck by these words today, mooching about online in my lunch break (I have avoided going out today after picking the wrong footgear and nearly falling arse-over-tit three times on the way into work – okay, so I’m a big baby and I have no shoe-sense, or no snow-sense, or something…):
“’The way to a woman's heart is through love and faith and trusting each other.’ That's what my mom told me, and in the long run, it turned out to be true. But I sure spent a long time getting through the stage where women only go for the guy with money or an athletic build. I was never that guy -- I was the dull trustworthy one.”
I just read that, and my heart gave a little skip of recognition. It’s different for girls, of course (what isn’t?!), but I have been stuck in the woman’s equivalent of that stage for so long now (ie, the stage where a guy only goes for the women who are either drop-dead gorgeous or else sweetly nice-but-dim), and it touched me to see a man admitting to having been through a similar experience. Because I’m the ‘dull trustworthy one’, too. I know exactly how it feels.
I can’t offer high-impact sex-appeal, or that humbler but more durable quality, real beauty; I can’t offer excitement; I can’t offer most of the classic “feminine virtues” (you know, the list that includes ‘good cook, sweet-natured, doesn’t answer back’…). I am reliable and a bit old-fashioned and I can cook, but I’m intelligent, and not ashamed of it, I’m not particularly sweet-natured and I have a mind of my own.
And I am single. That’s not to say my life is loveless; but most of the love in my life at present is the broad, joyful, general love I feel for the world and its beauty, for plants and birds and all living creatures, for art and music and all my friends, for good food, fresh air and a glass of decent whisky...
I wish that I could find that “special someone”, Der Richtige; a man with whom I could share these passions, a man I respected and loved and with whose life my life could walk in partnership, with whose roots my roots could grow together.
Although I am not getting any younger and not getting any better-looking, and my behaviour is not getting any more like the cliché model of proper femininity, I still hope one day to meet someone who fits with me and with whom I fit. A healthy, secure, intelligent man; a man I could do the garden with, and who liked my cooking. A man who wouldn’t mind my penchant for ballet and birdwatching, my ever-growing collection of bog-standard hybrid phalaenopsis, or the fact I’m probably too old now to give him any kids. There must be some of them still out there… I still believe it is possible to have an honourable relationship that is a marriage of true minds, despite my being rather quiet, plain, and downright wilful. In the meantime, the world is full of beauty, and miraculously there is always room for more, so that I cannot complain that my life is fruitless or unhappy, though it is lonely sometimes.
But sometimes I can feel as though all of this happiness has vanished. Sometimes I am consumed with such fear that it leaves me weak and drained of energy; sometimes I feel sucked dry with misery and depression. Will I never do my own true work? Will I never find human love? Will I leave nothing of worth to anyone behind me? When fear strikes it undermines everything that I have achieved, everything positive, every hope and every past gain. It kills me as surely as really being killed, and then leaves me still alive afterwards to cringe in dread and horror at my own inadequacy and hopelessness. I cannot deny this deep inner fear; it too is part of my deepest feelings, just as much as the joy and the love of life.
I sweat it out, each time it strikes, and eventually I come through and out the other side and I see that my life is still good, and still full of hope and worthwhile things, and the beauty and wonder is all still there; and I fall in love with the world again, when perhaps only days earlier I had thought it all mere dust and ashes.
The other things I love are the arts; the magical work of performing artists and the magical creations they perform or display. Although I know I am not a performer, I also know that I belong in that creative world, because that is what I find feeds my soul time after time; creative work, my own true work in this world.
I write and draw, and these give me a buzz that little else can equal; a delight in life that feels like being in love. Being in love with the world fills me with the energy to write and draw, too, so it is very often a circular process.
And whenever I have a muse, a man-of-my-dreams to whom in my mind I can direct my admiration, and for whom I can pretend I am working, this too inspires me to heights of creativity. It is partly simply the passion of the crush, but also a little inner dream that my creative work makes me somehow the equal, the match, of all those talented, successful people I admire from afar. I don’t really think that they would all like me – that idea is a bit daft, after all! – but this dream/hope says to me that if I could just met them as an equal, they would recognise me as such. In my dream, Imogen the writer and artist is not inferior to the musicians and singers I admire, to the writers I long to emulate, the actors I dream of seeing play my fictional characters, the brilliant botanists and horticulturists here at Kew. In my dream, I am their equal, their comrade in arms, even their friend. It is only that I’m really Imogen the office junior, and she is invisible to them. Invisible, as well as dull and trustworthy. No wonder I feel a tad blue at times.
None of that, Dent! – stand up, take a deep breath and head out into the snowy night. It’s beautiful world. No, really, it is. A big, cold, snowy, beautiful world.