It is a truth universally acknowledged that we can’t always date who we want.
I’ve been both the rejector and the rejectee – and even if it’s mutual, it’s still the pits. Blame it on timing or distance or one person deciding that they’re just not that into the other; whatever the circumstance, love can knock the wind out of you.
I’ve grown really hesitant about writing about singleness online, mostly because sometimes it brings up some well-meaning but largely unhelpful responses (not from YOU, my compassionate friends. But from The Others). For example:
- Love will find you when you’re not looking. I would wager that 95% of couples I know were “looking” when they found each other – cab light on, antenna up, and putting out the vibe.
- Just be content with God alone – then he’ll bring you a husband. As if marriage is a reward for the very most devoted. Super lame formula.
- Maybe you should try online dating. It’s 2015 – of course I’ve tried online dating! A bunch of times. And while I know plenty of people who have had great success with it, I hate online dating more than I hate pickles, which is a lot, which is why I don’t do it anymore. It just doesn’t jive with me. If this decreases my “odds,” so be it.
- I can’t understand why you’re single. While I know this is usually meant as an encouragement, it insinuates that there must be a “reason” I’m single. What if there’s no reason, except that I am? I can’t give a reason.
- You should enjoy this time. I am enjoying this time. I am traveling, spending and giving money the way I deem best, investing in friends both male and female, pursuing some passions, learning, moving where and when I want to, and reveling in the delicious silence of living alone. Silence is a gift. Someday when babies are screaming and – God forbid – Caillou is blaring, I will shoot up my veins with the stored silence of these quiet days. I am taking full advantage of this relatively uncomplicated life and living well, as best as I know how.
- You’re just too intimidating. I can’t tell if that’s an insult or a compliment, but either way, I am drawn to men with guts.
- Here’s a rough one: Pity.
- And finally, my favorite flurry of contradictions: You should flirt. You should play hard to get. Stop being picky. Keep your standards high. Look for a guy at church. Look for a guy at a bar. Look for a guy on the top of a mountain. Put yourself out there. Just pray about it. Try harder. Just stop trying.
May I gently suggest some alternative things to say to a friend who happens to be single and hopes to someday not be?
- I think you’re a catch. That is, if you really do think that. If the person is a schmuck, well, I suppose you’re allowed to say that too.
- I’m sorry that this feels hard today. Regardless of one’s relationship status, I think we can all agree that some days are great and some days suck.
- I am so hopeful. This one is especially good when the other person is tired of hoping. I’ve found it really nice to occasionally let someone else carry the hope for me, like a really huge backpack, until I know I can take it back.
- You’re doing a good job. Period.
These days, I can honestly say that most of the time, being single doesn’t make me sad – because in so many ways, I love it! Even when I experience false starts. When the guy I’d been on three dates with and decided that I really liked texted me when I was at Home Depot to say he thought we should just be friends, or another guy called me before a first date to tell me that God had told him not to take me out (?), or even in the wake of a recent romantic bummer, I’m bouncing back and living forward – which is the healthiest thing to do, no matter if one is single, dating, or married.
We can’t always date who we want. We can’t engineer our lives to manipulate our futures. We can’t speed up time, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen next. We can’t control another person. We can’t “If You Build It, They Will Come” love – unless you are building a brewery.
But we can still choose to be happy. And I’m getting pretty good at the choosing.