Four days left of notice, not that I have any shifts to work… so I suppose I could say, four days left until change of employment status, without any change in the physical world of events. Rather like updating a status on an allegedly popular social networking profile.
I’m having romantic novelist’s feelings of inadequacy today. I know it’s from hearing about couple stuff – things like, family planning, property-hunting – decisions that couples get to decide on, what they do and when they do it. Having never been in a couple, it’s all stuff I never had the option of doing or sharing, or choosing when. I feel as though I did a lot of quitting on dreams and ambitions because I didn’t have the most basic one fulfilled that meant I would be doing something grown-up, i.e, having a relationship. There was no dating in school, no hanging out, no hooking up with friends of friends – all of it passed me by, while my friends all stopped asking my advice or opinion on boys, as it became apparent that I was the social gooseberry, not anyone’s equal in that department.
I got to try out being tough, or creative, or ambitious, or tomboyish, right up to being reclusive, and it didn’t matter who I was at the time, it made no impression. And I didn’t achieve in other ways to justify it. There’s still a huge hole in my life that hasn’t been completed by anything of an adult intimacy nature.
I have regular small meltdowns about it, because in any social situation or even passing conversation, I feel excluded – like the unwilling teenager in the room who doesn’t get the undercurrents or implied meanings in discussion. I don’t understand soap operas which are all based on family dynamics – the conflicts, the issues over jealousy or possessiveness. I don’t know what it feels like to have a man’s support, and in turn I don’t know what the role of a woman is in a man’s life. Well-meaning friends and family joke about the stereotypes of relationship issues, but it’s not helpful. I can’t even empathise with their humour about it. It doesn’t give me any more insight than I can get watching a sit-com. And even those I struggle to watch as well. I don’t identify with the ‘situation’ in the situation comedy.
When I wrote my most recent book, Death & The City, the whole idea behind the main character was that she was in the same situation – no previous relationship history, and was in a state of permanent emotional limbo between childhood and adolescence, while having to deal with some of the unpleasant work situations thrown at her without any attachments, whether real or fantasised. As I wrote it, though, a relationship dynamic developed between the character, Lara, and one of her antagonists, Connor, which I hadn’t planned at the start of writing. But as the chemistry between the two was working, I wrote it anyway. It turned into the main theme of the first two finished books in the series. It was the positive comments on this relationship dynamic that made me consider writing specifically for the romance genre.
But already a few chapters in to a new project, I’m not feeling qualified for it. I don’t feel acknowledged, let alone romanced, in my everyday life. I don’t have qualifying memories either. I don’t know why I think it’s something I can achieve, and when I read chunks of Death & The City back to myself, I don’t know how I wrote it before – unless at the time I had some remainder of hope left, which has since deserted me in the real world.
I think part of me has a deeper issue with attempting to write romantic fiction – that maybe if I can write about it, I’ll feel some sort of achievement equal to having had a real-life relationship. Or if I can write about it, it will somehow qualify me to achieve it in reality, in a sort of reverse-qualification-testimonial, opposite to having the physical experience in the first place qualifying me to write about it afterwards.
A bit of me seems to believe that writing about it will be a way of that kind of intimacy somehow revealing itself to me in the real world. That if I learn to understand the code, speak the language other adults speak when they have romantic inclinations, research the body language and unspoken signals by writing fictional scenarios, some door in the real world will unlock, and I’ll finally be allowed through into adulthood myself.
On the other hand, perhaps the reverse is the case. That writing about it is the only way that other people in the real world will eventually be able to understand me.