Hello, internet people! I know I promised to be a bit more regular with posts and I apologize for having not done the best job of it. In my defense, I did try writing a few posts, but they didn’t come out right and I realized I needed to wait a bit before I would have anything useful (read, not super depressing or bitter) to say.
You see, internet, I just had my heart properly broken for the first time. I needed a little time to figure out what you do when the break up wasn’t something you wanted or felt relieved about and when you’re also trying not to go back to the dark, scary bitter place you’d only recently dug yourself out of. But somehow I managed it and I’ve come out the other side smiling and ready to devote myself, once again, to the things that truly matter in my life–like writing, for instance. Hello, sorely neglected audience.
Because it’s the holidays, however, there are a lot of little reminders out there. Pandora is advertising engagement rings like nobody’s business (seriously, Verragio rings are super customizable, WE GET IT). Commercials involve men buying women jewelry and cars. Everyone and their brother is getting engaged and it’s popping up all over my Facebook feed.
And, worst of all, my customers are filling me in about their love lives and then quizzing me about my own.
These little reminders don’t really bother me, for the most part. During my last stint as a single woman, I really embraced the notion that it’s perfectly okay, and even preferable, to be single when the relationship you were in stops working for you. You, yourself, can be complete and happy on your own. However, that isn’t exactly the sort of thing that people want to hear around the holidays. They tend to believe that even if you say it with a grin, you must be miserable that you’re single and your life must just be terrible because no one is popping up behind you with a terrifying grin and something hideous from the Open Heart collection (sorry, lady, but I think your necklace design kinda looks like two deformed bubble booties stuck together).
For instance, yesterday I was showing a woman some jewelry and she began talking about how hard it is to shop for her husband. I gave her a knowing smile, and said “I almost had to deal with that this year, but I actually just got out of a relationship, so I don’t have to worry about it.” I said it calmly, with a look that I thought clearly indicated how I was actually pretty relieved not to have to worry about a guy gift (never mind that i had the t-shirt picked out and in my Amazon cart).
But that isn’t how she took it. She shook her head a bit sadly and said “You should date my son, if only he lived here. He’s 29.” This woman who didn’t even know me was halfheartedly but still somewhat seriously offering me her son off the basis of, I assume, my tolerably acceptable looks and the fact that I was single. JUST single. Not searching. I played off quite calmly on the simple fact that that was way too much of an age difference, but the conversation still irked me; this woman who didn’t even know me automatically assumed that I would be happier if I had a man in my life.
It’s something I am being reminded of as I re-enter the world of singleness after a few months in a relationship that was actually not horribly stressful 24/7 (I know, I was shocked, too). A lot of people don’t subscribe to the same notion I do, that being single is generally preferable to being in a relationship that makes you miserable.
When you’re dating yourself, you don’t really have to compromise. If you want Chinese, you eat Chinese–no worrying about a boyfriend who doesn’t like Chinese food. When you don’t want to go out, you stay in and don’t even have to shower or put on make up or anything! You don’t have to shave your legs. Certainly, these small compromises and bursts of effort are just part of being in a relationship, but they are only worth it if that relationship is adding to, rather than subtracting from, your happiness.
That’s not to say I don’t think there should never be a rough patch in even a good relationship, but rather that it’s important to remember that you owe it to yourself to keep only positive things in your life and to know when what you need is just to be you. I was heartbroken when my boyfriend told me our relationship wasn’t working out for him, but I understood that that was what he needed because I have been there. In the end, not working for one person is the same as not working for both: you can only be happy together if you both want to be there and it’s enriching both of your lives. It took a few weeks, but I remembered why I hadn’t been searching when I stumbled on him, and why I’m not searching now; romantic relationships are not the defining aspect of who you are and they are not always the key to your happiness.
So, all of this is mostly just to say that we shouldn’t assume that just because other people are single they are searching for a relationship. The first thing people said to me when I mentioned that I’d been broken up with was often “You deserve better” and “there’s better out there for you” and even just “you’ll find someone else.” Meanwhile, I’m just looking at them thinking “It’s not that I need just anyone. I liked that one! It’s not a phone I just want to swap out because I have to have one, thank you very much.”
Just because so and so says she’s single does not mean she’s begging you to list off all the also-single men (or women) that you know. Some of us are actually pretty okay being single, at least until someone worthwhile happens to pop into our lives. Certainly if I met someone tomorrow who seemed worth a chance, I would be willing to give them one. But I am not out on the prowl, not actively seeking out male companionship to fill a void. I am content and settled, with a vague and neatly tucked away hope and faith that one day I will find someone with whom I can share my whole, happy self and make a life together–not two parts of a whole but two complementary and complete individuals sharing their lives for the fun of it. And if not, well, there’s a lot more to life than dating, and I can enjoy those things with friends and family just as well. And you can, too.