Remember that club your friends started in the third grade but didn’t invite you to join? Or that sorority you desperately wanted to rush but they didn’t send you a bid? Everything always seems to be about joining that club you feel everyone is a member of except you. Being in my mid 40s, there have been many clubs I’ve wanted to join only to never get an invitation. I’ve watched my friends, family and coworkers join, but those clubs remain elusive to me. It seems as if every stage of our life consists of levels taking us to the next club we, by society’s standards, must join.
I call these clubs the “Clubs of Life”.
I compare it to a game of Donkey Kong–where Mario sprints up the levels dodging obstacles and a huge gorilla so he can make it to the top of that level and join the club with his princess. Many times he gets knocked down only to have to start that particular level all over or even start from the beginning. What are these particular clubs? You might have joined one or two or maybe all four. They are Clubs Single, In a Relationship, Married, and Married with Children.
Level One – Club “Single”
Alone at the start line, we take off sprinting, hoping to dodge the obstacles that are put in our way, wanting to lose our single status and achieve the gold medal of level two. Its exciting, fun, and our energy is boundless. We develop innocent crushes and deal with our changing hormones. But then we start to experience real dating and learn it’s a huge minefield that can bruise and hurt us. The barrels of insecurity, vanity, and ego (to name a few) come rolling at us forcing us to dodge them often times knocking us completely on our asses. Yet we get up and keep on going. After years of dates, hookups, and simple romances, we start to see that finish line–the line we can cross over into that next club. The better club. The more popular club.
Level Two – Club “In a Relationship”
So now we are in love and have officially changed our Facebook status. Smugly, we look back at those still in club single and almost feel sorry for them. They have so much to learn. We get to relax and enjoy being a member of this club along with our friends. We go out on double dates, enjoy rsvping for two to weddings and work parties, and generally enjoy the bliss that comes with having a partner in crime. But then we start feeling the shift. What was once the “in” club is now getting stale. Our friends are starting to leave this club and head to the next one–the one that involves a wedding and buying a house together. We start the sprint again–trying our best to get up to level three and gain access to that shinier club. Sometimes, people choose to stay in this club never even trying for the next club. There is a lot of comfort in Club “In a Relationship” but seldom a lot of permanency. That comes with the next club.
Level Three – Club “Married”
Easy for some, elusive for others, Club “Married” seems to be the most satisfying. Its like officially being invited into a grown up club with an elite status not everyone seems to achieve. Its the club most women dream about joining since they were little. We are told it is the one club you MUST join or your life will never be quite right by society’s standards. In the beginning, its a great club with so many members. We relax, take a breather, and enjoy starting a life with the person we love. We settle in, get through the honeymoon stage and start thinking about the future. But then, like with the other clubs, we start hearing whispers about the next club. We start thinking we need an invitation to that club and so we get up, dust ourselves off and prepare to sprint up to it. Some people join easily, while others struggle and take alternative routes to get there.
Level Four – Club “Married with Children”
Joining Club “Married with Children” is society’s way of saying we made it. We are now parents and supposedly we have it all. We relish our new membership despite the lack of sleep, constant dirty diapers, and crying. Its exhausting but fulfilling at the same time. Soon, diapers and crying turn into soccer practice and attitude. We never stop loving our children but we start fantasizing about being back in Club “Single” –that club we couldn’t wait to get out of before and looked down on when we did get out. Suddenly, that alone time, independence and ability to go anywhere at anytime sounds wonderful.
Then we start to realize the circle of life isn’t so much about birth and death as it is gaining access to the different clubs in the different times of our lives. Some of us get access easily and it all works out like it should. Others, like me, find some of these memberships elusive and hard to get. I can’t seem to get out of Club “Single.” I’ve gained access to club “In a Relationship” a few times only to be sent back to Club “Single.” bruised and heartbroken. However, I wasn’t ready to join Club “Married.” It was a club my friends and family joined but it scared the crap out of me. There was so much I wanted to do in the previous two clubs first. But I will eventually get there–I will get an invite to the next one someday. I might not get to join Club “Married with Children”, but I’m okay with that. Club “Married” would be enough for me because I know I earned the invitation.