Let me just preface this by stating, plainly, that I’ve always hated dating.
I love my boyfriend. I hate dating. And yes, you can have it both ways.
Lately, perhaps especially lately, now that I’m all holed up in my perfect apartment with my perfect boyfriend, living my perfect life, I’m especially mortified with what the single ladies have to put up with on a daily basis. When I tell you that, had I not found James when I did, I might have stayed single forever, what I mean to say is I had become very comfortable with the notion that I’d end up with several PhDs and a puppy. Odds are I’ll still end up as such, except now I’ll do it sleeping next to Mr. Viscardi every night. Both plans suit me fine, the latter suits me better. That’s me.
And I’m a weirdo. You do the math.
But my single friends, I don’t envy them anything. Being a Single Lady in today’s culture is a fine line– internally mental and outwardly poised– between being Single and Fabulous! and Single and Lonely…
We’ve all seen Carrie Bradshaw do both equally well.
It’s true, that since we’ve moved in together, James and I have essentially stopped “dating.” He doesn’t take me out to nice dinners, we don’t sneak off to the movies. I’ve come home to flowers on the coffee table once. Why?
Because 1. I’ve never really been one for frills and romance. Would it be nice occasionally? Sure. Every girl likes it occasionally. Am I going to make him sleep on the couch because we’ve yet to frequent Babbo? Nope. He’s warm. I like him sleeping next to me. And, 2. It’s just too much damn work. Will he still cuddle with me if I don’t bother to shave my legs every single day? Yep. Will I still do all manner of dirty-fun things with him if he doesn’t buy me flowers and write me songs about how pretty my hair is? Absolutely. Hey. Don’t judge. A girl’s gotta get hers.
So what does it come down to? If you love dating– and increasingly, I feel like my peer-group does not LOVE dating– then a boyfriend might not be for you.
Except, what does that mean? There are ninety types of boyfriends all of the sudden, something to which I became privy Freshman year of college. What do you mean you’re allowed to sleep with a boy and then not instantly become his girlfriend? People do that?
Yes, they do, outside of Smalltown USA. The shoes are better here, too. Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you.
But there’s the downfall. It’s too damn complicated. And girls like myself who have a low-threshold for bullshit and a high-desire for individuality and independence feel the pressure to conform to the societal standards and shack up; but do we want to?
I do. I love James, I wouldn’t trade a minute of what we have together for the possibility of a life on my own. Why? Because I’ve had two things: 1. My share of crap relationships and 2. Time by myself to get to know myself.
Both are essential (I agree with Allison on this point) if you want to be any good for someone else romantically. If you can’t figure out what makes you smile, you can’t expect anyone else to. If you don’t know how to pull it together and ground yourself, you can’t hoist that off onto someone else. Figure yourself out before you make yourself someone else’s problem.
And isn’t that a process all of the sudden? I have a beautiful, intelligent, funny friend who dresses well, does her hair and make-up every morning and whose nails always look flawless. She likes small children and cats, and is one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve met. She’s educated, successful and can hold a conversation while selecting delicious foods ranging from Thai to Italian. She’s a total-package, and a keeper.
She’s also single, and navigating the dating-waters, and if I had a semi-decent male-human prototype handy with whom I thought she’d have a happy future, I’d totally throw this girl a lifeline. Because trying to figure it all out? Doesn’t look fun.
Because there’s always a guy, isn’t there? And he always wants to hook up, which seems so smart. (Thanks, Tequila. We all owe you one.) Then he presents the issues. Then he doesn’t want anything serious. Then he has a girlfriend. Or a fiance, because that’s always fun. He lives with his mother. He collects sock monkeys. He secretly wishes he could have worked for the CIA and would you like to see the collection of fingernail clippings he kept from his ex-girlfriends?
You would not. All you would like to see is the exit, please.
My Lovely Friend has not seen the fingernail clippings; her Male-Issue (for lack of a more politically correct nickname– ours are far too colorful for my PG-13 blog here) simply hooked her attention, strung her a long, let her down hard, pulled her back in, then skipped the country for several years promising to keep in touch.
