I’m waiting with an acquaintance outside a bus stop when he asks me out for coffee and I can tell by the way he looks at his feet while his voice trails off that it’s not just a coffee.
“Like a date?” I ask.
He smiles. “Yeah, like a date.”
I’m thinking of the best way to phrase this, and me running out of time while he waits for a response, I go with the straight honesty that has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion.
“I’m flattered, and I think you’re really great, but I’m not dating right now.”
It’s a sentence I knew I’d have to say at some point, and I expected it to feel more empowering. I half expected Gloria Steinem to come out from behind a building and to pin a ribbon on me, like I leveled up in feminism.
Then again, the point of me shooting the poor guy down wasn’t to prove a point, and it’s not like I wouldn’t at least consider it later on, but lately I’ve been feeling the more emotional side of singlehood and I needed to wade in it for a bit.
I grew up the artsy, nerdy, shy type but despite this, I was the first of my friends to be in a multi-year relationship. After that, I bounced from paramour to paramour, long term relationship to short term folly. I spent 3 in my early-mid 20s with a man who I loved deeply but who wanted something different than I did. There was always somebody — somebody who I loved too much or I wanted too little, some gazing eyes at a bar, someone to “call next” or “close to not quite.” I was called everything from “too flaky” to “too needy.” I always had my eyes ahead, at least the bedroom eyes.
Looking back, the reason for this is that I didn’t know how to be happy unless there was at least the probability of someone being there. Can you really blame me though? “Happily Ever After” has been marketed to me since I was a little girl. While my father raised me to be militantly self sufficient, he still says to me, “I just want you to meet a good guy and be happy.”
I love my father and I know he means well, but I couldn’t help but think he’s selling this idea of happiness a little short.
So what happened? Well, one day in an odd twist of fate-there was no one. By this point I cut out random trysts because I realized they did nothing for me. Then of course, with the cold weather came the shrinking of social circles. After a while, I realized I couldn’t justify agonizing over anyone’s text messages. There was no one I anxiously awaited to see, no one who’s arms I wanted to dive into.
There was just me, and it was peaceful. For the first time in a long time, I was completely alone and it felt incredibly relaxing. I picked up random craft projects and started writing a hell of a lot more. I kept in better touch with my friends and family back east. I indulged completely into me, from long baths to having a Hershey bar for breakfast and from long aimless walks to Saturday morning errands dates with my roommate.
I started to see myself through kinder eyes too. My skin felt like my own, my smile was because I put it there.
I stayed at peace with myself and it felt great. I realized that when you stop putting other people or things in control of your happiness and start making you the boss, you end up happy. Simple as that.
It’s been a long road getting here and I just need to be. I need this more than I’ve needed anything else in a really long time.
So when I say I’m not dating, I don’t mean that I’m against relationships or flings or flirting. I’m not shrugging off the idea that any of that could happen. What I mean is that I just figured out how to really love myself and I want to do that by myself for a while. I’m not scared of losing. I don’t fear missing out. I trust that the same path that brought me here will bring me to many other great places too, and for now that is simply enough.