Lola and I hang out all the time with nothing to say to each other. We love each other's company. Neither one of us has romantic feelings for each other. Neither one of us has romantically experienced love. Lola and I do not think we are the norm, although it would be flattering to think we are the exception. Lola and I bitch about this all the time. Lola and I write each other letters on love. Lola and I are still trying to figure out this thing they call love.
Let x be the sum of happiness we derive from love. Let x be composed of family, friends, and romance. Let romance be an independent variable. In the presence of family and friends, what do we lack in romance that makes x < 1?
"All I want is to cuddle," Lola says to me, lying face up on her bed. "All I want is a cuddle buddy." This is Lola's way of reiterating that boys suck. This is my way of acknowledging I am not alone in my being alone. This is our way of craving human contact. There is something about the phrase 'human touch' that is redundant. It is innately human to need to feel the warmth of skin on skin, to remind ourselves what it means to be alive, to not be alone. This, Lola and I hypothesize, is the essence of being with someone else, the physical touch. We hypothesize then that casual hookups, FWB (friends with benefits), and no-strings-attached should abate loneliness. We hypothesize cuddling is all anyone really needs. Lola flips over onto her stomach and moans into the pillow, wishing it could hold her back.
I scroll through my phone and the detritus of articles on Buzzfeed, a poor substitute for entertainment or news, and laugh at an app I start reading about called Cuddlr. It is like Tinder, except with cuddling. Cuddlr is green and fluffy and platonic looking. At least this is what I gather. Find people near you who are up for a cuddle. Have a cuddle with them. No pressure. Lola and I jokingly decide we should try Cuddlr. Lola and I are immediately dubious. What does 'no pressure' mean? How can people cuddle platonically? Would it not simply escalate into sex? Lola and I decide we would like to have people we can spoon with. Lola and I conduct our casual research. Lola and I determine cuddling is not the same as spooning; spooning is a very specific form of cuddling. Lola and I decide not to try Cuddlr. Lola and I look at each other, and silently decide against spooning with each other. It is simply not the same. Lola and I conclude Cuddlr is not the same as cuddling. Lola and I are still lonely. Lola and I decide to eat instead.
Dilemma: Big spoon or little spoon?
Spoon: "to lift or transfer by means of a spoon" (OED, spoon, n.)
I eat exclusively with bowls in the dining hall. Simple equation. If the bowl is occupied with soybeans: big spoon. If the bowl is filled with quinoa: little spoon. The question is: what do you do when the bowl is occupied with more than one variable?
Lola and I eat in the dining hall three times a day. Lola has stopped asking why I eat exclusively with bowls three times a day. Lola is my suite mate. Lola is also my best friend. Convenient. Lola does not yet find me annoying because Lola does not hear these thoughts out loud. Instead, Lola and I write letters, and watch girls around us swiping left and right. We have friends who skip class to Tinder swipe, friends who cut their grocery expenses by 75% because of Tinder meal dates, friends who are too wimpy to meet Tinder matches, and friends who use Tinder to feel just a little less alone. Tinder is how people meet. It's like real life, but better. I want to ask Lola how any life can be better than real. Lola and I are tempted to try. Lola and I joke about Tinder like it is a fashion statement. Lola and I joke about Tinder like it is a thing we are too disgusted to try.
We are trying to say we are afraid to be alone. I am trying to say I am afraid we will never find anyone, and then we will be too old to even die. I am trying say I am scared this will only happen to me, that one day love will stroll by and all at once consume Lola until I realize this thing we call loneliness has been waiting for me, and me alone, all along. I am afraid love is a selective process that will perpetually swipe left on me. We stand on the street waiting with phones in our hands, ear buds plugged into our senses until we are surrounded by voices, to prove to every other solo self on the street that we are too hipster to actually want another person's body attached to our hip.
Dilemma: Big spoon or little spoon?
Spoon: "to lie close together, to fit into each other, in the manner of spoons" (OED, spoon, n.)
I sleep exclusively in my cramped college dorm bed. Simple equation. If I am smaller than my partner: little spoon. If I am larger than my partner: big spoon. The question is where is this second variable bedfellow coming from?
I had always considered sex to be the most intimate you can get with anyone, the way two human beings can take up less physical room by being as close to each other as possible, but I am beginning to think I was wrong. I never considered spooning comparable to sex. Spooning is often thought of as a pre or post-sex activity that releases oxytocin and strengthens relationships through intimacy. I love spooning. I don't know anyone who doesn't love spooning, but I have so many friends who simultaneously love and are terrified of it. Why? Perhaps the answer lies in the difference between Cuddlr and Tinder. The truth is, Tinder is far more successful than Cuddlr because it is an explicit all-inclusive package of romance we think we lack.
I hypothesize we are afraid of proximity. I hypothesize we are more afraid of the proximity of emotional touch than we are the touch screen of matchmaking. In an attempt to compare intimacy to touch, I juxtapose spooning with sex. I find through casual research the two are either mutually exclusive, or polar opposites. Sex is not the same as sexual intimacy, the way it can be emotionless and detached or joltingly soul-consuming. In essence, to casually hook up with no feelings attached is to have sex without spooning. Spooning is almost impossible to be emotionless about; it is the staying-over, the falling asleep, the waking up with terrible breath but staying over anyway. Cuddlr, in its attempt to provide its users with a sense of this proximity and touch, fails to take into account the intimacy that has to occur alongside cuddling, that 'to fit into each other' is to first know each other in that intimate sense.
Lola texts me today: " I need to walk around with a sign, 'Looking for fuck buddy. Sign up here.'" Lola has abandoned the idea of Cuddlr. Lola still wants to spoon, but we have come to understand the nature of spooning is not in the physical act but in the emotional ties it builds. It is the emotions, or, as our generation fears, the 'pressure,' it can create to feel something. Lola and I have both felt. We know infatuation, and emotion, and some genre of romance. Do not mistake us for the cold-hearted Millennials we consider ourselves to be. But we are still waiting for something to fit.
We write letters partially because, although we hate the word hipster, we love the idea of antique love and generational regeneration. Because we want to have things we feel we cannot speak about in the seriousness of conversation or the casualty of texts. We talk about love, and sex, love in sex, lovely sex, in other words, we talk of loneliness. We slip letters under each other's doors late at night and do not acknowledge these silent conversations when we greet each other in the morning because we are told the two live in separate worlds. We talk about these things we know nothing about in cynicism we make up to make up for our lacking in experience. We talk about these things in the silence of the page because in daylight we are all whatever, and idk, and idgaf. We abbreviate our naivety until it looks something more like jaded youth, until it looks more like something that has experienced love too many times to want to try it again.
But perhaps it is in our lacking, our absence of what we envision romance to be, that we criticize this thing they call love as overrated. Perhaps it is we youthful cynics of love who have the greatest chance at the intimacy of it. Maybe it is in the intimacy of the language of human touch that we will be able to surpass this swiping screen of isolation.
Let x be the sum of happiness we derive from love. Let x be composed of family, friends, and romance. Let romance be the dependable variable. Let the things people we meet and the experiences we find guide us to something less packaged, more spontaneous, less formulaic, more terrifying. Let us fill our own selves with a sense of belonging, a sense that we fit into the people we already are, without fear of missing out. Let us believe in no lacking. Let us believe x will always be searching for another 1. Let us not try to prove something that begs for a new hypothesis every single time. Let us not ask for a solution to loneliness, but an addition to love. We are simply waiting. Simply looking forward to so much more.