"I just watched Sleepless in Seattle and cried through the whole entire thing," my mom confessed on the phone last Sunday night. I knew where this was going, and it always leaves me feeling both better and worse.
"I just want you to find someone so badly -- you're such a wonderful person, you deserve someone really special..." she said.
"I know mom, I do too," I sighed. Somehow, knowing that she's as frustrated as I am brings me an odd sense of comfort. Like at least someone notices and shares my pain.
But then my dad got on the phone. And in true man-fashion, tried to "fix" the problem.
"You have to put yourself OUT there more, Susan. You'll never meet anyone if you don't make it a priority."
I think I went from 0 to 60 faster than my Z3 pulls out of a gas station on a New Jersey highway.
"That's so insulting!" I screamed into my speakerphone. "What am I supposed to do? It's not like I've purposely turned down dates with amazing men to 'focus' on my career. Or with any men, for that matter. I just haven't met him yet!"
I felt badly, because I know the suggestion came from his desire to see me happy, if not also to finally have the grandchildren he understandably longs for. Three kids and nearly 50 years of marriage later, my parents' only grandbabies are my cats: Peanut and Pumpkin.
But honestly, suggesting that the reason I'm still single is because I'm doing something wrong is perhaps one of the worst things you can say to me. I suspect I'm not alone in that sentiment. Mostly because it's hard enough to spend every Thanksgiving, wedding and family function as the eternal third wheel -- we single women really don't need anyone suggesting that it's our fault. We do that enough on our own, thank you very much.
There are lots of reasons us singles are "still" single -- ranging from "because I want to be" to "I'm a raving sociopath." But after a tremendous amount of thought, I have come to the conclusion that for most of us somewhere in the middle, the explanations are pure BS.
3 Lies about still being single:
1. There are no good men/women left.
While it's easy to blame yet another Saturday night home with Rover and an NCIS binge-athon on the apparent lack of great options, it's just not true. And I don't care where you live or how old you are. Statistics show that an estimated 107 million Americans aren't married. That's a lot of single people!
According to Dr. Justin R. Garcia, a CTRD Research Fellow with The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, at any given time, nearly one-third of the adult U.S. population is single. And there is a constant turnover of people going into and coming out of relationships at all times. So maybe it's true what my mom always said, that my husband is still married to his first wife. Or hooking up with someone.
I truly believe we see what we expect to see in life. Are there lying men and women out there, just trying to get into your pants or wallet? Absolutely. But there are also a whole bunch of nice alternatives that are looking for you. Believe it to see it.
2. You're too picky.
Here's the thing about this one: I don't think anyone really chooses who they fall for. You can tell yourself that you need a guy who is six feet tall, devastatingly handsome and drives a Porsche all you want. Then one day, you find yourself head over heels for the 5'8" balding but oh-so-charming bartender at your favorite restaurant. Think Charlotte and Harry in "Sex and the City." You can't help it -- it just happens.
When I was 25, I had a huge crush on the adorable, Jewish restaurant manager where I waited tables. He was a shameless flirt and I was a welcome participant. So when the older, Mexican sous chef suggested we go out sometime, I was less than enthused. I remember begrudgingly following him up the escalator on our first date thinking, "What am I doing...?" But later that night, after a surprisingly fun night of dancing, I was making out with him on the hood of his car. Four years later, he proposed in front of both our families. We called the wedding off at the last minute, but I don't regret a thing.
I've also made the mistake of sleeping with amazing men that didn't quite do it for me. There's nothing worse than knowing you've hurt someone you care about. Just don't do it. Chemistry is a wonderful and unpredictable thing, and you can't fight it or fake it. Regardless of what does or doesn't sound good on paper.
3. You haven't made it a priority.
This is the doozy. The one that makes my blood boil. Love is the one thing you can't "make a priority" and check off your to-do list. If it were, I'd be in Greenwich right now, curled up on the couch in front of the fire with my sexy architect husband and our adorable fraternal twins. Not sitting alone at the bar writing about being single.
There is nothing I cannot accomplish if I set my mind to it. Overcome an eating disorder, check. Move to NYC, check. Get my first job in advertising at a global agency, check. Compete in ballroom dancing, volunteer, become a creative director, write a blog for Huffington Post? All within my control. But love -- love is not.
Notice I said love, not just get married or have kids. I have the audacity to want real love, great love. Or nothing at all. Which leads me to the real reason you're still single:
The Truth about still being single:
A real connection is beyond rare. And if you know (or even just long for) what that feels like, it's impossible to settle for less.
I believe that I was blessed and cursed to have discovered love at a young age. Something I was reminded of this Christmas as I spent an evening digging through boxes in my parents' basement. Down there, amongst my Alpha Phi paddles and Singer sewing machine were boxes -- each with a boy's name on them: Andrew, Noah, Nino and yes, the sous chef -- Luis. Note to parents: Never underestimate the reality of young love.
Each box was filled with momentos of love and desire: love letters, breakup letters, pressed roses and fading photos of romantic dinners. All reminders of what it feels like to feel something for another human being. Which is why to this day, if I don't feel something for a guy, I can't even kiss him. No matter how wonderful he might be. My mom and I share this trait. Along with long eyelashes, a love for knitting and the bad habit of picking our cuticles, we both have an "on" or "off" switch when it comes to men. The last adorable and talented guy I dated was amazing: smart, cute, funny and passionate about the earth and animals. We had so much in common... and I felt nothing. Which totally sucked. But as a wise, drunk woman once told me at Blondie's Sportsbar, "Honey, you gotta wanna kiss him." And sadly, I did not.
All I'm saying is, finding real love is hard enough without the voices within and without that make it worse. It happens when it's meant to happen. I actually think that maybe I just skipped my first marriage because I knew what I didn't want. There should really be an award or something for that. At least somewhere to register for presents.