Updated: Jan 21
I fancied myself a victim of duality’s plight for most of my life. Though, cognitive dissonance between my truth and who I, and others perceived me to be reached its apogee sometime in 2016, when incongruities began running rampant.
I was called out; referred to, in fewer words as cold, emotionless, detached. I could not protest. It was true. Somewhere along the line, I had become all of these things, at least, towards some. Now, my mind was struggling to decipher how I could still be me, whilst exhibiting traits inconsistent with what I believed to be my essence.
As far as I knew, I had always been a hopeless romantic. A buoyant heart, and stars in my eyes had been standard, having spent years of my life entranced by love’s spell. I was, I thought, the affectionate, sensitive, committal type. So how was it possible, that I now stood rightfully accused of being indifferent, withdrawn, cynical? How could I be all of those things, all the while drowning in my own melodramatic sea of heartache, self-reproach, and insecurity?
It is instances like these, which are exacerbated by society’s tendency towards polarization, through the assignment of mutually exclusive labels. Male, female. Black, white. Pretty, ugly. Thin, fat. Rich, poor. Smart, stupid. Conservative, liberal. Religious, atheist. Progressive, archaic. Single, committed. Independent, reliant. Kind, cold. Dramatic, emotionless. Slut, prude. Cynic, romantic. Assertive, submissive. Clingy, bitch. et al.
Qualities, existing at opposing ends of various spectrums, many to which I felt tethered, either by society, or by myself. With little space for ambivalence, I felt a troubling discrepancy between my character and my behaviour. Faced with this identity crisis of sorts, I was obligated to delve into my issues around this duality. My conclusion was as follows.
I am not clingy. I am not a bitch. I am somehow both. Opinions will vary depending on who you ask. Unfortunately, I am no authority on the matter myself, as my answer is subject to change, depending upon the day, and the situation. See reasoning below.
I have been in love, and I have been far from it. I’ve had my heart reside among the clouds, my eyelashes batting like strobe-lights in dingy night clubs. I’ve seen everything through some sort of rose-coloured, reverie, glittered-glasses. I’ve also tried so hard to fake it that I nearly imploded, like un-perforated chestnuts that mom forgets in the oven, at Christmas.
I’ve loved so deeply that its dissolution nearly destroyed me. And, I’ve also been bewildered by how little I could feel for those willing to hand-pick the stars out of the sky for me, undeterred by the likelihood of burning their fingers.
I’ve been lost in someone’s eyes for what felt like years, maybe it was. Time is just an illusion, right? I’ve listened to heartbeats on beaches, as meteors darted above me, what must have been some celestial production scripted by angels. I’ve been on ocean-bound trains with impossibly sweet, Colgate-toothed men, who spoke a language I’ve only heard in romantic comedies.
I’ve clinked flutes of Prosecco in panoramic, mountain-top fortress courtyards, foreign, benevolent eyes glaring into my own, scanning for a feeling that’s just not quite there. I’ve starred in modern-day could-be fables, opposite male leads whom parents would excitedly approve of as their sons-in-law. I’ve been impervious to grandiose attempts at being swept off my feet, by souls far too worthy to be living in a land of unrequited love.
I’ve also wobbled in my stilettos, slurring heartfelt, vodka-soda-infused words, whilst imploring brown eyes begged me to stop digging myself deeper into a trench of unreciprocated emotions. I’ve had my heart sink to my feet upon waking up to missed calls from friends, knowing they were informants of disloyalty, which was imminent from the beginning.
I’ve inaccurately anticipated the sequel to the most magical date, only to find that the only magic was that he was a Houdini-ranked master of the vanishing arts. I’ve had that same, icy heart that could not feel for arguably perfect partners, imprisoned by individuals for whom I ceased to exist when I walked out the door. I’ve been burdened by racing thoughts of fleeting, free-spirited by-passers who, for some reason, meant something to me from the second I heard them speak.
I’ve had my world turned upside down by a stranger on a bus. And with a few words, I’ve flipped worlds of my own. I’ve not been enough, and I’ve been too much. I’ve been impetuously released, against my will. And I’ve also been involuntarily trapped in prisons of thoughtfulness.
I’ve meant everything to someone and nothing to someone else. Similarly, I’ve been unable to accept the devotion of some of the kindest souls, and been prepared to drop everything for some incapable of loving in my direction.
So yes, I am cynical, cold, impassive. I am also the exact opposite, sometimes simultaneously. Most of the time though, like the rest of humanity, I exist somewhere between the extremes, in some grey-area along the spectrum, which, to society’s dismay, cannot be labeled.
I suppose that the lesson I learned here, is that dualism is an incontestable part of the human condition. Therefore, to label oneself and others, and to believe in the validity of this assigned identity is futile. At times, we will be the victim, and at others, we will be the perpetrator.
We have all been the romantic, and the cynic. We have all been dramatic, and emotionless. We have all hurt, and been hurt.
We are all clingy. We are all a bitch. We cannot accurately be defined.
We are all walking paradoxes, and that’s actually okay.
Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua, November 2016.