I hear that question on a consistent basis. As a “woman of a certain age”, the question has a negative connotation and people often blurt it out without thinking. The question implies that there is something wrong with me because I’m in my mid-thirties and single. Perhaps people use the question as a space filler. Perhaps the question is the result of tired and moldy heteronormative and patriarchal tradition that by my age I should be married with children. Perhaps people are just nosy. Perhaps it’s a compliment because I’m just so fabulous, it’s hard to fathom that I’d be single. Whatever the reason for the question, it’s annoying, antiquated, and offensive.
And, frankly, the answer is complicated. Or, maybe, the answer is very simple. The answer is: “life happens”. That would seem simple enough but what does that mean exactly? I started thinking about why I was single and made a list.
So…why am I (at almost 35 – ALMOST 35!) still single?
Dating is trash af – At bottom, I’m confident that if I wanted to date someone I could find someone to date. But I don’t like dating. It’s not fun. It’s not interesting. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys the process. I like being in a relationship. It’s comforting. It makes me happy. But I hate dating and I don’t want to do it. I made a conscious decision a couple years ago to stop wasting energy on things that made me unhappy or did not positively impact my life. Spending time swiping left on dating apps was on that list. I have never ever had a great date result from a dating app or website so I stopped using them. The dating process is uncomfortable, unnatural and annoying. So I don’t do it. And I don’t feel bad about it. I feel like I should feel worse about it. I feel worse about feeling like I should care about dating than I feel about not dating. When I was growing up, the cartoon “Cathy” was popular and my vision of a mid-30s single woman was someone with frizzy hair yelping “ACK!” a lot, eating chocolate and complaining A LOT about being single. I’m now in my mid-30s and feel guilty that I’m not yelping “ACK!”, eating chocolate or complaining about being single. See, kids. This is how the media poisoned us all.
I Needed to Be Single – I’ve been single for over three years. Prior to that time I had not been single for nearly a decade. It’s been necessary. When I became single, I was utterly exhausted. I had expended a lot of energy and just wanted to be alone. On top of that, I had a truck load of insecurities, self-esteem issues and trauma I needed to work through. And, while that work continues, when I was younger I leaned on relationships to fix those issues. Helpful hint? That’s not how that works. That’s not how any of that works. Instead of working on myself, I just leaned on relationships and grew increasingly upset when the presence of another person didn’t fix me. Again, that’s not how that works. In the words of the all mighty Solange: I tried to drink it away. I tried to run it away. (That was not an exact quote…anyway listen to her new album.) Upset about multiple sexual assaults? Don’t try to fix it with a boyfriend. That is my tip to you. You are welcome. Another tip? Use organic cucumber vodka to make mojitos. It’s super refreshing. TRUST ME. When I became single, I was searching for quick fixes. But, about two years ago, I realized that there was no “quick fix” and that I’d just have to undertake the consistent work of moving through trauma and being the best version of myself I could be through self-care: therapy, fostering positive friendships, exercise, eating decent (I would say “well” but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *breath* HAHAHAHAHAHAH) and drinking wine (*angel halo appears over my head*). I’m not saying it’s a lesson I couldn’t have learned while in a relationship. I’m simply saying that it didn’t finally click until I was alone. So I believe the last three years have been necessary. I feel stronger and like a better person than before.
Sometimes things don’t work out – I had a few long term relationships that didn’t work out. Each one ended because of different reasons. There was nothing dramatic. Well…maybe there was a little drama along the way. But nothing that left a long term psychological scaring that required extensive therapy. So by that measure everything has been pretty run of the mill. The relationships just didn’t work out. And it just so happens that the last one ended when I was 31. So that’s that.
I’m “too picky” – I’m nearly 35 years old. I know what I want and it’s a particular set of qualities. And I’m not going to compromise the things I want. If I desire a certain level of compatibility and qualities for my friends, why wouldn’t I be just as picky with a potential romantic partner? I used to say, “Oh I’m not picky. I just want a really nice guy.” I’m grown enough to realize that I want more than that and not to feel ashamed of that fact. There are a ton of nice people in the world. Being nice doesn’t de facto mean we’re going to get along. And, frankly, at this age if I were only looking for a “nice” guy without any other discernible qualities I’d be disappointed in myself. If that’s how being “too picky” is defined then I am proud to be labeled as such.
So, in other words: Life happens.