Hear no emo, see no emo, say no emo

You know that feeling you get when you’ve been with a group of people for a while, and they’re your friends and you see them all the time, and you share things, and you think of them as peers, and then one day you realize that they’re all the group and you’re not one of them?

I get that a lot, probably because my social circle has almost no one like me. And because my daily routine, and the things I like to do, are out of sync for who I’m supposed to be.

I’m forty years old and I have a professional technical career. The people I see around here that are my age are married, have maybe a kid in high school, own property, and are appropriately in the middle period of their lives. Their careers are in full swing and they’re busy with child-raising, working on their houses, working on their marriages.

I live with my mother in the house I grew up in. (To be fair, I lived on my own for years and years, but.) I am unmarried, and I’ve not been on a date for years; I’ve never had a girlfriend. I don’t own anything more than my car. I wear a t-shirt and jeans. I hang out at a coffee house almost every night with people 15 years younger than I. I feel like one of them. I’m interested in the same things, my life pattern is similar, I enjoy their company. But I’m periodically reminded that I’m not one of them. And they move past me. They get engaged and married, buy houses, have kids, move on.

I got stuck at about age 18 and never went past it. It’s nightmarish, like a corny Twilight Zone episode. I was reminded of t this again tonight, predictably, at Trader Joes watching the twentysomething couples buying their groceries together and looking clean and pretty and hip and well-organized and couply. They’re as smart as I am, just as interesting, just as sophisticated and cultured as I like to think I am, and they’re miles ahead of me and only a little over half my age.

And as much as I fool myself from day to day about my social scene, I’m not one of them. Twenty years ago I was with my peers and I was in a place where I belonged. That all moved along and I’m still here.

I can’t stand it. I hate pathetic people like that. Like me, I mean. Like me.

18 thoughts on “Hear no emo, see no emo, say no emo

    1. Thanks. It’s worrisome. Not sure why; that’s one of the reasons I’m in therapy is to deal with this stuff. I am shy about dating to a painful extreme, and when I overcome it I always get turned down. On some level I’ve always felt that I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and for whatever reason events have confirmed this.
      But, you know, it has to be something about my behavior. It’s just hard to figure these things out.

  1. There is no right way to move through life. Anyone can fall down a rabbit hole… and it’s impossible to know the route other folks take as they weave through life. You can’t worry about happiness or fulfillment you might have had. The only question is “am I content right now?” and if not, “how do I move on?”
    My brother lives with my parents. I can point to every branch of our family tree and find similar situations. Go back two generations and they all lived together. I had 3 bachelor great uncles and 2 spinster aunts who lived in a house together in Boston until the day they died.

  2. I’ve felt like that; hope this helps
    I can’t stand it. I hate pathetic people like that. Like me, I mean. Like me.
    Damn, that’s harsh. I only say that because I have felt the same way.
    my daily routine, and the things I like to do, are out of sync for who I’m supposed to be
    Far be it from me to tell you your business, but that “who I’m supposed to be” shit’ll kill you. I got married far too young, to the wrong person, for the sake of “who I’m supposed to be”. It didn’t work for me.
    FWIW, it gladdens my heart to meet another who loves leisuretown. It made me feel a little less alone in this world.

    1. Re: I’ve felt like that; hope this helps
      the bitter, hilarious, near-suicidal Tristan D. Farnon has saved me so many times
      you’re right about “who am I supposed to be”; it’s a trap either way. comparisons are pretty hard tdo avoid when things are this out of whack, though.

  3. tangent.
    I guess the question is: would you be happier if you were like the other 40 year olds? I can imagine how you feel to a much lesser degree. My partner is 19 and I am 25. When we started dating this was a big deal to everyone but us. Most of my friends are younger than me. I look younger and act younger. Maybe I am immature. Some of my friends are starting to settle down, talking about having kids (some already have them) and all that shit but I find that shit BORING. I don’t ever want to give up my life to have a child. I am just not into it — so I will always be viewed by the mainstream sociey as 1. immature because I don’t want a family 2. irresponsible because I don’t want a family 3. somehow lacking because I don’t want a family. I don’t know why one way (we will call it “settling down”) is better than the other way. I think there are other things in your life that make you unhappy and it may be connected to the fact that you aren’t and don’t want to be like the other people your age and that is supposedly bad or wrong. To me you seem good at what you do —- you are a wealth of information. I know the lack of relationship is a bummer. it bums everyone out but sometimes being in a relationship is just as big a bummer. I don’t even know if people are really supposed to be couples for a long time, but that is how it has been so that is how it will be.
    I am on this HUGE tangent just so I don’t have to work on my 10 page midterm. I am mailing out your zine tomorrow.

