As a perpetually single Christian woman, I’ve read a lot of blog posts on singleness. I don’t seek them out. They mysteriously appear on my Facebook wall. Who knows where they come from originally, but they end up in my feed, like dust bunnies under a couch. They have titles like “How the Church Fails Singles” or “37 Things Never To Say To Single People” or “Singleness and Contentment” or “Using Your Singleness” or things like that. I usually read through them, but none of them really captured my attention. Probably because all of them were so SERIOUS. I’ve been putting off writing The Dreaded Singleness Post since I started this blog, but it’s time. The Time Is Now. My target audience is post-college single women in the 25-45 age range, but please, stick around.
I’m 30 and haven’t been asked out on a date since I started my job, and I’ve had my job for about 6 years now. Not that I think my job has anything to do with it. I just tell time by landmarks. I don’t remember specific years when things happen. Now, I don’t really know why I haven’t been asked out. In my lower moments, I can think of all sorts of reasons why guys wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me. Maybe I don’t talk enough. Maybe I’m uninteresting. Maybe I don’t seem interested. Maybe I seem too independent. Maybe I can’t cook. Maybe I’m not attractive. Maybe I’m mean without realizing it. Maybe it’s because I’m either overdressed or I look like one of the Lost Boys fro Hook. Maybe it’s because my eyebrows are constantly trying to take over my face.
Let me exhort you not to fall down that rabbit hole. If you have a specific concern, ask your family or a close friend in honesty and humility. “Am I careless with my words? Do I hurt people?” Don’t ask yourself. If you are asking the question, you either you don’t know the answer or you are ignoring the answer. So stop asking yourself questions that you don’t know the answer to and move on to something else!
Have you ever auditioned for anything? It’s a vulnerable, nerve-wracking, competitive experience, because you have to stand up on your own and perform to a room full of people who are there to judge you. Sometimes the cast list comes out and your name isn’t on it. The best advice I ever received about auditioning: Don’t try to figure out why you didn’t get the role. That’s a fast way to go mad or get bitter. Either you blame yourself and start obsessing about what you could have done differently, or you blame your competition. Either way, you can start thinking “I didn’t get it because I didn’t have enough breath control for that low note.” “I should have had more confidence coming in. “I’m too ugly for that role.” “She only got the role because she’s blonde – typical.” “Why did SHE get the role? My audition was so much better.” DON’T DO IT. The same thing applies to unwanted singleness. If you like a guy and he starts dating your best friend, how do you respond? It’s ridiculously easy to automatically blame your friend or blame yourself or blame the guy you liked. DON’T DO IT.
But like I said, those are the low moments. Most of the time, I’m happy and fine and enjoying life. But I do run into some hilarious singleness problems. Like people being concerned about me and offering me advice and comfort. It’s amazing how uncomfortable comforting can be sometimes. This is where all those “37 Things Never To Say To Singles” posts come from. But OH COME ON. How pretentious would it be to walk up with a scroll, dramatically unfurl it, and announce All The Thinges Which Maye Not Be Uttered In My Presence. That’s what those posts are like. Are people always going to say the right thing? No. Will they always be sensitive to the issue you’re handling right now? Nope. When people try to comfort you and do it clumsily, recognize their intention. Remember all the times that you clumsily tried to comfort a friend.
I have a little collection of singleness sayings at this point. One of my personal favorites: “Don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it.” At this point, I don’t know how I can expect it any less. But the winner of the most uncomfortable (and unintentionally hilarious) comforting was a lady who came up to me at my Grandaddy’s funeral. Here’s the scene – I’m in the receiving line and a kind stranger comes up to me and starts this gem of a conversation:
Lady: “Do you have kids?”
Me: “No, I don’t have kids.”
Lady: “But you have a husband, right?”
Lady (patting my hand): “Aww. It’s still just you and Jesus.” (Lady walks away, while I struggle to keep a straight face during all of this, because this was at a FUNERAL.)
Enough concerned people have asked me if I had tried online dating that I eventually joined OKCupid. There were a few reasons for this. Reason 1) If I tried it, I could just say “Yes. I have tried online dating” and quickly switch to a more interesting subject. Reason 2) It was free. 3) I’ve heard some success stories from OKCupid, so I was interested to see what it was like.
I think the main thing that drove me nuts about it was the inefficiency of the process. Inefficiency is fine when there is warmth and personality and kindness. Greece is inefficient, but if there’s blue ocean and delicious food, I don’t care how inefficient it is. But the deadly combo of inefficient AND impersonal eventually made me put the online dating account on ice. If I wanted inefficient and impersonal, I could run down to the DMV or get called involved in some other tedious bureaucratic process. In my opinion, trying to meet somebody shouldn’t feel like a part time job. What happened to the original matchmaking services, dinner parties and dances? I like those. If nothing came out of the dinner party, at least you got dinner. If nothing came out of the dance, at least you got to get dressed up and see all your friends. If nothing comes out of online dating, you’re just home in your pajamas, clicking through photos of strangers, probably holding a glass of white wine. No wonder we feel isolated sometimes. Real people are more fun than the ideas of people.
