All the single ladies can agree with the following statement: The holidays are a challenging time. For me, this challenge is not related to any lonely feeling or desire for a significant other, but is completely in regards to the awkward familial questions about my relationship status or tremendous lack thereof.
I have been attending Thanksgiving at my Aunt’s cozy house in rural Minnesota for 12 years, and without hesitation each year I am asked if I’m dating any young gentleman. For 12 years my answer has been an elongated and awkwardly laughed, “Nooooo.” When the question is turned to my sister, her answer typically sounds like a light-hearted giggle and a variation of the words “Yes I’m still with (insert douchebag name here). It’s pretty serious.” In my mind the image appears as though they are all joyously laughing in the air and clinking champagne glasses while it has somehow started to snow directly over my head.
This year the question arrived after dinner and I was surrounded by my uncle, cousins, and overprotective mother. The question came, and my answer was a simple straight-forward, “Nope” (I decided not long ago that an awkward laugh is simply unnecessary. We get it. I’m forever alone). However, the typical optimistic banter that usually follows my response had vanished, and was replaced by an uncomfortable silence. The air felt still and the next question came with an atmosphere of predictability, as though it was horror movie and the dumb slutty chick was left alone in the car. Basically, I knew what I was in for.
“Well…do you like boys?”
Yikes. In my mind not having a boyfriend does not directly lead to lesbianism, but I’m sure this idea has been resonating in my Aunt’s mind for years. It certainly doesn’t help when my mom has said the phrase, “Boys like Sarah, but Sarah does not like them back.” These boys being one who had intense anger issues and the other currently works for a tea party congressman, which typically doesn’t mesh well with a girl whose family describes her as a “bleeding heart” liberal.”
There is nothing offensive about being gay. However, I think that it can be agreed the question might not have been the most tactful one to ask.
My mother, on the other hand, was very unhappy about the question and seemed like she was going to leap across the table and attack my aunt, recreating a Mean Girls cafeteria jungle scene. My reply was, “Ha yeah I like boys, but I don’t feel the need to keep dating one if he’s cuckoo.”
I have dated some absolute weirdos that I don’t feel a pressuring need to inform my extended family about.
Would you like me to tell you about the young man who whipped his penis out and helicoptered my roommates the first time he met them? What about the guy who wore a jiu-jitsu T-shirt and gym shorts on the first date? Maybe the one who has a lower lip tattoo that reads “Rock Star” because, in his words, “it makes me feel like a rock star!”
I spare my family the details of these escapades because these men are not even remotely worth mentioning as potential boyfriends. They only serve the role of comical anecdotes.
But honestly, why should the stories of these potential suitors be something that is even mildly important to share with family? My mind has never set dating as a priority because I wanted to accomplish things and I still do. Instead of asking me about my career or the fact that I finished my first marathon last month, my aunt choose to dwell on the fact that for 12 years I have not had a man in my life worth discussing. And I understand that 12 years of being mostly single is a long time. However, maybe for me, it is personally more fulfilling to be determined in relation to my job as a teacher. Or perhaps I want to make sure that I stay productive each day through running or reading than waste my time and energy on establishing a relationship with an individual that is just not a good match. At the end of the day, time is my most valuable resource and one that I won’t part with easily or waste.
Society has this ideal that women should only aspire to date and get married, and while that happiness is amazing, it is not all that I want in life. I cannot wait to be with someone who I love and value and am proud of mentioning at family gatherings. Until then I will stay accomplished and useful, and my family will have to start asking me questions about who I am as a person.
So next year when I’m inevitably hounded with the same question and I have no one worth speaking about, I will tell them about all the places I’ve traveled, kids I’ve taught, and races I’ve run.
If that doesn’t fly, I’ll resort to the probable truth. “Oh yeah, I dated a guy. He peed all over my bed the first time he stayed over.” Then I will stand up, refill my wine glass, take the longest sip, and smile.