When I got divorced, one of my friends suggested that I now had a golden opportunity to meet my real self. “As an adult you’ve known yourself only inside a relationship,” she said. “Now is the time to get to know the true Sigal.”
I followed her advice and spent five years trying to get to know the me-without-the distraction-of-a-man, and let me tell you, the me-without-the-man is the exact same me: confused, yearning for love, and eager to please. I found no secret me, because even without a man, my life was full of relationships, relationships with my kids, dogs, parents, friends, and even with my own ever-present desire for a relationship. I searched for five years, and finally found myself in the spot I had never left, because the truth was that I wanted to love, and I wanted to be loved, and that was in essence who I am.
I was thinking of my years alone as I read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ wonderful romance, Natural Born Charmer. The novel follows two characters who choose aloneness. Blue is a nomad painter. Having been raised by a chain of foster parents chosen by her absent mother, Blue prefers not to get attached to anyone. She is safest on her own. Dean is a famous quarterback. He had been raised by an addict mother who was often absent and a father who refused to acknowledge him as his own. Flings Dean does. Settling down with one woman? No.
The motivation of romance characters is often to find love and to belong, and their conflict is the belief that love and belonging cannot happen to them (there is always a “because”). This is also true for Dean and Blue. Trusting each other with their hearts requires a seemingly impossible forgiveness, courage, and letting go. “I’m crazy about you,” Blue says at one point, “but I don’t fall in love.”
Dean and Blue meet in the land of fictional dream, but they are drawn together because they are both lonely and alone.The real them was not waiting to be found on a solo road, but instead blossomed through their interaction and willingness to take a leap of faith and fall in love.
Like Dean and Blue, I believe that we humans belong together. We are creatures of love, touch, and sharing, and we ought not to be alone. There is too much aloneness in our world, too many people who live their lives without getting even a hug a day, without feeling accepted or cherished by anyone else.
Sometimes people start talking to me in the street or the supermarket, and my first reaction is to walk away, back into my “normal” life. Then I tell myself: maybe this person just wants the spark of having connected with another human being today. And I try to smile, and be polite, and later, regretfully, walk away.
Dean started talking to Blue when she walked down the street in a beaver costume, but in order to know whether or not he walked away, you will simply have to take your own leap of faith, and read the book.