Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Single, Single...Life

So, it's 3am and I just ate leftovers straight from the pan. I was hungry after coming in from visiting with a friend for a game of pool. Someone I've known for the past six years. A nice guy who for various reasons, I never got involved with. While I was at the bar, someone asked if he was my boyfriend. I said no of course, and told him that. He told me that if I had just claimed him, he would have been mine a long time ago. What? Is it really that easy? But as I found out thanks to fellow blogger, Laurie, there is a woman who probably thinks I should have settled for him. According to Lori Gottlieb's article in the Atlantic Monthly, single, thirtysomething, and especially childless women like me, should just shut our pie holes with the complaining and settle for Mr. Good Enough. Maybe if I had, I would be in bed with a snoring husband rather than my teddy bear, maybe I would have three kids who drive me crazy and might take care of me in old age, maybe I wouldn't have had all the amazing experiences I've had over the years living in different places, maybe I wouldn't know and love the person I am, maybe I wouldn't realize that I deserve love and passion, maybe I wouldn't have made and kept long-lasting friendships, maybe I would know how to eat on a plate and not drink beer from a can like Grandma told me. Maybe.
This is what single looked like in the 80's

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Anonymous said...

Settling should NEVER be an option and I pity the fool who thinks it is!!

Jamie said...

The problem is the word "settling." A better term should be "bought the best I could afford."

So maybe the person you end up with isn't as funny or sexy or rich or smart or exciting as your ideal partner. Is that good enough? Or would you rather keep waiting - realizing, that while you might yet meet that perfect person, your own stock (and, hence, what you can "afford") goes down every year as you get older.

So at some point you may decide to settle, if it looks like a better deal than hanging on for the off chance of meeting the perfect guy. A lot of single people get more set in their ways as they age, making it less and less likely they'll find someone who they can fit in their lives. Other people "settle".

Van said...

The prospect that I would be something someone settles for is pretty intimidating. I wouldn't want to get involved in a long-term relationship where I thought the other person substantively wanted something else.

I try to look at things a different way. Rather than comparing someone to a list of things I want (except in a very broad sense), I take the options and ask myself, "How would that work out?" Then, nobody is living up to certain expectations and it's quite possible I'd find something better than what I would have designed.

In fact, sometimes what we design--like foods, lifestyles and men--end up being the worst things for us.

City Girl DC said...

Jamie- I respect your opinion but I think telling yourself that you're settling is always a poor choice when choosing a life partner. I don't think many people expect perfection. I think most of us want somebody we feel compatible with, love, trust, and respect and who feels the same about us. Nobody should have to settle for less than that. And by the way, I would never think of myself as stock that goes down as I age. As far as I'm concerned, I've gotten better with age!

Jobless said...

Um, men are just as picky, I don't know why this is a problem for women. I think the reason is not that we're asking too much, but that we're all looking for the standards that our parents set--strength, humor, sensibility, trust--but it's harder and harder to find out there these days. good post.

Jamie said...

The things you describe in a person aren't that uncommon. Does your friend, a nice guy, have these qualities? If so, why would you consider that "settling"? For most people who won't "settle" it has to do far more with the minutae of the personality than the basics. I would never settle for someone who lacked those qualities, either.

My point is make sure that when you say "I won't settle" you really don't mean you're just unreasonably picky. If you seek perfection in a human, you will certainly find the perfect human: nobody.

Just for the record, my perspective is as a late 30's divorced man. I have a couple long-time female friends my age who have never been married -- exactly because they are a combination too picky and too uncompromising in adjusting their lives to include another person. They obviously want a mate but have become so set in their ways, so unwilling to accept an outside influence, that nobody can possibly meet the standard.

By the way as far as my comment about stock - I don't know you personally but I am sure you are as delicious as a fine bordeaux. But statistically, women are increasingly less likely to marry as they get older. Which could have much more to do with the women's attitude (such as my friends) than the value of your stock!

DC Newbie said...

Here's my two cents worth: if you're happy in your life and in yourself, that's all that matters. Sure it would be nice to eventually find that elusive "someone" who gets and accepts me and who I get and accept. But I refuse to believe my life is any less fulfilling because I am single. I have met great friends and developed incredible passions during my time as a single woman and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I was in a relationship for nine years with a very nice guy who I truly cared about, but there was absolutely zero chemistry on my part. And believe me, I tried everything to create it because he was such a great guy. But I realized that if I married him, I would be doing both of us a disservice. He's now happily married to a great woman who adores him and we are all friends. I couldn't be happier for them and thank God everyday for having the strength to choose being alone over being with someone who wasn't right for me (and I for him). To tell a woman she should stop being picky about something as important as her life partner is ridiculous. Of all the things we should be picky about, this should be number one. I date, but I don't worry anymore about finding "the one" because I am too busy enjoying my life now. If everyone stopped thinking "If only I had (insert heart's desire here) and just started enjoying the life they had, we would all be a lot happier.

