Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing much lately. Some of you probably don’t even know that this blog is supposed to include posts from two people who agreed to do it together, and I am the lame duck half of this arrangement.
We can pin it on work, which has been busy and absorbing for the past year-and-a-half, a move or two or three, and other things which are boring to list because they’re really just life things that everyone deals with. Add to that, TV that must be watched because…well, it must.
We can blame it on whatever we want to, but the truth is I’m not writing much these days for my own personal enrichment about being single. In my twenties, I had a lot–too much, actually–to say about being single. To be fair, there IS a lot to say about being single that needs to be said. I’m just a bit tired of it all, these days.
Part of the reason these stories must be told is because the cultural narrative of ‘the life well-lived’ in the American Dream sense is quite narrow. It leaves many people in the margins, wondering what that vision means for them once they go off the rails of the well-trodden path of childhood-teenagedream-collegepartyanimal-sexysingle-married-marriedwithkids. Speaking from the margins, reminds people–me included–that they are not the only ones who live there. And they (me) need to be reminded, to have those “oh, me too!” moments.
So all that is to say that I still believe writing these stories and experiences down and sharing them matters. And yet, I find myself struggling to do it. I wonder sometimes if I’ve just given up on the whole issue of my personal struggle with singleness. Given up trying to make sense of it. Given up trying to fight it. Given up trying to change it.
The truth is that I stopped writing right around the time that I ended a very brief online friendship/conversation/flirtation with someone I had secretly been interested in for a very long time before that. (I don’t want to tell you how long, but let’s just say it’s a “you’re justified for judging me” length of time). We had never met in real life. (it took me forever to write that sentence and I changed it 27 times, and it never got better. So I’m now just putting it in there as bald truth.)
There it is. I had fallen in love with a hope. It wasn’t a fantasy, either. The dream had a connection to reality, which actually made it worse than if it was total fiction. It was possible. Not probable, but possible. So when I fell in love with hope, several years earlier than last fall, that small sense of potential kept me a little bit insulated from the ups and downs of being single and lit my path through the darker elements of being alone, struggling in a career, navigating difficult roommates, and surviving the marriages of two younger siblings and twenty-five or so friends.
The fall of 2015, for some reason, was the time for change. I started a new job, was preparing to move to an adjacent city, and one day I simply decided that the half-hearted letters introducing myself that had piled up in my drafts folder had to stop. Potential wasn’t good enough anymore. I kept asking myself “what have you got to lose?” After all, he didn’t go to my church, wasn’t someone at work, he wasn’t even in a community nearby–if it was an awkward “no thanks” in response to my carefully crafted question, it would change nothing in my life, and disappoint no one in my immediate circles. This may seem like an odd benefit, but it’s difficult enough to develop good friendships in your 30’s without then alienating those friends by dating and/or dumping their friends. I’ve damaged near-lifelong relationships by disappointingly not falling in love with a friend of a friend.
But back to the crucial moment of hitting send. After all, I was 35. It was about time I asked someone out on a date.
So I wrote the note, and sent it. Then I shut down my computer and went to bed. I even deleted the app from my phone. I couldn’t bring myself to open my inbox the next morning, so I waited for my lunch break. I couldn’t melt down in the office, after all.
There was a response. It was kind. He was flattered. He was funny. He appreciated the note, and said “I would be very interested in getting to know you better.”
I was suddenly the incarnation of joy. I’d never felt so elated. For one thing, I was right. I am always afraid of my reads on people, especially men. But I had read the situation correctly. Maybe my intuition was actually working in my favor this time.
I had been brave, thought I, patting myself on the shoulder, and sacrificed potential on the altar of truth. I had killed my darling. It had taken me years, and tears, and wondering, and doubting, and being afraid to exchange the phantom potential for a concrete answer. I had words, actual words. Words of affirmation, and appreciation, and kindness.
I wondered why I had been so afraid. I think I smiled for days. So this was it. This was what I had been waiting for fifteen years. It all seemed worthwhile, where in the past this long-term single situation of mine had felt arbitrary, desolate, and punishing.
Next week: Part 2