The Elephant in the Room

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.

Bisous,

Dana

25 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room

  1. Beautiful post, Dana. I’m always traveling and it’s made it hard to start a relationship with someone. But, like you write, I love traveling and I’m not going to put my dreams on hold for someone else. Anyway, I really liked this post. I’ve loved them all, to be honest! They’ve helped pass the time in between applications and finding out about TAPIF acceptances and then waiting for the contract!

    Thanks for following, by the way! I really appreciate it. 🙂

    Best,
    Chris
    Xx

    1. thank you so much Chris for you kind words! Its reassuring to know that I”m not alone in my feelings!

      I’m glad you’ve found the blog useful and entertaining. Its fun for me to go back and see how I and my writing style has changed!

      Good luck in the nord next year! im living in lille if you’re ever looking to meet up! x

      1. I would love to meet up once I’ve settled in! Let’s get in touch once I’ve arrived in country to set it up!

        And hey, nobody gets us traveling type, but we get each other!

        Xx

  2. Thanks for this post, Dana. I’ve felt this way too, especially since I’ve been switching countries/regions rather frequently for the last couple of years. I feel like I don’t stay in one place long enough to make meaningful connections. Sometimes I get angry about the excess of change and lack of constancy, or I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

    I think we just have to keep living our awesome lives and being friendly to the new people we meet, even when it’s exhausting. Someday, a guy will find you and think, “How is this woman still single? She’s amazing! (And her blog is an invaluable resource for TAPIF alums and newbies alike!)” 😉

    1. Manon, thank you so much for your sweet comment. It made me smile so much. I’m relieved that others can relate, as much as it sucks sometimes.
      I feel like I’ve been able to keep a couple of really good friends from all of my experiences, which is important. Just lately, I’d like someone to become more than a friend, and I’d like not to be so afraid to let them… if all would play out.

      Will you be renewing next year? x

      1. I was accepted for a second year, but I ended up turning it down in order to start grad school this fall. It was a tough decision, but since I’ll be studying French translation and interpretation, I’ll likely have a career-related way to return to France in the next few years. J’y vais aussitôt que possible!

  3. I feel like I totally understand this post. 99% of the time I don’t miss being in a relationship because I’m too busy being happy with everything else in my life. I only really notice it when someone points it out. But my friends keep saying, “It’s not that you’re not happy. Just that you could be even MORE happy and you wouldn’t even know it because you’re not trying.” Maybe they’re right, I don’t know, but if I only miss out out 1% of the time, then is it really worth it right now?

    1. You’re totally spot on. I feel like I”m happy but then someone says, “We need to find you a boyfriend!” and I’m like… “Really!?” I appreciate the vast majority of my friends are not like that, thankfully!

      thanks for your comment!

  4. This is a very relatable post, and I can relate to some of the feelings that are describeed here. As someone who also lives abroad and is also on the move, it is sometimes difficult to form a romantic relationship with another person. On top of this, I’m also not the most social person so this becomes even more complicated. On the other hand, when I’m moving and on the go, I’ve had some experiences that I would not have had in the same way, if at all, if I had been with someone. Sometimes I feel like there are things that I’d really love to share with someone when I see or experience some of the things I have seen or experienced, but in the end, I feel that these are things uniquely mine to fondly keep; wether this lessens or heightens the difficulty of the situation is sometimes difficult to tell–it’s bittersweet. I’m glad that I do what I do and I don’t have regrets.

    Sometimes it’s tougher than others but it takes a little bit of patience like Shannon said, and it is alos as you said, interesting happen in unexpected times.

    This was a nice post and I always enjoy reading your blog.
    Will you stay for another year after the 2015-2016 year?

    Best,
    Israel

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback and comments 🙂 I totally get what you mean about moving around and having a hard time meeting people. This is the first time in 3 years I”ll be in one place for more than a year, so I’m looking forward to that.

      I’d love to stay in France but the only way I could do that is if I found a job/working papers… no studying for me, I can’t afford it!.. Otherwise the UK sounds like a good option but again the complication of working papers is dire… 😦

  5. I totally believe in doing stuff alone! (classic introvert.) Some people think it’s weird when I travel alone, but I get to do (and eat) whatever I want whenever I want, and I love that freedom.