This is a smart, reasonable, intelligent girl being sucked into an emotional vortex because Male-Issue doesn’t know his emotional ass from his literal elbow.
Could he be sincere? Sure. Might he keep in touch? Absolutely. Does he in any way, shape or form deserve another chance to prove to her that he’s not a total shithead? Not in the slightest.
But here’s where the balancing act comes in. Every self-respecting female out there right now is shaking their heads to themselves (because most self-respecting females are alone, as they respect themselves far too much to lower their standards to what’s Available in the Dating Pool these days) because the obvious choice is to Let the Loser Go.
But! There were sparks. And there was ambiguous language, which was translated from BoySpeak into any number of possibly English Language meanings. And he obviously cares. And he sends her songs! They met at work, and their one date was phenomenal, and the ball is in his court and he’s telling her and showing her that he thinks she’s worth it to try.
Here’s what it comes down to. At the end of the day, we all want to be the princess. We all want it to work, for the story to be so epic in the retelling that the audience chokes up with emotion– elation. We want the fairy tale, damnit, and we’re only as concerned with finding it as we are with someone realizing that that’s what we’re seeking.
My Lovely Friend made it a point to reiterate over dinner that she’s a smart, logical person. She said it at least four times. I’ve known her for years; her intellect and beauty has always far surpassed mine. She is smart. She is beautiful and is talented and is passionate. She is someone worth holding on to. Male-Issue sees this, or he wouldn’t be sending her sappy Jason Mraz songs from across the Atlantic. The only person from which all of her stunning qualities seem to be masked is her– and I promise you, Internet. She’s a person worth knowing. A person worth keeping.
Which brings to light my biggest fear… That my single friends are somehow going to lose sight of how amazing they all are as this game takes its toll on them, round after round. I know how it is; I dated more losers than any girl should have to through college. And I dated some really great guys. And I learned a lot about myself, and I spent some time alone. Most of it was by choice, some of it was by default. I cried, and I spent nights wondering if anyone would ever look at me and see something worth loving. There was a time when I was, unquestionably, broken. And even after I had pieced myself back together, and taken another huge hit, I felt like damaged goods for a very, very long time. Mismated. Defective.
Somehow though all the complication, and the tequila, and the mediocre feel-desirable sex, you just find your way back into the light. You cry less and laugh more and get manicures with your girlfriends and remember all the reasons you loved Jane Austen novels in the first place. You overdose on marathons of Grey’s Anatomy and take up knitting and start jogging in the park. You get back to basics, and date if you want to, and don’t if you’re not inclined. Study. Learn. Grow. Giggle. Fall in love all over again.
It’s quite a process. It was– especially in my very-early-20s– the most challenging and foolish and rewarding and eye-opening thing I did, dating. Taught me more about myself than any internship, or any class. It taught me what I would and would not stand for. It taught me that my Big Girl shoes did not make my coping mechanisms very mature. It was a time of immense personal growth for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I also wouldn’t go back.
It brought me to where I am now. And right now, I’m sitting in my perfect apartment on the Upper East Side, talking to my perfect boyfriend about my perfect day. It’s not bad, once you find your way through the fog. I promise, girls. No matter what your story looks like now, even if it’s bad, take comfort in knowing that you’re nowhere near the end.
The single women I know have some of the best stories to tell about Dating Today. Allison is going to regale me with tales from the UWS and her dating life over dinner tomorrow. My Lovely Friend is keeping me looped in. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m not an expert, either. I don’t have anything to offer but opinions. I do believe in marriage, and the beauty of finding someone you can truly love forever. I don’t believe that anyone can tell you that at X-age, you’ll be ready to commit to someone. 30 is no more a threshold to me than 20. Age is arbitrary; it’s about where you are as a person when you happen to bump into the someone who’s Your Person.
It works. That’s all I know. After a fair amount of struggling, it all falls into place, and it’s bliss, all the unshaved legs and the no-pressure to be wearing pants while eating supper on the couch, watching old movies.
And, you know. Blah blah blah, happily ever after.