I’m taking my boyfriend. He has never been out of the country. He got his passport for this trip. He is 36 years old.
When I turned 18, I went to get my passport right away. It cost $55 and was good for 10 years. Unfortunately, it got stolen by some jerk mugger, so my stamps from Mexico, Spain and Italy aren’t there. My passport is as virginal as his.
I had initially thought I’d go by myself, as a beautiful meditation or pilgrimage to a place I’d been dreaming about since I’ve heard of it. Time I could spend alone, absorbing the place. Flaneur style.
Before, I didn’t really want to share this experience with him. I thought, “I want to be alone. Dear god, I desperately want to be alone.” Being in a relationship is hard, because the presence of someone else so significant in my life is a threat to my autonomy/freedom, and therefore my individuality/lifeforce. I’m almost angry at myself for inviting him, because this means that I’m ruining my dream of being alone again, in a city 1000s of miles away from any compromises I have to make to avoid arguing or hurt feelings. If someone or something is wrong, it feels extremely wrong to hold my tongue or be diplomatic. Yet I’ve never cared so much or been this careful. People who want time alone but don’t take it or don’t tell the truth because they’d “feel bad” about it I’ve always thought were pathetic losers, because essentially they’re externalizing their own neurosis and blaming it on other people because they’re too scared to take control of their own emotional lives. I never thought I’d be so stupid as to be unselfish about wanting time only for myself.
But now I’m gladder I’m going to be able to share my love of going somewhere else with him. Living in Chicago with all its different neighborhoods is not the same as traveling to a different country. You’re still in the U. S. even when you’re in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, or on Devon Street. You’re still on your own turf. He’s never been to a place where no one’s first language is English, and students learn Cervantes and Neruda and Borges instead of Shakespeare and Keats and Whitman.
We’re going to a place where he won’t speak the language, and I will. We’re going together to museums, to look at architecture, to eat and drink and navigate a new city. I’m used to him taking charge when talking to cab drivers, ordering food, planning how we’re going to get to and from our destination. Those are my weaknesses and his strengths- he’s authoritative, understands people, and doesn’t vex himself about whether he’s done something to offend someone slightly. We’re going to a place where I’ll understand more than he will.
Even though I’m better traveled than he is, he still understands people better than me. I’ll have to fend for both of us and flex my language skills and start to be able to believe I make decisions for myself again. It’s so easy to not interact with the world when I have a buffer and an extension of my will. It’s so easy to sit back and let him take charge. I hate that I’ve let that happen. I almost think I have no executive function anymore.
This post echos this post by someone who went to Turkey alone instead of with her boyfriend.
It’s a romantic idea to travel together. I won’t let him get “hangry.”