This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.
There is a new mobile app that allows the user to look for a date by swiping through a series of pictures of potential love interests. As you browse through the various potentials, you can “swipe left” on your phone if you find them unattractive and you can “swipe right” if you find them attractive. If both you and your love interest “swipe right” then you are matched.
If that sounds awfully shallow, that’s because it is. It is the epitome of superficiality.
My Uneasy And Awkward Relationship With Online Dating
I once explained to a friend of mine why I stopped online dating: I told him it was because those sites often reduced a potential love interest to the sanitized criteria used to describe a dresser drawer from IKEA. It wasn’t long before I realized that online dating didn’t work for me because it was treating romance like an exercise in interior decorating:
“Which height would you like in a man? 5′ 4”? 6′ 1”? 5′ 7″? How about the width? Thin, chubby, bulky? How about the color? Cappuccino brown, champagne white, canary yellow? How about price range? 20k a year? 40k a year? 100k a year? CEO of a Fortune 500 company? And would you like to buy one and get the second one free by going out with a guy who’s into “non-monogamous relationships” –whatever the frak that means?”
These online dating sites even have their very own “mattress-store” guarantee: “If after 30 days you don’t find the love of your life, you ‘ll get your money back!”
Come on now. Really? Is true love really as reliable as a Serta King-sized with box springs?
The reason I gave up online dating sites had everything to due with this practice of “reverse-personification:” I was just so sick and tired of reducing myself and others to “dresser drawer-type” standards. I wanted something real, something organic, something based on a spark, or an agreement about common values and core beliefs–not something as shallow and superficial as whether or not we both liked CW’s new hit dramedy Jane The Virgin.
So, I gave up on online dating.
But as I was trying to figure out what my new dating approach would be, I started to realize that all the people around me were starting to get worried. Really worried.
Worried about what you may ask?
Worried that being single was starting to make me look like a loser.
Is America Single-phobic?
I won’t lie: I would love a relationship. I would even go as far to say that I need a romantic partnership in my life. But I will never go as far to say that I am deeply unhappy because I do not have a relationship in my life.
Some of my most joyful moments in life have come during times when I was single. Some of my most painful moments have come during times when I was in a relationship with someone. I’ve been miserable while I was single, too, and I’ve also been incredibly joyful while in a relationship. My point is this: just like being in a relationship does not guarantee happiness, being single does NOT guarantee misery.
There are incredibly unhappy people who are in a relationship right now (trust me, I’ve met them) and there are incredibly happy people who are not in a relationship right now.
I happen to be one of the latter.
But even so, I have noticed that many people in my life assume I am miserable because the stereotype is that a single person is always an unhappy person.
It’s no wonder: almost every single movie, TV show, novel, and hit song has a romantic relationship at its center. The main story arc always involves someone falling in love or someone desperately trying to fall in love. Our society can’t seem to imagine a single story without a romance as one of the main themes. And they certainly can’t imagine that you can be truly happy without a relationship.
We are romance addicts. We are OBSESSED with relationships.
Every time we read a book, watch a TV show, or watch a movie, we come to expect that every character in the story is going to be paired up with a mate by the end of the last chapter, and when we don’t see that happen, we are often left feeling cheated and we tell our friends: “I just wished so-and-so had found someone at the very end.”
But so what if the story doesn’t end with “true love’s kiss”? We can still have a happy ending without it. (Hey, it worked for Frozen.)
The truth is that the mainstream media over-represents people in relationships. Hec, people in relationships over-represent people in relationships. (I’m looking at you couple-dry-humping-by-the-breakfast-sandwiches-while-I-wait-in-line-at-Starbucks, Yeah, you. Stop over-representing yourself all over the John Mayor CD’s!)
Despite their underrepresentation, single people make up the majority of Americans today. What that means is that more than the “Hispanic vote”–and just as equally as the “Woman vote”–one of the most important voting blocs in this country is now “The Single People” vote. (Read this if you don’t believe me.) Think about THAT the next time you invite everyone to a “couples-only” fondue party at your downtown loft while your single friend is sitting right next to you looking for her next boyfriend on Snapchat.
You know, the more I think about it, even though single people make up the majority of the American electorate, it would probably be easier to elect a woman or a gay man for president today than it would be to try to elect a single man or a single woman. Why? Because a single person would be seen as somehow “flawed” or “incomplete” without a significant other by his/her side.
Let’s face it: America wants a First Family to walk out on election night when the newly elect President snatches their big win–they do want to see a “First Bachelorette” walk out on election night all on her own while she winks at her own image on the Jumbotron.
No, America would think that would be way too sad–and kinda creepy.
And yet, so many of us single people often have “election night” type wins every year and, still, each of us walks out on that stage alone to celebrate. Some of us do so sheepishly, but some of us, like me, still grin from ear to ear and celebrate just as loudly as I would if I was standing next to my boyfriend.
How To Be Awesome (Or: How To Not Care If People Think You’re A Loser For Being Single)
I know all of you want me to find the love of my life, and trust me: I do, too. I appreciate your concern at my still being single, because I know it comes from a place of love and a desire to see me happy and fulfilled. But I want you all to know that I’m actually feeling very happy all on my own right now and, far from feeling miserable, I’m actually feeling incredibly excited and optimistic about the journey ahead.
Whether “the journey ahead” means I am alone for a few more months, or years, while I finish writing my novel, or whether it means the guy I’m looking for shows up at my doorstep tomorrow, I really don’t care. And I am honestly not at all worried about it.
And I really don’t care if people think I’m a loser for being single. So my groceries are more expensive because the portion sizes are generally for “two or more”… So I have to pay more for rent because I don’t have two incomes and can’t split the rent check. So, I don’t get a discount on my car insurance payment because you get 20% off just for having a spouse–Wait? WTF? That really sucks. (I guess my diatribe about the socio-economic bias against single people will have to wait for another blog post. Anyways… moving on…. Donkey Kong.)
What I’m trying to say is that I am soooo not Bridget Jones. And I am definitely not a gayer, slightly chubbier Carrie Bradshaw. I’m not even John Cusack’s character in Say Anything.
Yes, I am looking for love, but my love life (or lack thereof) does not eclipse who I am. I have a whole lot more to be happy about in my life then just who I’m dating at the moment.
I’m a different kind of character. For a different kind of time. And maybe for a different kind of world where people could care less about your flawed approach to dating and more about the level of personal excellence you’ve achieved–something that no one could ever carelessly “swipe left” into oblivion.
much awesome love,
Today’s Courage Exercise
Stop caring if people think you’re a loser for being single: let yourself be awesome instead.
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