Settling feels like an art form. There are so many moving parts to choosing another person, and we are constantly expanding the list of “things we can live without.” I used to have such complex, detailed dreams about the kind of man I would spend my life with. And then, little by little, he got whittled away by reality, and he became a vague shape of a person with a few basic qualities. I learned to settle like a champion, like a woman much older and more embittered by history than myself. It was key to survival without crippling disappointment.
But, after multiple relationships with men who felt like the physical incarnation of ‘settling’ itself, I have decided to wait. I’ve decided to embrace and enjoy and even revel in my singlehood and never force something to go past a disappointing first date. I’m not taking relationships at all costs, not waking up next to someone who turns my stomach just to avoid the pain of being alone. I am taking care of myself.
And it’s been hard, in some ways. While my friends have spent entire weekends flicking through Tinder and hoping that the next match will be at least a couple-night stand, I have been coming home to a cavernous empty apartment and making myself a single dinner portion to watch five TV shows in a row. There isn’t that constant — if often disappointing — thrill of possibly meeting someone new and wonderful. I haven’t been pushing myself into the dating market, I’ve been cultivating myself, and fielding constant comments from concerned friends and family who don’t want me to be by myself.
They don’t understand. They think they are helping, but they don’t get it.
I learned how to settle. I made it a part of my routine, and I cast nets so wide on dating sites and dance classes and accepting blind dates that I was almost guaranteed to pull in nothing of value. I was taking everything because I assumed that love meant making do with whatever happened to be lying around. I saw my friends around me getting married to people they were never head-over-heels for, because it meant they could cross the “life partner” point off their checklist. The road I was going down was one of complacency and familiarity, not one of happiness. Since I was a little girl, I had been told that the point was to find my Prince Charming, not to decide what that Prince Charming should be — or that I should make myself a Princess first. So I learned how to settle. And I was going to do it right into a wedding if I had kept going the way I was headed.
But today I am alone, and I know what I deserve. I do not deserve someone rich or model-handsome or perfect in some superficial way. But I deserve someone I chose, and who chose me, because we both wanted to be with the other and no one else. I deserve to fall in love, to lose myself in the beauty and discovery of it, and not feel like I’m forcing it to happen so I can tell my friends that I have a boyfriend. I deserve the chance to be really happy, and to invite someone to share a life I have created and enjoy. I don’t want to date because I am afraid of looking myself in the mirror, or sitting alone at a dinner table. I deserve the happiness that comes with waiting for the right person, and not settling on every point that used to mean something to me. I deserve to be loved wholly.
And, even if you don’t realize it, so do you.