Freedom Means I Have Nothing Left To Lose
Swerving through traffic on her way home from work, Kristin laughed at me. “Who are you kidding, Dan? You’ll never have that many kids, because you’re never getting married!”
I put my feet up on my desk and smiled. “Well, it’s not like you didn’t try to change that about me once upon a time, kiddo. Can’t say that I blame you for trying.”
Somehow, I heard her roll her eyes through the phone. “Now look at you, all settled down like an old lady celebrating your 30th birthday… you knocked up yet?”
And so it went, Kristin and I gently poking each other with the once-pointed criticisms that we’d used years ago to cut one another to pieces. Six years apart had dulled the edges enough that we could both laugh about my fear of marriage and her eagerness to rush into it. Each year the laughter came easier and the tension became less, but I always felt the unmistakable lightness of relief each time our annual phone call finally ended.
“How fitting that this song would come on while we’re talking,” she said, turning up her stereo. “It will always remind me of you.”
My eardrum nearly exploded when she held her blue-tooth up to the speakers. “Sorry,” she said, “it’s the Bobby McGee song. You’ll always be my Bobby McGee.”
A slow smile took over my face and, as is my nature, I immediately took the low road. “So you’d trade all your tomorrows for one single yesterday…?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, stud,” she retorted. “We had some amazing times, once upon a time, and I let you slip away…”
“…kicking and screaming,” I thought, but I kept it to myself.
“And, oh, here’s your line….”
She paused while the song caught up to her. “He’s looking for that home, and I hope he finds it,” she sang, badly. “I have no doubt you’ll drive some other lucky woman crazy if you ever decide to stop being a child, Dan.”
My slow smile snapped into a suspicious grimace. “Thanks… I think.”
I am sure she meant it as a compliment–Bobby McGee is the symbol of a simpler, easier time of sexual discovery and romantic, carefree youth. Of course I want my ex-girlfriends to think about me like that! Of course life was easier with me, you dumb-ass, because whatever loser you’re dating now isn’t half as fun/sexy/exciting as I am!
Only the comparison became much less flattering the more I thought about it. First of all, my ex-girlfriends aren’t dating losers. They’re married to them. I know, it sounds like the plot to a bad romantic comedy (and, as one of my proofreader friends pointed out, it is), but Kristin’s characterization of me as the perfect fun and romantic fling a girl has before she grows up, finds her true love, and gets married had made me something I’m not used to being… uncomfortable.
Because whatever happened to Bobby McGee? I mean, it’s exciting and romantic to hitchhike a ride for you and your girl by singing songs for the trucker who picked you up. But at some point, Bobby has to get his own car, right? At some point, feeling good just isn’t enough, is it?
And what about kids? This whole thing started when I (only half-jokingly) told Kristin my new plan only of dating girls born after 1986, because they are the only girls young enough to bear me the eight children I plan on fathering. What kind of father would Bobby McGee become? From what I know of him–skipping out of town and slipping away from those who loved him–not a very good one.
While I do love being single and chasing women, true love is ultimately what I’m looking for. Even though she’s one of only two girls I’ve ever really loved, I know that Kristin and I never had it. When I look into the future, I do want a wife, and I do want a large family to share our lives with.
But what I really want in the present, even since before Kristin and I broke up, is my freedom.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
As my semi-midlife crisis comes to a pinnacle, this is the phrase I keep hearing in my head. On one hand, its romantic and whimsical sentiment is an affirmation of my lifestyle–I purposely hold on to nothing so that I’ll always maintain my freedom. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself, about women, and about life in these past six years, even though I haven’t been in love.
On the other hand, who wants to wake up at 30 years old and say proudly, “I have nothing left to lose”? Even for somebody as fiercely independent as I am, it’s more than a little bit depressing to realize that I’ve got nothing to show for all of these years of experience. Because really, what do I have? Rather than talking these things through with an emotionally invested partner, instead I’m working through this secret inner struggle by writing a navel-gazing blog posts for strangers under a semi-ridiculous pseudonym.
And this is why the future seems so far away. I just can’t turn off my instinct to play by my own rules and cherish my freedom. And it’s not about sexual freedom–it’s the ability to make major life changes at the drop of a hat, it’s the ability to crash on couches, it’s the liberating feeling of knowing that the only things I really need are the clothes on my back and the contents of my wallet.
The ugly but simple truth is that this same devil-may-care attitude is one of the main reasons women are attracted to me in the first place. Being mildly irresponsible and irreverently impulsive is always a good time, especially with a partner-in-crime. I’m realistic enough to know that I’m always going to be working to improve my balancing act between being carefree and careless. And no matter how badly I want it in the future, I really can’t imagine that I’m ever going to be fully comfortable giving all of that up to play the dutiful husband and father role.
And as more ex girlfriends get hitched and ride off into the sunset, the years keep passing me like signs on the interstate. I’m not sure it’s possible to have both freedom and a family, but I hold on to the misguided, quixotic hope that one day I will.
One thing I am sure of: next year Kristin is going to get a Happy Birthday text message instead of a Happy Birthday phone call.