“What? Why lighthouse?”
I am genuinely intrigued. It is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone refer to another this way.
“You know, like a lighthouse. Light houses are tall, beautiful. They help passing ships and everyone around them – they light up paths, like a beacon of warmth and hope. But in the end, lighthouses are always alone. There’s nothing wrong with them – in fact, lighthouses are women who exceed the average standard on many different frontiers of life. We need and appreciate lighthouses, but no one would say it isn’t lonely there.”
In my mind, I immediately begin seeing a picturesque scenario of a lone lighthouse on a soft, breezy ocean side somewhere, where echoes of waves and seagull songs roll off the beach. Not the imagery I would ever use on a woman. It’s strange.
“So, are you also a lighthouse then?” I venture.
*Grace, my friend of five years, hesitates a little before she cups her manicured hands around her coffee cup, almost defensively. She looks me in the eyes and that micro second of vulnerability dissipates.
“Yes. I am.”
Grace’s voice carries an authority to it. She’s a decade older than me, but few would ever realize. People always assume we’re the same age when we go out. She’s beautiful and she carries it around with elegance. There’s no faint whiff of insecurity. I suppose insecurity is not a luxury she can afford, as Grace runs her family business by herself – supporting both parents and her younger siblings. She’s the eldest daughter. You can see this a mile away – it’s in the way she talks, the confidence and dominance in her decisions, the maternal nurturing she provides to her friends.
I admit our friendship is often based on me always having wanted an older sister and Grace is happy to provide that, as it is all she has known.
But today we are talking about *Jen, another friend of ours. Jen is about five years older than Grace, making me the youngster of the group. We met up to discuss and vent a little about Jen’s recent spiral downwards as she hit her 50th birthday.
My last phone call to Jen was not a great one.
“I don’t know what I’m doing in my life. I haven’t been on a date in three years. I don’t feel attractive anymore and the only guy who’s asked me on a date recently is about ten years younger than me. He doesn’t want the things I want, I’m probably just fun for him. I’m so tired of everything. I don’t know what else is there for me. What am I doing?” she sighed.
I didn’t know how to respond, but the sadness seeped through the phone and into my skin. I couldn’t help.
But it’s definitely not a pity party.
Jen’s a self-made millionaire doctor, one of the most revered in her field. She bought a few properties which by now are worth millions, lives in an upscale part of town and doesn’t need to work. No one in town mentions her by name without a slight tinge of awe. Unlike Grace, who’s a darker, quieter beauty, Jen’s a bubbly, cheerful blonde who loves her rescue cat with the zenith of new mother. She celebrates her child-free life with a slim figure that’s often accentuated in glamorous one pieces.
It’s unlike her to be sad, especially on a birthday. That’s what concerned me.
“She’s a lighthouse. Like me. I’m not depressed, but there are times when I look around me – all the great things I have done, the people who always rely on me and I wonder. I wonder if I had done something wrong in the past. Am I bitter? No. I have so much, yet the loneliness burns. I’m too smart to reach for something out of desperation, I’d rather be alone and endure the ridiculous “cat lady” insults thrown at me by society. We are on a high shelf, we’ve worked nobly to get here. We would be the ideal wives really. But we are no one’s.”
Grace stops and takes a sip of her coffee.
This is when I remember a conservation with a male friend of mine the week before. He’s in his early forties’, doing well and enjoying the societal reverence of being a silver haired bachelor.
“Yeah, it’s unfair for women,” he explained bluntly. “It’s not like I never feel lonely, or am a shallow asshole who only wants to date thirty year olds. In fact, you know I’m looking for an intelligent, independent partner who has her own thing going.”
So why not date Grace? Or Jen?
“I’ll be honest. There’s something sad in their eyes. It’s like they have been alone for so long, they subconsciously prefer it. They don’t want to date anyone. Or at least, they don’t even want to try. I can sense it. At first you find them really attractive, cos let’s face it, they’re hot. But you start talking to them and first of all, there’s this line of immediate defensiveness and then an awkward moment where it’s really obvious that they’re suspicious of your intentions. No one likes to be sized up like that. At least, it’s the case for me,” he said.
“Oh,” he added. “And some of them are complete psychos. Crazy eyes.”
I chuckle, remembering how Grace had actually turned him down a few months ago.
“What’s so funny?” Grace asks. I relay my friend’s words to her and she rolls her eyes. “I rejected him because he just wasn’t my type. There wasn’t any attraction from my side, so if he’s going to be salty about it, fine.” I can see she’s amused. This happens a lot. And no, Grace is not exceedingly picky, she just has no issue with turning down a date respectfully. Like a mature adult.
“Let me guess, he’s going to say that lighthouse women like me, stay lonely because we choose it. How convenient. Maybe he’s partly right. But no one on earth chooses loneliness because it is not a good feeling. No one likes to abuse themselves with it. Besides my love life, everything else is great. My business is doing well, my friends are wonderful and my family are fine. And I do feel lonely. So I get where Jen is coming from. She’s just at a low point, but tomorrow, she’ll shrug it off and realize that everything is going to be fine.”
“How are you so sure?” I ask.
“Because Jen and I are too smart to fall into that trap of dating someone that doesn’t really match, just for the sake of avoiding loneliness. That’s just using someone else to fill a void. It’s bad for everyone. It sucks to be called cat ladies, or leftovers. We are no one’s wife. But guess what? That’s perfectly fucking fine. Say what they want, we can take it. You see, we understand an important fact of life: we all deserve love. To love and to be loved. Loving another is half of the blessing, or even more. That feeling of loving – looking at your partner with rosy lenses, that’s an amazing feeling. It’s so much more than just having someone there to love you. And Jen…me…we deserve love. We know what it is and we respect it. We’re not going to half ass it or produce some pirated fake version of it in some desperate attempt to stave off the feeling of loneliness – there are tons of married people who are just as lonely. Loneliness is not just about having no warm body around you, it’s an experience, just like love. If you know what love is, you’re already blessed because you can then recognize it.”
I see a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips. She looks out onto the street with a romantic glaze in her eyes.
“As for now, I suppose I’ll stay a light house,” she smiles. “After all, you guys are definitely going to need me to remind you not do some crazy shit and go crashing into things. Especially you.”
I pretend-roll my eyes as hard as my skull can allow it and we laugh about the times she came to my rescue when I got myself into stupid impulse-led shenanigans.
This is the moment where I truly, truly appreciate her. She and Jen are amazing friends – amazing people. I am fortunate to be around them. They influence me to become a better person. This is why I prefer hanging out with them, even if I’m ten years younger.
We need people like Jen and Grace.
We need to understand and respect these “lighthouse” women. And men.
And we need to stop looking at them with pity, and start being glad that these women truly respect love. They will not allow society to make them harsh, desperate or victims of their own “success.”
They are just there, tall, sturdy, ever-reliable – shining light on all those who need it around them, while coping with their own solitude in the way that only a lighthouse can: beautifully.