I’ve been frequently asked why I don’t have a boyfriend for about six years now. I guess it all started around the time I turned eighteen. At first, I used to answer with a shrug and a smile. It was usually during Sunday family lunches, and it was usually a question uttered by my grandmother.
My mom’s side of the family is Italian, big, loud, affectionate – but also quite indiscrete. I could say I come from a pretty conservative family, but not a conventional one.
You see, my grandma used to ride a motorcycle everywhere during her twenties. She was a teacher, and the first person in her family to get a college degree (despite her dad’s disapproval). Women who studied, women who worked, and particularly women who rode motorcycles in the fifties where far from common in the city where she lived. What’s more, she was approaching thirty and remained unmarried.
It was around the age of 28 that she met my grandpa. He had been a silent admirer for a long time: my grandma used to ride by his street every day on her way to work, and he and his friends had named her “the girl with the motorcycle” – because, well, she was the only one.
He caught sight of her one summer night at an outdoor party, approached her and said: “so, where’s the motorcycle?”
She turned around and saw this tall, elegant guy with a drink in hand and a goofy smile on his face. She looked him up and down and, after a few seconds, burst out laughing.
They’ve been together for 56 years.
Why am I telling you this? Well, first because I think it’s a pretty damn cool anecdote. But also because I eventually realized that I can totally use this beautiful story against my grandma’s incisive questions. Now, every time she asks me why I don’t have a boyfriend or someone in my family makes a reference to my singleness, I just say:
“I’m taking my time, just like grandma did – I mean, it worked for her, right?”
But this is what I would say if I ever decide to actually address the question instead of avoiding it.
1. “I’ve dated guys ‘just for fun’ but I don’t feel like doing that anymore.”
I used to date for the sake of dating. I always had fun, either because I had a great time or because an awful date left me with a funny anecdote. After all, comedy is tragedy plus time – am I right?
But after a while, it was just not worth it. Not even for the funny story. My dating life wasn’t thrilling anymore, it was just a parade of guys I didn’t have anything in common with (well, maybe we both liked Friends or something like that, but there’s only so much time you can fill by alternately reciting Phoebe’s iconic lines before wanting to stab yourself with a bread stick).
2. “I work from home as a freelancer and don’t like clubbing—that can really limit your possibilities of meeting new people in your twenties.”
I used to love partying. But since I finished college and started working about three years ago, I rather spend time actually talking to my friends, instead of trying to make sense out of what they are saying through the loud (and often awful) music.
I rather go to bars and have fun and meaningful conversations with the people I love, even if it means there’s less chance of meeting new people there.
Should I put myself “out there” a little bit more? Maybe. I am actually thinking about joining a book club or something like that and see if I can find some cute nerds over there.
3. “As I grow older and meet different people, I have come to know what I like and what I don’t – so I no longer get involved with guys I know for a fact won’t be a good match for me.”
Don’t get me wrong, I do leave room to surprise. It’s not like I have a checklist or anything. But after one or two dates I pretty much know whether there’s a future with that person or not. After all, it’s all about chemistry and compatibility. If you don’t have that from the start – what will you build a relationship on?
4. “I’ve fallen in love before. I know how it feels. And I won’t settle for anything less than that.”
I refuse to get into a relationship just for the sake of it. Being single – however lonely that may feel sometimes- doesn’t scare me. What scares me the most is the idea of being in the wrong relationship: one that’s not loving or fulfilling.
I’m not looking to be adored. I want a partner in crime, I want us to be a team. I want that relationship to be both passionate and fun – and I want both of us to be willing to work on it when it’s not.
If it takes me a while to find that, that’s okay. But again, I won’t settle for less.
5. “Dating apps make meeting new people easier, but they make building a relationship harder.”
Dating apps are a great option when you’re a freelancer who doesn’t party too often, and I’ve met really interesting people through them. But no relationship with someone I met through a dating app lasted more than three months. It seems like after the most exciting part is over, most people just want to go and find that fresh excitement again somewhere else.
The paradox of choice plays a big role here. We have so many options at the palm of our hand that, why stop looking? There can always be someone better right around the corner (or right around the next swipe).
There’s this perennial feeling that we’re missing on something. But instead of being happier about all these possibilities, this dynamic just leaves us (or, well, at least me) frustrated and exhausted.
I don’t often fall for someone, and when I do, I want to stay. I want to deal with wherever we have to deal with after those idyllic three months. I want to get through that and experience the other stages of the relationship.
But we’re in an era of instant gratification. Giving a lame excuse and start swiping right and left again is always easier. We’ve grown unaccustomed to trying, to really making and effort when everything’s not perfect, even when it’s still worth giving it a shot.
The idea that we have infinite possibilities of interacting with new dating prospects without even leaving our couch is leading us to treat people like they’re disposable. As soon as we find something we don’t like that much about the person we’re with, we treat that as a deal breaker and move on to the next one, and then on to the next one.
I don’t want to be judgmental, everybody is free to do as they please – but that’s just not my thing.
Also, I’m not saying this is always the case: I do have friends who are in happy, lengthy relationships with people they met on dating apps. But I’ve found that other pattern to be a lot more common.
6. “I’ve had my heart broken more than once. And that makes it hard for me to trust guys.”
Even if in my mind I know every guy is not the same, I still can’t shake the bad experiences I’ve had. I wish my past didn’t affect my present so much, but it does, and I can’t help it.
Trusting a new relationship takes a lot of courage for me. And it involves getting through a lot of anxiety. I’m willing to do that, but I kind of need the other person to give me a few signs that I can trust him – and constantly telling explicit anecdotes about previous hook-ups simply doesn’t help (I know, who would have thought?).
I guess I’ll stick with the other answer for now. I doubt my family would understand this without feeling pity or even be quiet long enough for me to explain this to them. But here it is. The truth. Not for them, but for me. And you, because I want to believe I’m not the only one going through this.