I want Amazon or Netflix to start an online dating service. Sure, it would be icy and impersonal and probably run by evil masterminds, but at least it would be highly efficient. Netflix wouldn’t even need me to fill out a profile – they already know too much about me. They know that on emotional days, I either want to watch Disney movies or the category they have labeled as Emotional East Asian Dramedies. If dating comes down to algorithms, I want a service with the very finest algorithms. Amazon’s dating service would come with reviews for each person. That would drastically simplify the process.
Truth be told, I am picky. Evidence to this fact: I’m 30 and oh so very single. But I’ve waited this long, so why should I settle NOW? It seems like bad timing. I’m holding out for great. I’m not planning on lowering my standards. If anything, my standards have gotten higher.
Okay, now I’m going to say some things that I should probably Never Say To Singles, but rest assured, everything I’m going to say to you, I’ve already had to preach to myself.
- STOP COMPLAINING THAT ADULTING IS HARD. Also, we need to stop using the word Adulting. Sure it’s hard. It’s real life. But you’re a real adult, so stop pretending that you’re still a child trying to do adulty things. You’re an adult doing what you have to do and have every capability of doing. Do you want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. Commit to things. Don’t have one foot out the door. As a single person, it’s easy to sit at the kid’s table for a lot longer. My younger sister feels more like an adult than I am, because she has a husband, three kids, and a household that she has to run. But that’s a feeling. The truth is that I’m just as much of an adult, but it’s easier to not see myself that way. It’s time to put down roots and start building my own household. If I’m building that household on my own right now, that’s not a problem.
2. GIVE UP THE HYPOTHETICAL TIMELINE AND LIVE IN THE REAL ONE. It’s easy to sigh and think, “When I was in college, I assumed I’d be married and have kids by this point.” That’s a hypothetical timeline, but it feels more real the more you dwell on it. This feeds into a particular smart girl problem of being terrified of falling behind or failing. Sometimes it feels like I fell behind a long time ago and now I’ll never catch up. It’s not a race. Don’t feed the fake timeline. Give up your disappointment. Give up the fake competition. This is the real timeline. Live in it and love it.
3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS. If I could have one thing written on my tombstone, I’d want it to be Good Friend. Cultivate your existing friendships and always be open to new ones. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but be a good friend to your family. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore that aspect of family, but being friends with your siblings and your parents is one of the best things in the world. Spend the time and really invest in people. Let your focus be external, rather than internal. Focus less on being interesting to other people and focus more on being truly interested in other people.
4. BECOME ADMIRABLE. Keep learning. Keep improving. Become an intimidating force of nature. Do the hard things that you have to do and don’t complain about it. I find it so easy to complain. Way too easy. I don’t want to be a wimp or a whiner. If an amazing man does come along someday, I want to be standing on my two feet and carrying out a plan, because that’s what I’d expect from him.
5. USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN. A couple days ago, I was reading The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. It’s one of the hardest parables for me to read. “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.” (Matthew 24:24-25) I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy to me to feel sorry for that man with one talent, but that is because he uses the same excuse that I do. LORD, I WAS AFRAID. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO DO. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO? The answer is anything except nothing. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If he had put the talent in the bank, he would have at least earned interest on it. Don’t be afraid, because fear only paralyzes. Use whatever you have been given.
Love isn’t a feeling. It’s something that you do. Don’t sit and wait for love. Don’t bury it in the ground. Don’t be afraid. Love God and love your neighbor. That’s it. That’s what we’re told to do. Loving other people does not require any other person giving love to you. God has already given you all His love. More than enough for you to give away every second of every day for as long as you last. Don’t be afraid.
So whatever I go for this year, I want to go full out. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. I want to do anything except nothing. I want to invest in people and build up my friendships. I want to put down roots and not be afraid that it’s the wrong thing. It’s not the wrong thing. The wrong thing would be to bury what I’ve been given in the ground.
To all my single ladies, my amazing friends: I love you so much. You’re like those classic actresses in black and white movies – fierce, funny, witty, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful. Most people don’t think they make women like that anymore, but I know that’s not true, because I know my friends. I’m telling you that you are all worth getting to know and it’s my privilege to know all of you. Are you intimidating? Absolutely. Please don’t lower your standards. You don’t need to settle for mediocre. You deserve legendary.