    I would never even thought of this topic as “the elephant in the room” because I don’t think being single is bad or weird in any way at all. There is so much freedom in not having your life tied to anyone else’s, as you said. I don’t regret staying in France to be with my boyfriend, but sometimes it makes things complicated, and I can’t always make choices solely based on what I want.

    I really like how you are both honest and positive in this post. I am always so impressed by all your amazing travels and your general confidence and awesomeness. I hope your last year in France is the best one yet.

    1. I guess I titled it because whenever anyone who knows me well (and my embarrassing lack of dating history) it’s always hesitantly or exasperatingly brought up, in a, “come ON… you MUST be…” sort of way, to which I hide my head in shame sort of response…

      As I said I love the freedom I have as being single but it’s all I know… though I can imagine deciding on international lives based on a partner could be very difficult..

      Thanks so much for your feedback on my post. It means a lot Catherine 🙂

  6. This was basically the story of my life up until a little over 3 years ago. The same questions raced through my head. I felt the jealousy of seeing friends finding happiness. Not to mention everything that happens over social media. Social media is annoying. And even now, I still find lovey-dovey posts annoying as hell.

    The point is, you never know when you’ll find that person. It can be completely unexpected (like it was for me – I thought I was just meeting a friend to watch some movies). It’ll happen when it happens. Enjoy life, that’s what it’s all about!

    1. See, I’m not jealous of my friends finding their happiness or anything– I’m just happy for them! I like what I’m doing for the time being; but perhaps I’ve moved on from “I absolutely want to be single” to “Hmm… maybe…” You’re right! You never know when or how! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      1. Jealous perhaps wasn’t the best word, and I’m sure that you’re happy (I know I always was). It’s just so easy to think at the same time “Why not me?”. But way to go for your new outlook. And I definitely don’t think there’s an elephant in the room. I really hope I never make you feel that way!

      2. NO of course you never have; most of my friends never have. We’ll have to have chat once my visitors have left. But you’re spot on with the “Why not me” thought process. 🙂 x

  7. You are a beautiful strong and great all around person. Don’t let the single thing get you down. Many of the posts on Social media about dating, engagements, weddings etc, either end up in divorce, miserable marriges or are just people embellishing to feel better about themselves and/or one up everyone else. You are saving yourself a lot of wasted time and energy and enjoying your life as it is to now to the fullest extent. Good for you. You can always gets a pet if you need some snuggling, but not now b/c you’ve got too much traveling and experiences to do.

    1. Very true! I’ve been reading that people who enter into relationships when they are older have more meaningful ones because, well, we are older with more experience and more guts / knowledge to know what we want!

      I love what I’m doing now- you’re right, too many places too see; gotta keep moving!
      Thanks for your kind words and comments 🙂

  8. I relate to this post so much! Eternally single as Facebook explodes with engagement and wedding announcements. A lot of my friends have gotten engaged or coupled up in the last few years and a good friend from high school recently had a baby. It’s easy to fall into the “Woe is me” mood until I’m reminded I don’t actually envy them much–I don’t want any babies right now (I have nightmares of being pregnant) and wedding planning seems stressful not to mention I hate being the center of attention of anything. Would it be nice to be in a relationship? Sure! Do I NEED to be in a relationship? Not necessarily.

    I’ve been trying online dating (not Tinder though) and it’s been interesting. One guy went on a rant about stay at home moms and how they shouldn’t be stay at home moms but should work. I’m not even sure how we got onto that topic and was deeply offended when I found out his own mom had been a stay at home mother! It was such an unbelievable experience but it made for a funny story afterwards. Not sure if I’ll meet the love of my life online (I know people who have) but it’s a fun experiment. It would be ironic though if I met “mon cheri” in real life as opposed to online though.

    1. Exactly! I don’t at all envy the friends who are marrying/having babies… I’m quite happy traveling and adventuring in Europe (although I am happy for them don’t get me wrong!) Yes, that’s it. I’m making progress because I used to just shy away from all relationships, but now I’m more open to being in one— I just need to find the right way to do it that’s most comfortable to me (not the best past).

      What online platform have you been using? OK Cupid seems more popular in the states… that story is hilarious! i agree you meet the weirdest characters online but some fun ones too 🙂

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

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