I recently realized that, with the exception of a few, the vast majority of my friends are single. These are women of ages varying from 30 to 60 — all intelligent, attractive and interesting yet they are alone, some terminally, others traipsing from one unsuccessful relationship to the next.
(Last week I even wrote about one friend who was financially supporting her boyfriend. Three days after the article ran, he dumped her over the phone telling her he needed to be free. Talk about timing. She is 32 and once again single with a heart which, when healed, will be harder and less open to love.)
I wonder if single people have some shared qualities that cause them to seek one another out, some sort of gene which is repellent to a romantic partner but brings us together in commiseration over bottles of cabernet sauvignon on dateless weekend nights.
And I wonder if it’s a problem with us — that our standards are too high. Or maybe that we’re too complicated, set in our ways without room in our lives or heart for someone else who doesn’t perfectly match the life vision board featuring magazine cutouts of shirtless models hanging over our beds.
Most of my girl friends are quick to blame men. “There aren’t enough good men out there anymore. They’ve gotten lazy because their parents didn’t raise them to put effort into relationships,” one single friend, a makeup artist who lives in Venice told me.
One of my best friends, a vivacious blonde who lives in New York and has a fast-paced social life filled with travel, parties, and friends has been single for so long that she’s given up on men altogether and just started dating a woman.
For women and gay men, the older we get, the less options we have, and the harder it is to meet a partner. There is the fast evaporating dating pool, but then there are also the changes that occur within us psychologically. With age we become rigid, not just in our bodies, but also in our beliefs and convictions. There is less tolerance for someone whose life philosophy does not align with ours.
The other night I went on a date with a handsome, successful, older entrepreneur. I was immediately attracted to him, and we carried on a conversation about theology, work and life that was genuine and deep. At the end of the night, we went our separate ways and that was that. I haven’t heard from him since.
He is 42 years old — what is he holding out for? What is he looking for that I can’t offer? I can’t imagine a situation where I’d reach 40 and still be single. Obviously, as I’ve seen with my older single friends, one finds fulfillment in other areas of life. Nonetheless, the thought is so depressing I almost need to swallow a Klonopin to finish writing this sentence.
The effects of being single for a long time take a toll on one’s self esteem. How can you not question what is wrong with you? As friends and family find love, even the cousin who is overweight and obsessed with One Direction, you start to be less overjoyed by another blissful union and more cynical with each wedding announcement.
New age wisdom tells us that if we work on ourselves, stay positive and “get out there,” then a partner will find us and recognize that we are the missing half of their lives. But what if that’s not the case? You could spend a whole lifetime working on yourself — learning Italian, mastering Ashtanga primary series, decorating a home and after all that you’re still buying frozen P.F. Chang’s dinner for one.
The more special or unique the person, the harder it is to find a match. My friend Brooke, a chic old-guard socialite hippie in her 60s, who grew up on Park Avenue South, was hanging out backstage at Woodstock and lived in Jamaica in the 80s, is one of the most fascinating people I know. But there are few men who could measure up to her. She already travels the world, goes out to eat at the best restaurants and lives in a beautiful home in Beverly Hills. (“Why would I date someone who won’t better my life?” she told me the other night over dinner at Nobu.)
Most men want someone who is not complicated, who doesn’t dress strangely or hold esoteric ideas on reincarnation. Finding someone that appreciates our special quirks is a needle in the haystack proposition. Add to that the reality that the haystack has gotten exponentially larger with dating 2.0 and the illusion of unlimited potential matches, meaning we’re all less tolerant of any defect or deviation from the expected.
I want a man who will indulge and take care of me. What do I offer in return? Up to this point in life, I thought that my boyish good looks and charm were sufficient trade, but I never thought about how difficult I can be. I have high expectations. I’ve traveled the world on my own, started a business on my own. If I don’t sense the same ambition in someone, I don’t respect them. That rules out the vast majority of men.
I think I make a great dinner and travel companion but I know that I can also be insufferable. I recently had a guy over that I had seen a couple of times, that I knew I wasn’t really interested in, and I made him watch the French presidential debate with me, in French, despite the fact that he didn’t understand a word of it. To his credit, he actually hung around.
As for my girlfriends, each one has some unique issue as to why she might not be blissfully skipping into the sunset, but the larger reoccurring theme seems to be that they all have an idealized version of a man in their head that may not exist in reality. We are waiting for a prince charming to come and save us from the monotony of our lives, but as much as we wish we were, none of us are royals.