    1. Re: tangent.
      Thanks. I know about the huge tangents. I remember cleaning the grout in my bathroom in college to avoid writing the final.
      The thing that’s wedged me is a combination of growing old, having missed a huge chunk of my life I can’t get back, nothing changing, and opportunity for any workable relationship draining away. I feel like I’m going to die alone without having ever been intimate with someone, and that makes me angry and unhappy.
      I know that other people get just as angry and unhappy about the relationships they *do* have, of course. There’s just something for me about “never had it and never will” that’s impossible to deal with and makes me crazy. And with everyone else so far ahead of me, I’m a middle-aged kid. It has the structure of a nightmare.
      Looking forward to the zine; everything about it looks super.

      1. Re: tangent.
        It’s traditionally fuckily self-absorbed to relate everything a friend says back to ‘That one time I…’ but what the hell.
        I remember having a feeling a couple years ago… I never went to college or anything like that, just kind of lucked my way into a tech job I didn’t have any right to. For some reason, I exited high school, drifted through part time and pickup jobs, then somehow started crawling into the tech industry via sheer geekiness. I never thought about it much but i spent most of the time after that carrying this mental image of “College People” around with me. Both people IN it, and people who’d BEEN in it. They were the people smarter than me, more with it than me, who had their shit togteher when I didn’t, and stuff like that. A bit ago, I went back and took a quick pick-up course in Java for work. I was a decade older than the class and it was really, REALLY jarring. I could look at them and say, ‘Wow. Kids!’ but I couldn’t shake this strange sense that I was stuck behind them in the linear race of life somehow. Weird and yuck and shitty.
        But I’m glad you’re my friend.

      2. Re: tangent.
        i spent most of the time after that carrying this mental image of “College People” around with me… They were the people smarter than me, more with it than me, who had their shit togteher when I didn’t, and stuff like that.
        Ironic. I’ve always felt self-conscious because I went to college, as though college were a place for people to hide out from “real life”, and anyone with any guts or direction dropped out or skipped college entirely to go do their thing. Funny, that.

  4. “I…am I the next? Self inflicted overload.
    Thoughts returning to think me away.
    I…will I be reprieved,
    or am I just awaiting
    the sentence of my exquisite,
    internal machinery?”

  5. A usual, I see too many similarities between us…
    One thing I can agree with in the other comments is that the whole “supposed to be” thing is a trap. Be what you are – I think there are enough people who think highly enough of you that you shouldn’t be worried about being you. You must be doing something right.

  6. I think you may be being a bit hard on yourself. Perhaps your not belonging is only an illusion. You’ll be the grand elder of the boho scene, becoming a local legend of sorts, while everybody else moves out and fades away into suburban mundanity.
    I’ve seen people like that in Australia; men of middle age or older, artists, poets and bons vivants, becoming fixtures in the inner city, publishing zines, reading at spoken-word nights, and being the closest thing we urbanites have to tribal elders. A few years ago, one passed away and they put a statue of him up in the hipster precinct of Melbourne.
    Anyway, my point is, life is what you make it, and more importantly, how you frame it. If you see the glass as half empty, and yourself as someone who was left behind and does not belong, you will (consciously or subconsciously) exclude yourself. If, however, you see yourself as a valuable and accepted member of the community you find yourself in, others will pick up on that and go along with it.

    1. keep in mind i’ve been drinking (WHY IS THAT ALWAYS THE EXCUSE?!)
      i was going to write a brilliant response (but it seems to already have been done)
      and so i will say that you aren’t alone
      and that (i hope) you will never be unsurpised in the turning of events.

      1. Re: the comparison trap
        ok, here’s a question, prefaced by a snippet of (my) real life.
        when i lived in southern california, it was an easy pitfall to compare myself to the myriads of blond robots who were my age and already working on their master’s degrees, pursuing their hot jobs, and picking up a spouse along the way. since i was far from being on that path yet still lumped in with those folks due to my age, it was easy to fall into depression about it.
        you’ve got to get over this feeling that you’ve missed out on stuff, or that you’ve done nothing with yourself by 40. really, get over it! i think you are just where you should be and can only move forward from this point onward. these constant comparisons are keeping you from being happy as you deserve to be.
        question: what IF you lived in an environment where a single neat guy at 40 with a good paying job was nothing out of the ordinary? what IF you lived somewhere where you could make friends with other 40-50 year olds who didn’t follow the normal path? musicians, poets, parents of some hip hip kids, really talented (some with degrees and cool jobs too), heartfelt folks? these are all gorgeous, successful people. some are single, some are not!
        i’m only 27, but i’ve a bunch of friends who are my parents ages (give or take a decade), and ahem! they don’t seem to be beating themselves up that they didn’t follow these established paths. and they’re certainly not remorseful about hanging out with 27 year olds.
        in conclusion, getting outta SoCal might be magical.
        complete stranger here, signing off. ;D

