When did this change happen? How did we, as a society, come to terms with the possibility of a loveless marriage and divorce, but not a marriage-less life?
I do not have the expertise to theorize about society, but I can tell you how it happened to me. It happens when one forgets that one owes it to oneself to be loved by someone one wants wholeheartedly, not by someone one merely tolerates because one is afraid of being single forever.
After my last breakup (which I wanted, just not with so much drama), I had started questioning myself—“Why did this happen to me?” “Why can I never meet a decent man?” It ended with, “What do I want in a guy?”
So four months before my thirtieth birthday, I signed up for online dating and started spreading the word to everyone that I was on a mission: I was going to go on at least fifty dates this year. I figured statistics would be in my favor.The result?
In six months time, I had spoken to about thirtu different guys and been on a total of twenty-two dates with six different guys. Looking back, I am glad I actively changed my outlook about men (i.e., they are not all odd!), improved on my looks, did get asked out, and then went on as many dates as I did with as many varied guys. I realized I’m an exceptionally good date even when I don’t foresee a second date. I was having fun dressing up every week and finding out interesting bits about people who are sort of similar but also so different from me. The attention was quite flattering, even when the results were not that great. I had still not met one guy I could potentially see myself spending the rest of my life with.
I decided to stop after a friend set me up with her friend because we’d have similar interests (work, salsa, movies). I had met the guy and knew he was interested so I agreed. This guy turned out to be the most boring date I’ve ever been on and unfortunately it went one for almost five hours. What kind of thirty-seven-year-old man says he spends Saturdays doing laundry and grocery and Sundays visiting his mom? After ignoring his phone calls for a day or so, I had to use the “we don’t have enough chemistry” line because I didn’t want our mutual friend to be embarrassed.
There were not bitter dates, but I had hit dating fatigue. It gets exhausting after a while with constantly communicating with people when you clearly don’t see any future with them. However, the mission was accomplished. I do have the answer for “What I want in a guy.” So I decided to stop dating. Not to say that I’ve stopped looking or that I’m vowing spinsterhood. But I am, for the first time, proud to say that I’m reveling in my singlehood. I’ve never been more at peace.
Finally, with the lessons from dating, I am excusably carefree of the advice of others about “how to find the one” because I’ve done them all and deaf to the “oh, stop being picky and you’ll find someone” sentiments abundant around me. I would still love to, one day, meet a guy with whom I can foresee a future. But it is only one of the many things to happen in my life that will one day give me things to reminisce about when I’m eighty-five and playing AI scrabble at the old-folks home, sitting in a room with slightly smelly old couches. I welcome that future room, as it’s unavoidable with age-induced physical incapacity.
Then it occurred to me— in the meantime, I had been erroneously constructing another room with interesting things to fill up time while waiting for life to start. That is not how it should be!
Life has already started and I’m still physically capable of roaming outside. It’s a good start that I’ve built lasting friendships, cultivated some interests, and created a “bucket list” (with a lot of things checked off already). But I’ve yet to passionately pursue something, which will not only round up my understanding of life but sharpen it. I want to move beyond self-preservation to self-realization. “A touch of infinite,” as Tagore will say.
My mark in the world that is uniquely me, outside of my relationship status.
I don’t have the details figured out, but I have a start.