I wrote two beginnings for this book—one where I was in a happy, committed relationship and the other being single. I've been in both situations during the course of its completion, but I won't say which one I am currently in because I believe that it influences the way opinions on this subject matter are received. If I’m single, what I have to say will be immediately dismissed by some as coming from a place of bitterness. If I’m in a relationship, my thoughts may come across as condescending or uninformed. Like “oh you've found someone so now you know it all.” This is a lose-lose situation.
So, I won’t say. Instead, I hope that my words will be received as what they are, sincere. These words and ideas are coming from someone who believes deeply in the power and wonder of love. Yet, I've been notoriously known as a single woman for most of my adult life. Despite being referred to by some as attractive, funny, engaging, and an overall “catch” (thank you), I've journeyed most of my path alone.
I will tell you that I haven’t been in a long-term, serious, committed romantic relationship since I was about nineteen years old. I'm thirty-six as I begin writing this. Yikes. The years that have passed really just hit me for the first time. Though I have lived this life eyes-wide-open, I never noticed it before. Maybe seeing the numbers in print and being forced to calculate the interval is what did it. It’s never been something I’ve really thought about and doesn’t feel that long ago. But almost twenty years have gone by since spending two summers and every other season with my first and only love.
We met while working together at Burger King. Still in high school, it was both our first jobs. He wasn’t someone I’d normally connect with. We had very different backgrounds. Raised by a family of devout Christians who sheltered me from anything deemed unholy, I was extremely naïve compared to the street-savvy, mature way of thinking he’d been afforded by a more lenient upbringing. He was a bad boy who made himself good, for me.
I mean, I really loved him. We were together and talked all the time. Whether out, at home, or on the phone, I never grew tired of him the way that I did others. He was my best friend, biggest supporter, and greatest source of inspiration. I was different with him, softer. No topic of discussion was off-limits or uncomfortable for us. We were psychologically naked in front of one another. It was the pure expression of fondness that you hope to achieve with someone.
I loved him so much that when wrongfully accused by a friend of his of being seen with another guy, I broke down in tears trying to convince him that it wasn’t true. He told me he needed time to think, and I was distraught, hoping with everything within me that he didn’t decide to end our relationship. I don’t know if I was more upset at the idea of losing him, at the thought of him feeling that I’d betrayed him, or because it would all be the result of a false claim. The point is that I cared more about the outcome than I had cared about anything in a long time. Thankfully, my love came to his senses and we continued writing our story.
We grew apart as adulthood approached. Yet, despite our differences, clearly no one has been able to take his place. Not in nearly TWENTY YEARS! Nonetheless, I’ve never looked back. I’ve always felt certain that our time together had run its course. Now I’m at the tail end of my thirties with no children, and having never been married, not even close.
I've had some fun, dated people exclusively, and been in relationships here and there, but none of substance. For years I would go, unattached and uninvolved. Sometimes I think I may have spent the best years of my life this way, and I wonder if they were wasted. Then again, you know that saying about how youth is wasted on the young? So, maybe not. Maybe the beauty of love and relationships is wasted on the ill-prepared.
Regardless of what my relationship status will be when I finish this book or when you read it, this viewpoint is coming from someone who’s been where I’m about to take you. I think I’ve paid enough dues for a lifetime of single woman expertise. I’ve likely forgotten more than most others have learned on the topic.
Overall, I never had an issue with being single, though I may have had my days and my nights where I desired for it to not be so. Others seemed to be more concerned with my singledom than I ever was. Actually, they seem overly concerned with single people in general. I’ve seen so many unprovoked social media posts and heard so much bad advice directed at those who are single, when no one asked for it.
I don’t get why anyone cares so much. When I’m single, or even when I’m not, I don’t obsess over other people’s relationships. I don’t care what they’re doing or feel compelled to tell them how to do it better. This is especially true with people I don’t actually know. I don’t sit up and try to dissect anyone’s marriage from afar and attack aspects that may make it appear as though the union is not fruitful. I’m too concerned with maintaining my own happiness to worry myself with someone else’s.
Yet, people, usually those who are one half of a married couple, will write Facebook dissertations aimed at individuals who are single. They’ll tell you why you’re in what they deem to be a predicament, and implore fellow married or involved followers not to listen to anything you have to say. In a sense, they look down on those who are single as though nothing of value can be offered from this position. Never mind their own crumbling, inauthentic relationships. This isn’t always the case, but there are absolutely those who climb up on a relationship high horse even if theirs is unhealthy. As though being with someone in and of itself is better than being alone.
I have nothing against commitment and relationships. I believe that marriage can be a formidable source of joy, love, and support. It can be an amazing experience that adds positive elements to our lives. I also respect being single and don’t categorize either status above the other. I know that there is joy to be found in being unattached as well. There is peace and precious, needed time to ourselves.
So when I witness bashing or arrogance as it relates to being single, I don’t get it. It has confused and sometimes annoyed me for a few different reasons; mainly the insinuation that there is something inherently wrong with the circumstance.
For those people who are reading this and are in romantic relationships, I beg of you, don’t treat your single friends like a problem that needs to be solved. Do not speak of them as “single” as though that is who they are. Seems so silly to me, using one’s relationship status as a defining quality. I recognize that often many of you may actually mean well, and you simply want your friends and loved ones to be happy. However, therein lies the problem, the assumption that being single is so horrible that they couldn’t possibly be happy as-is. But I get it when coming from those with the best of intentions, your friend is awesome and you want someone else to see and cherish his or her awesomeness.
I’ll focus mainly on single women because of the double standard in perception that we all know exists regarding the sexes. Please, I don’t care to visit pretend-land and debate this one. If you haven’t accepted by now that women are viewed differently and held to more rigid societal standards than men in this department, you probably won’t like what’s coming next.
There are no absolutes. When referencing men, women, friends, etc., it doesn’t mean all men, women, and friends. But common misconceptions become such because they’re, well, common.
Even the best experiences become better when shared. I don’t underestimate the impact of having someone with whom to embark on life’s journey. I love love, and believe in it as well. I have seen it in all of its genuine, selfless magnificence. So I know it exists. The issue comes when its value is overstated, to the point where not having said person is viewed as a circumstance that is “less than” and a life unfulfilled.
Such a distorted perception leads friends to focus on this sole aspect of your life. As a result, they try to pimp or whore you out every chance they get (figuratively, of course, hopefully). There is constant badgering about why you’re single and what happened to that one guy you were dating for five minutes, as well as funny looks when you tell them you’re not interested in someone. Almost as though you don’t have the luxury of not being interested at a certain point. It consumes interactions and comes up in some form, somehow, someway at every social gathering.
It's the scarlet letter “S” on your chest, and it doesn’t stand for Superwoman in their eyes, though that would be more fitting. They gawk at you in amazement. Overly intrigued, they want to delve into your existence and find out how you are making your way through the world, carrying on as though you, alone, are enough.
Perhaps in reality it’s not as bad as it may seem. The replay of situations in our minds is usually worse than it was in real-time. It’s just that the process of dating, of waiting, of disappointment, and starting over again can be draining enough all on its own, without this added element of having to constantly discuss, defend, and downplay it all. Such behavior, unwarranted, can imply a great deal regarding what you think about a person, even if not overtly.
It implies that you don’t think the single woman can just go out and have a good time without being on the prowl for a man; that she should be on the prowl for a man; that she needs a man; and that she wants every man she sees or compliments. “He's married” is not a necessary response to the simply stated, “He’s handsome.”
Behaving this way with your single friend subtly attaches many labels to her, none of which are flattering.