Jamie said...

DCNewbie: I agree with a lot of what you say, but the fundamental paradox is, why are we having this discussion? If you really didn't care you wouldn't be here.

There's a logical flaw in your argument: "sure it would be nice if.." does not get along with "I refuse to believe my life is any less fulfilling." Either you want a partner or you do not. If you are so jaded (already!) that you truly believe that a partner is of no consequence, that nobody could add anything to the richness of your life, then you are essentially off the market. You can say you date, blah blah blah, but the minute someone you date who actually does want to find a life partner gets the sense that you don't give a crap one way or the other, well, they will be moving on to more receptive territory.

Why isn't it possible to be happy with yourself, enjoy your activities, love your life, AND be looking for someone who you can share it with and add another layer to it? I don't mind being single at all, but I don't want to be so forever.

Jamie said...

Let me add something to that. Would you want to date someone who doesn't make you feel like you add anything to their life? Likewise, why would you want to be with a partner who didn't add anything to yours? If you truly believe that nobody can add anything to your life - that if you're happy now alone, is REALLY all that matters - then it seems pretty unlikely that you would ever open yourself up to the risks and rewards of letting someone in. And it's even more unlikely that anyone else would invest in a relationship with someone so aloof.

Sorry to be hitting this thread so heavy.. it happens to strike a personal chord because I recently ended a six month relationship with a girl who I really liked for exactly this reason. It wasn't easy , but it was the right thing for me. Because she acted like she didn't care. We had great fun together, got along very well, but she was terrified of the idea of there being someone in her life who might be a priority that even approached, say, happy hour with her friends. And she acted that way. I didn't want to be with a person who didn't make the least effort to show me that I had some importance in their life (after the "honeymoon" was over, anyway). I know she really liked me too, but she was deadly afraid of taking the emotional risk that comes with investing in a relationship.

Bottom line: if you want a partner, you need to act like it, and be willing to take personal, emotional risks, and make compromises to accommodate something in your life that's outside your own skin. This is not desperation, and it doesn't mean you're unhappy being alone. It's emotional maturity. It's knowing what you want.

Foilwoman said...

Actually, I think since men benefit much more from marriage, telling women to settle really doesn't make sense. Single women are happier than married women, and married men are happier than single men. This is all an argument to convince women that they'll be happier married, and man shortage (not that I can see -- pudgy, single-mom, mid-forties, dating up a storm me) really doesn't exist. There are actually many more men running around than women who want to date them. Once you subtract the gay women and the larger group of women who've decided they're just not that interested (in sex, in the obligations of relationships, in anything other than their job and their darling Siamese, whatever, it's their choice and their satisfaction, y'know?), women like me have more men than we know what to do with. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for the guys in question, depending on perspective, most of us aren't looking for the next Ex-Mr. Me, we're practicing catch and release, so most dates get released back into the dating pool.

Most of the late thirties and older women I know who are dating have many more prospects (including commitment oriented prospects) than we ever did in our twenties. So I just find Ms. Gottlieb's article (and much of Atlantic's bizarre almost Cosmo-esque writing on women and men) rings completely false to my experiences. And Ms. Gottlieb's website shows her to be a much slimmer, prettier woman than I am. So either I'm living in BizarroWorld, or she is.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. Van.. must be channeling my brother. I recently went to lunch with him, and he said the exact same thing. He is happily married. As we were evaluating my current boyfriend of 5 months, he said he could tell I wasn't beaming happy. He noted that he will know my boyfriend is right by the way I acted.. and part of that was not going through "the list." He said that when you meet the right person, in his mind, the list goes right out the door (except for those core values you are looking for).

Jamie - I also think you were harsh on DCNewbie. She sounds happily single and just because she's visiting your Web site doesn't mean she's not. I mean.. you are a blogger and I would imagine you'd be encouraging people to visit your site no matter what state they are in. If I misunderstood your comments, then I apologize.

Although I'm still single and haven't mastered Van's advice, I do think it's a matter of looking at the great qualities someone has and whether or not you can live with them, work with them, compromise knowing them.

We'll see what the future holds.