“Why are you still single?” a first-date asked me days ago. “You’re gorgeous, smart and easy to talk to.” Then he shook his head as if bracing for a complex answer and I quietly sighed my here-we-go-again sigh.
Because I have not found a man remarkable enough to share my life with right now. Because I don’t want to settle for anything less than what I really want. Because I do well by myself and the longer that is true, the easier it is to hold out.
How do you say these true but potentially off-putting things to a new man you are hoping to appeal to without seeming pompous or uninterested?
Stalling, I lobbed the question back to him. The intelligent, accomplished-yet-humble man who had shown up on time with a dozen roses and provided three hours of great conversation and company.
Like me, he was long-divorced with casual relationships outnumbering serious ones. Like me, he’d been a single parent with a day job and a side hustle gobbling up time. Like me, he periodically tried for another shot at romance anyway because it’s such a human thing to do.
Part of me never expects the “Why are you single?” question. It almost implies something wrong, missing or deficient. Like having eleven toes, a prescription for anti-psychotic meds or an attitude.
Still, I wanted credit for showing up and trying again so when my turn came I jokingly sang (badly) a few bars of Irish Rock Band U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
That is the answer. It always has been.
It is relatively easy to be in a relationship. So easy that there were two relationships I didn’t even know I was in until the men introduced me as their girlfriend.
It is much harder to be in the right one, and without the urgency to settle down just for the sake of coupling, single is where you land. I’ve been married, reproduced, make my own money, have family and friends, am VERY self-entertained and stubborn enough to put on my big-girl panties and handle whatever life throws my way. Most importantly, I am also old enough to know that I am not going to die if there is no special man in the picture.
Make no mistake, I want Mr. Right, but I don’t need him. So, if Valentine’s Day triggered anything, it was my willingness to wait Cupid out until someone extraordinary is delivered. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he has to be perfect for me, which, theoretically, will be inspiring enough to believe being with him will be better than being without him.
That’s a tricky gauntlet to expect suitors to run, and I tend to dim my free-spirited fire to avoid giving the impression that I could just as soon be home writing about a date than being on it.
It surprises me sometimes that I am so good at it and that I enjoy the “treasure hunt” of courtship.
New guy took all of this in (things said, things unsaid) and stretched taller with a spark in his eyes that instantly felt he’d accepted a challenge. He called me a lion in a pet-name sort of way and I wondered if it was because of my big hair or because comfortably single women hold some type of allure for hunters who want to capture, tame or mount creatures content in the wild. Silently, I was thinking Good luck with that, but again, these are not things said aloud, and we’ll see how it goes.
Around this point in the conversation, I had a flashback to little-girl me who never played with dolls. Never played princess dress-up. Never held make-believe weddings in the backyard. Yet, I did get married on a sunny hillside in a dress I already owned, and having had my share of boyfriends, lovers and such, know I am capable of nuptials and partnership. But flying solo is sweet too. Can’t I celebrate them both?
Yesterday at the spa, I also clearly remembered teenage-me thinking that it was possible to have more than one great love and that I would be one of those women choosing the man right for the “season.” One of those women content coupled, content single.