Getting a facial…
Tammy, the aesthetician: “Still no boyfriend? Even with your new beautiful skin?”
Me: “Haha nope, still single.”
Tammy: “That’s okay, we’ll fix you up and you’ll meet someone.”
Me in my head: eye roll
Getting bloodwork for my yearly physical…
Lab tech: “Who has the other half of the heart?”
I look at her confused and she points to my necklace. I glance down at my Fibonacci spiral necklace and explain, “Oh, no it’s not a heart. It’s a spiral. Like a math sequence thing.” I leave it at that, not really in the mood to condense the complicated nature of why the spiral means so much to me into an elevator speech as she sticks a needle in my arm. “No one has the other half of my heart.”
Lab tech: “No? Well, we need to find you a husband.”
Me in my head: I should have just explained the Fibonacci spiral.
At a work conference…
Old colleague I haven’t seen in over a year: “So how’s your love life?” (literally, the first thing she asked after we said hello and exchanged the usual “how are you?” pleasantries.)
Ten minutes later…
Old boss I haven’t seen in over a year: “So do you have a boyfriend?” (again, the first thing she asked after the initial hug and hello)
Back for another facial…
Tammy: “Do you have plans tonight?”
Me: “No, I’m just laying low.”
Tammy: “You need to go out. You won’t find a husband if you’re at home. And you need to find a husband so you can have kids before it’s too late.”
Me: “Yea I’m not really sure the marriage thing is for me.”
Tammy: “What?” She starts laughing, completely brushing it off. “You just haven’t found a good guy yet. When you find him you will know.”
Me in my head: I give up.
And this was all in the span of a month or so. When you’re single at my age, you rack up these stories at a rapid pace. And I usually just play along. I don’t return the invasion of privacy by asking “So how’s the sex in your marriage?” And I don’t argue with the Tammy’s of the world that actually no, I don’t need a husband.
It’s an unavoidable truth in my experience that thirty-something and single people (a la me) seem to make other people uncomfortable. Some look at me with a pain behind their eyes that assumes I’m sad and lonely and unfulfilled. Others have a slight judgment in their tone because clearly there must be something wrong me; I must be one of those normal-on-the-outside but crazy-on-the-inside girls. Most just look at me with complete bewilderment, unable to comprehend and accept that “someone like me hasn’t found someone yet.” Thanks… I guess.
It’s time to set the record straight. For all the times I just nodded along and agreed with the “he’s out there, you just haven’t found him yet” soliloquies; bit my tongue suffering through dating advice from complete strangers; or struggled to look interested listening to story after story of how other people met their husbands, now it’s my turn…
This is going to read like a single girl pride blog, but my point is much bigger. My point is that we redefine expectations and allow some flexibility for what’s considered normal…and especially what someone’s happiness looks like.
Let me be clear – I’m not anti-marriage. But I am anti the idea that marriage is the only way to my eternal happiness. I’m anti the expectation that I should get married because that’s what’s normal. I’m anti my life and my happiness being confined to a certain set of choices.
Yes, I’m single. But no, that doesn’t mean I’m lonely. When I want company, I make plans. When I want to be alone, I’m alone. It took me a long time to get to a point where I was happy spending time with just me. I cherish that accomplishment. I’m my favorite date.
Yes, most nights I sleep alone. But no, that doesn’t mean I wake up and woefully look over to the empty side of the bed reaching for someone who isn’t there. I pop out of bed after a restful night’s sleep without anyone snoring or bumping into me.
No, I’m not worried about dying alone. I’m pretty sure I won’t care – or maybe even know – that I’ve died alone… because I’ll be dead. But okay, I know the real point with that concern – who will I grow old with? Well, they’re called friends and family and lucky for me both groups are expanding. I may not have children to take care of me, but I’ll have my old lady friends who I play weird card games with and eat dinner at 4:30pm. I bet I can even convince them to all live together because let’s face it – men usually die first anyway so their husbands likely won’t be around. When you think about it, assisted living facilities are like old people versions of sorority and fraternity houses… and bonus – they’re coed!
Yes, I believe in love. I’ve loved, and I’ve been loved. Maybe someone still loves me to this day. I still love some of them to this day. I believe the love can still exist without the life together. And that doesn’t make the love any less impactful. Men have come into my life and opened my eyes, relocated my home, broke my heart, and renewed my hope. I’m grateful for each and every one of them. And I’m grateful for all the ones yet to come. With each experience comes more learning… about them, about me, about love, and about life.
No, by most people’s definition I don’t currently have a soul mate per se. But I’ve had the honor to spend time with, get to know, and experience some incredible souls. Why does that hold less value? We aren’t expected to only have one friend for the rest of our life.
And why do we only define soul mates in the romantic sense? In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you will ever meet because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.”
By that definition I’ve had – and still have – several soul mates. From my mother and my sister holding up mirrors I never want to look in, to friends tearing down my walls and smacking me awake to all the fun this life has to offer, my soul mates have taken many forms.
I’m not saying I’ll never get married. I’m just saying I don’t need to get married. My mind is open. And I ask the same from you. If you’re happy in your marriage, kudos to you. But don’t tie my happiness to the choices you made for your life.
“We need to find you a husband.” Do we? Do we really? Why? Because that’s something every woman needs? That’s a very pre-feminist movement way of thinking. Ironic those comments come mostly from women. Last time I checked I’m financially independent, I change my own light bulbs, I’m not afraid to kill a spider, I get my oil changed regularly, I can make my own travel arrangements, I can follow IKEA instructions… oh, and I have an excellent vibrator. So I would argue my needs are met.
I’m being snarky, I know. But come on ya’ll – why do we have this singular line of thinking? Why is there this enormous expectation of marriage placed on us? It’s gotta be worse for women. If I were a dude, the lab tech probably would have high fived me and asked for a juicy story. Instead, I got a sad look and an online dating plug.
From Tammy and my old coworkers to the stranger taking my blood, why do we feel the need (or the right) to place someone’s happiness in a box? In predefined expectations of what life should look like? For the most part, I know the intentions are usually from a good place. But behind that intention is an assumption that something is missing from my life. An assumption that being single means certain things.
So on behalf of “all the single ladies,” please understand that single does not mean lonely. It does not mean unfulfilled. It does not mean unhappy. We don’t need dating advice. We don’t need stories about how other thirty-something women found their husbands. And we don’t need your assumptions about what we do need. Because we are not one half of the happiness equation.
Rather, in the absence of a husband, we’ve spent more time with ourselves. We’ve worked through our mistakes and found forgiveness. We’ve sat through the awkward silence until we were comfortable just being. We’ve learned to understand – and be patient – with our every mood. To be our own plus one. To wash and dry… and not resent it. Without a better half, we’ve found a way to be whole.
So it’s time we take the single life out of the lonely, unhappy box it seems to be residing in, and place it in a box right next to the married one… simply as a different option for happily ever after.
And for all the Tammy’s of the world… if you read this and are still thinking “oh she just hasn’t found someone yet,” then you’ve missed the whole point.