Overall, I feel like I’ve done well in regards to not putting my life on hold until I’ve found someone to live it with me. I quit my teaching job in the states and moved to France (twice!) simply because I wanted to live and teach in France. I traveled solo through parts of Europe and Japan because I wanted to, and couldn’t justify not doing so just because I couldn’t find anyone to come with me. I asked a boy to the Prom because no boy asked me to be his date first. I go to restaurants, movie theaters, and museums alone because if there’s something I want to experience, I’m going to experience it. For the most part, I try to make my day-to-day decisions about where to live, what career path to take, and how to fill my time based solely on me. But let’s be frank. As much as I love my current life as an American in France and wouldn’t change it for anything, lately I (and many close to me) have taken notice to one particular absence in my life that has uncomfortably become the elephant in the room.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. Really and truly–I don’t mind being single. I believe it’s important to learn how to be alone and enjoy one’s own company. But, living in the essence of hook up culture, and with social media being what it is, sometimes I do feel the pressure to couple up. And, when I find myself over and over again as the third, fifth, or seventh wheel in day-to-day social settings, or realize that I can’t quite remember the last time I went on a date, or admit that I haven’t felt interested in someone who was actually available or equally interested in me for quite some time (despite the sheer irony of being an expat and meeting new people, including plenty of eligible bachelors on a semi-regular basis)… well, I start to reflect and reconsider. My “independent traveler” lifestyle isn’t always exactly appealing to some, even though I could never see myself with a person who couldn’t accept this very crucial part of who I am. Does it really have to be an ultimatum?
But then, in the midst of it all, I remember how stressed dating makes me. And I remember what it felt like to have my heart broken, and to have love my interests treat me like total garbage instead of how I deserve to be treated. And I remember what it feels like to have feelings for someone who can’t or won’t reciprocate them, and how much all of that can hurt. And then, I remember why I distanced myself from most men and dating for most of my twenties: the downward spiral of teenage bullying and body-image issues, as well as the trust and confidence that comes with dating and relationships being broken before they were even established. But despite all of that, I am proud of the confidence I’ve gained and the strides I’ve taken to work and overcome these issues (even if I’m still not perfect, and sometimes still hit walls).
Frustratingly so, I still find myself back in this slump– where I see myself as nothing more than a pathetic statistic; where I rid myself from joy and instead compare myself to other women who did manage to snag the guy; who are in successful relationships, who had the epic one night stands, and who found success on Tinder/OK Cupid. (Even though for the time being, neither Tinder nor one night stands are really my style.) Yet, lately I find myself awake at night, or even during the day, on my morning commute or whatever, simply wondering, “Why not me? What’s wrong with me? What am I missing? What am I not doing?” Sometimes, I find myself longing for even the most meaningless flesh-on-flesh connections, or more importantly, ones that are meaningful but unfortunately only temporary, if only to share a bed with someone again, and be reassured that despite the extra seven pounds around my waist, I’m still attractive; I’m still desirable. I find myself falling into societal pressures and forgetting about the fact that for a long time, I wasn’t ready to date and didn’t have any real interest in doing so; in fact, I frequently used the “Well-I’m-only-in-x-city-for-x-amount-of-time-so-I-don’t-want-to-start-anything-with-anyone” excuse. I find myself getting worked up over the comments regarding my singleness and need to find a chéri, and tend to skirt around the exasperated question, “Have you been dating/seeing anyone!?”
And then usually, after a good long run and some quality friend talk over a few bottles of red wine, I come back to reality, pinch myself, and admit I’m being quite silly. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of these past years, it’s that my size and relationship status do not determine my worth and dignity as a person. I know I have awesome friends, a great job, stellar health; I’m unapologetically myself, with confidence in my beliefs and my choices. And ninety-nine percent of the time that is enough.
If I knew that a year from now, the love of my life would appear briskly into my life, how would I feel now? Perhaps silly for wasting away hours writing and dwelling on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and loneliness, especially when I am already living a great fucking life? If that was my set future, would I let the fears and concerns I just expressed melt away into a puddle on the floor? Would I pack up my bags and continue my round-the-world adventure without hesitation and without worrying that I’ll miss something? Would I settle, set down roots, invest in furniture and start playing Mad Men-style house?
It’s been said that people come into your life when you stop looking. This is my life; I choose to make my 3rd year in France a great one filled with traveling to new countries, indulging in Belgian beer and fresh baguettes, and training for the Paris half marathon. And maybe, just maybe, there will be someone waiting. But maybe there won’t be.
I hope that either way, I’ll be okay.