  7. I had the same thing but in reverse when I was younger. I had Evan at 16, Zoe at 18, and Zane at 20. I was a fulltime parent with a fulltime job before leaving high school. I put myself through college, and worked fulltime ever after that. I was raising kids, etc while all my friends were out partying and having a good time. I never got my first own apartment, or to live on my own at all because I always lived with the kids and my roomates or my parents. No ones life goes how they expect it to I think. And remember that 99% of those people you see all happy out in public are MISERABLE in their own lives. She is depressed and near suicidal because he won’t commit to her. He is depressed because he knows she is sleeping with his boss. Etc. Even the most perfect relationship or life has plenty of times that suck. And suck a lot.
    Instead of spending so much time dwelling on being unhappy where you are, its time to figure out a plan of action. I see that you are angry and unhappy a lot but you never really decide to change your situation. I am not being mean here, I mean even a little change is something. It means there is a conscious effort to not accept what life has dealt you and to make your own destiny. Rerun your budget, start saving $100 and plan a trip. Or start looking for another job in another city. Or move to another state. Or something. Even just in making the plan you don’t necessarily have to follow it. Just take action and DO something, don’t sit and stagnate and accept that things suck.

  8. invcel
    I don’t get that, as I spend almost all my time alone, or with my one friend. Well, I have a few other friends, but not in the local vicinity. But I can relate to being 40 and never having had a girlfriend. I’m 45, and same situation. I’ve never been married either, haven’t been on a date in years. Well, I met a woman for tea a couple weeks ago, I guess one could call that a “date”. But that was the first time in years. The thing that got me from your post was a sense of being haunted by life passing you by. I know that feeling too. But what is it, really, except a fleeting, mechanical movie that periodically flits through the mind? I try to find WHO that is, the “haunted one,” and can only conclude it is not me. I am not that. I am so much bigger than that. It is wise to recognize you are not your story. To HAVE a story, but not identify with it overmuch.
    But I can relate to getting stuck at about age 18. For me, I was stuck due to sexual orientation, because I was/am a cross-dresser, and that made me feel ashamed when it came to meeting girls, and fearful that they wouldn’t want anything to do with someone with all these kinky desires. For a long time I thought that explained my lack of a girlfriend. But as I grew older, I learned that many cross-dressers have girlfriends and wives.
    Well, you’ve already gotten some good advice here. I think you sell yourself short when you say these twenty-somethings are miles ahead of you. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot in your years that they don’t know. I sure know a hell of a lot more than I did at 25. “Sophistication” is mostly just an act, anyway.
    Therapy is a good idea, if you can afford it. I did quite a bit of that, and it can be helpful. Then too, it can sometimes get to be just a pleasant diversion, enriching another’s bank account while you develop Understanding and nothing really changes.
    At some point I just stopped feeling guilty about it, the absent girlfriend. I can’t say exactly how it happened but it wasn’t therapy, I don’t think. Maybe undertaking a meditation practice helped. But it was simply a determination to really have compassion for myself; that, and realizing my non-uniqueness, de-personalizing the issue. There are many, many people who are similarly afflicted with never having had a girlfriend/boyfriend. Some of them end up having great, fulfilling lives anyway — think of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Goya, Beethoven, Henry James, Kant, the list is long. There is also a forum on this phenomenon, which someone has coined a term for: “Invcel,” for “involuntary celibacy.” You might do a Google search for it.
    I struggled with chronic dysthymia for many years, with periodic bouts of deeper depression. But now I’m simply trying to get a job in teaching college. I haven’t given up on Finding Someone, although I am not at the moment actively looking.
    By the way, I don’t even have a profession! At least you can say you have a career. I’ve been more or less a lifelong student. I clean homes for a living but am in the process of switching over to substitute teaching, while I look for a better teaching job. I’m getting too old for this cleaning work. My plan is to sub teach, and either find another college teaching job by next spring or enter a Ph.D. program then, where I can get the kind of teaching experience I need to springboard into tenure-track position. Well, gotta run now. Keep your chin up, man.

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