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Jessica #57 - Balancing Act

Jessica #57 - Balancing Act

As Jessica moves forward, she doesn't want to leave her friends behind.


There was no way I could change my plans without major hypocrisy: earlier in the day, I'd accused Alison -- and now I was trying to resist Joel's inducements that I do the same.

I was standing on principle, even though I actually wanted to chuck principle out the window, along with my plans with Ellen. And now Joel was irritated.

The truth was that I was feeling guilty. I hadn't been around so much since the advent of Joel. Between the demands of his medical practice and (much more so) the time with his daughter, Michal, I had developed the irritating habit of dropping everything to spend time with him if he became miraculously available.

I am going to grow old alone, live with multiple cats, and drink tea with my sister.

But now I told him I was going to check up on Ellen tonight. After a rather unsuccessful blind date earlier in the week, she had reached the "I am going to grow old alone, live with multiple cats, and drink tea with my sister" phase. I promised her that I would drink tea with her, thus saving the plane ticket to Chicago to find said sister.

Joel was petulant.

"But Jess, I won't be able to see you all weekend," he said flatly.

"Well, I know..." I said, "but you weren't supposed to be free tonight, and it's not my decision that we don't see each other when you have Michal..."

-- Oops. That sounded a bit more pressure-inducing than I had intended.

Things were moving between us... I felt connected to him... and I felt cut out of the most important part of his life. But I hadn't meant the comment to come out that way.

I heard him exhale sharply, so I quickly apologized.

Kim is the friend who drops out of sight -- only to reappear, shamelessly needy, when the relationship ends.

I told him how my friends had always remained my top priority. But of late, I had started to feel a bit differently. Because building a real relationship takes time.

"Of course it does," Joel said. "If you suddenly have someone in your life who takes up X amount of hours, that necessarily means that you have X hours less to devote to your friends. It's like medical school."

"That's romantic," I returned.

"Well, it is," he said. "Med-school students are nightmares in relationships because they don't have time for a significant other, let alone friends."

I sighed. Is this some weird passage into adulthood, when all of a sudden one has to balance all of the demands -- work, friends, school, whatever -- in order to maintain some semblance of a life without the important people within it hating you?

"Fine," he said, sounding pouty. "Go off and be a good friend. The truth is, I wish I took up more of your time."

As I drove over to the dejected Ellen's, I felt guilty about not letting him take more of my time.

With the end of a relationship, all of that regained space screams back at you.

Relationships take up space in your life. I think that is one of the innumerable reasons why the end of a relationship hurts so much: you lose not only the hope of a future together, but all of that regained space screams back at you. But more so, there is a kind of emotional reshuffling. As a relationship reaches the Really Significant point, your energies and loyalties and, yes, priorities start shifting toward him (or her). Other relationships in your life necessarily have to change to accommodate that.

This doesn't give us license to view friendships as entities that provide emotional support and companionship when we need it, but neglect the importance of maintaining our end, of giving ourselves.

Alison was already at Ellen's when I arrived and had already achieved some success: making her laugh. They were running through theories about getting over a breakup, calculating how long Ellen could expect before being back on her feet, and whether or not it was a wise thing to be dating right now. After exchanging The History of Bad Date stories, they reached the funny bravado stage and we began spinning comforting tales about Amazonian fortresses and the requisite inessentiality of men and relationships with them.

I laughed, but wasn't sure if it was some successful marketing attempt, or bravado, or self-denial. Or maybe just a colossal coping mechanism. Around the same time, Ellen sighed.

"Am I just allowed to say that I am mad that I am single?" she said. "And that it's irritating that you're both dating people, so you can't really whine with me?"

We both nodded vigorously.

"I wasn't supposed to get married late," she said, kicking a pillow. "I was supposed to be married by now. And if I wasn't, I wasn't supposed to care because I was so fulfilled from my wonderful job and my wonderful friends and my gym membership..."

I was supposed to be married by now. And if I wasn't, I wasn't supposed to care.

She gave voice to the lie: the massive societal fake-out about being single. We're young and single and fancy-free (sounds like some Marlo Thomas movie from the '70s). We have a marvelous network of friends and things to do. Singleness is normalized. We have so much freedom we don't know what to do with ourselves. How many times has someone said to me, "If I meet someone, that's great. But I'm not really looking."

