Torschlusspanik (Fear of Being Left Out)

Everyone has concerns when they’re getting ready to move.  Right?  Well, I sure as hell did.

I remember I was at working my shitty restaurant job when I got the call.  I snuck off to the ladies room and listened to the voicemail, holding my breath the whole time.  Wait, did he say additional funding?  I’ve been accepted?  Are you shitting me?  And then after the initial excitement, the panic:  I can’t move to Virginia.  Are you crazy? No.  I’d have to find an apartment.  Like really quickly.  And how would I get all of my things from here to there?  Am I really going to be able to live off of that stipend?

Of course I was scared of living somewhere where I knew no one.  It was my first time really moving away from home (the one-hour difference between college and home didn’t count), and I was…what?  Scared?  Exhilarated? Let’s just say emotional.

Much to my surprise, my Blacksburg social calendar was fuller than my Austin one had ever been; I had a Facebook event invite before I’d even moved down.  And when I got here, the invites kept coming.  Drinks at Abby’s.  Karaoke nights.  Trips to Floyd for wine, music, and dancing.  Did I have time to go to everything?  Probably not.  But somehow I did.

I confessed to a friend at one point that it was almost like I was afraid not to go to things.  I was afraid to be left out.  I was afraid of the memories that other people would have without me, and I’d only be able to hear through halfheartedly told stories that inevitably devolved into, well, I guess you had to be there (you’d think MFA students would know how to tell a story).  So I avoided being left out.  And about a month after I’d moved here, three weeks after my 21st birthday, I started dating a pretty great guy.

Well, here I was, marveling at how well I had transitioned, and I stumbled upon this word: Torschlusspanik.  It’s German, and it refers to an anxiety specific to unmarried young women around 21.  Talk about a fear of being left out in the most traditional and socially extreme way possible, and that’s by never getting married.  Men look for younger women and women then must snag them up as quickly as possible.

I read about this German word and its definition, and I thought, that described me!  Recently 21, and dating someone several years older.  Was this the reason I had been obsessively socializing?  I am a woman with a nurturing side.  I see myself getting married and having kids.  Someday.

And by someday I really do mean someday in the unforeseen future.  I mean, sure I get excited every time I see an adorable baby/child/puppy.  Can I help it?  Is that my fault?  Doesn’t mean I’m ready to jump in the deep end now.

I’m an independent woman, something of a feminist.  And after careful analysis, I’ve decided that surely this is not what’s going on (is it?).  But I’ll admit, this word did give me pause.  Because even though I know I can do anything, women are still socialized (and some would argue built) for that traditional lifestyle, and maybe we aren’t as far away from it as we thought.

By Jennifer Schrau




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