The simple fact is that, as the Good Book says, "It is not good for man to be alone." The self-consciousness and discomfort we feel is the simple byproduct of the fact that we exist in what is an essentially unnatural state: human beings aren't meant to be un-mated well into their adulthood.

Joel's face popped into my head...

February 2, 2002

Article 57 of 66 in the series Jessica's Journal

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, February 16, 2002 12:00 AM

Thought I was lost...

I thought the same thing about getting physical. Glad to see I wasn't the only one!

(7) Anonymous, February 15, 2002 12:00 AM


Does Joel have company already? And here she was tempted to rearrange her life for him! Oy!

And what's all this eagerness to meet his daughter? This child has already experienced enough loss in her life. Jessica should meet said daughter when the two are considering engagment and not a minute sooner.

(6) Anonymous, February 12, 2002 12:00 AM

Going "physical" Jessie??

I've read everyone's comments ... but no one picked up on what I read!.... Is this column going PHYSICAL?? Yep, seems to me, our little Jessica wants to do the "wild thing" and Joel is being "frum". Now..that IS a twist and will be very intereting to see where this goes .. especially from an Orthodox website. Hmmm ... or is it that someone else is there... daughter, ex-wife?? Can't wait for the next journal!! Write already Jessica!

(5) Anonymous, February 7, 2002 12:00 AM

to "it's time"

Joel was letting Jess. know that he would miss not being with her.

(4) Anonymous, February 5, 2002 12:00 AM


First, let me say you're a great storyteller. I think I'm hooked after one reading.

BUT! I have an overall issue with the trials and tribulations of single people (or more precisely, single women).

Perhaps human beings were not meant to be alone well-into adulthood, but in this day and age of solitude, where people don't even know their next-door-neighbours, let alone have places where they can REALLY meet someone, it is disconcerting to me that you wrote that being single and happy about it is a "massive social fake-out". It is anything but.

It's not just that people aren't meant to be alone. It's that they are meant to be with their beshert, or sub-besherts, but since many never find their soulmates, the pressures of societal expectations of marriage and children force them to rush blindly into the wrong relationships. These couplings sometimes lead to marriages that are at least mistakes, and at most, damaging to the soul (and the children) in ways that sometimes never heal.

I agree with you that being single can be painful and lonely, and when EVE was created, it was to lift the 'curse of loneliness' from ADAM. But if one doesn't find a good match (or THE one), and has the common sense not to marry someone 'good enough' just because they feel they have to get married and have children, a house, two cars and a dog,then we as a community should support them and help singles understand that they might be single, but are never alone.

Perhaps if people felt enough love for themselves,and for the joy of living, they wouldn't feel so alone when they are single. And maybe we wouldn't have a divorce rate that's over 50%. SOMETHING is not working when half the people getting married are divorcing. And let's not forget that of the people that stay together, how many can truly say they are happy. Out of ALL the couples I know (including parents, friends and their parents, co-workers, etc, etc), I can only call on 5 couples that are truly happy. The rest just...subsist. They are married. They are safe. They don't have to search anymore. And yet, after a few years, and the kids, and the mortgage, they find themselves unhappy, restless, and wondering where they lost their way. Then they either divorce, or dig in and force happiness.

As you may be able to tell, I'm a single woman. And at 29, I've had two relationships that could have become permanent had I wanted to settle. I didn't give in to pressure from my boyfriends or my family. And I don't regret it. Who knows? I may end up single with a house full of cats. I may end up with the partner of my dreams and the children, the house and the dog. But whatever life throws at me, I will not let my friends' expositions on the joys of their relationships/marriages/children, my community's expectations or my parents' upset, pressure me into not loving every minute of life I get, regardless of whether I'm single or in love.

If we are truly meant to find our partners, then someone upstairs is on an extended vacation. Not everyone has the luck to meet their soulmates, and shouldn't use this community and self- imposed fear being single as an excuse to marry someone. If singles have too much free time, it's because they don't seek out enough to do. Take a class, learn a language, travel. There is so much to do on this Earth, how could anyone be bored?

Live the life and follow the path God has given you, and stop worrying so much over marriage and children!

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