I didn’t go on a date until I was almost 24. This wasn’t because I was against dating so much as the fact that no one had ever asked me on a date.
But there I was, two weeks away from my birthday and a guy on Tinder asked if we could get a drink that night. It felt too rushed and I like to take things slow. I would be happy talking to a guy over text for weeks or months before meeting in person – but I said yes. Mostly because my coworkers urged me to, but partly because it felt just impulsive enough to be right.
It didn’t end up going anywhere. My second-ever date a few months later also didn’t lead to anything, but the two of them combined, mere months apart when I’d waited almost 24 years for a first date, felt like a sign – that times were changing. It felt like maybe, just maybe, I was finally becoming someone who dated.
Now two years have gone by and I’m starting to wonder if I’m not well on my way to another 24 years without a date.
Again, it’s not that I haven’t tried or wanted to date. In fact, maybe I’ve wanted it too much. Maybe I’ve poured too much of my self-esteem into getting a date, a follow-up date, a relationship.
These two years in a “dating desert” have been a rollercoaster. Some days I believe there’s something wrong me — surely there’s something wrong with me if I can’t get anyone to want me!
Other days I’m convinced it’s not me, it’s them; the men of the world are just not looking at me the right way, not seeing all that I have to offer.
Ultimately, I think it’s neither of the two. What I try to remind myself (when I can), what I try to make myself believe, is that there’s nothing wrong with not dating.
This is something that I absolutely know and believe in my mind and sometimes even in my heart. I know so many great people who haven’t dated, or who did date but never married, or who did all the above but are alone now; and that’s not just fine, that’s good.
Because everyone has their own story to tell, everyone’s life is its own beautiful narrative, and it can’t all look the same.
I think back on the things I wanted as a child (married by 19, multiple children by my mid-twenties, living in South Carolina for my whole life) and I have to laugh.
That’s not my life at all.
I’m a single 26-year-old in New York City who can barely manage to feed herself most days; a brood of children would be supremely unlucky to have me as their mother at this stage.
But as a kid, all I wanted was the story of dating in high school, engaged in college, married by graduation, family a few years later. I didn’t succeed in that plan obviously since I didn’t date in either high school, college, or even grad school. And I thought it made me broken.
I thought it meant I was unlovable, undesirable, and flawed in a way that couldn’t be fixed. Sometimes, if I’m being honest with you (and myself) I still feel that way. But that doesn’t make it true.
Just because I feel broken doesn’t mean I am broken.
More importantly, my time in single-dom is teaching me something very important: how to love myself. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. My self-esteem has lived at the bottom of the ocean for much of my memory, and I’ve lived with depression and anxiety since high school; all of that combines to make me not just dislike myself, but outright hate who I am much of the time.
Being single forces me to reckon with that.
I can’t default to finding my value in the fact that a man loves me because there is no man who loves me. I can’t ignore the feelings of being undesirable, because they’re ever-present.
It’s hard for me, as someone who desperately craves human connection and wants a so-called “forever person,” to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have that.
I think it’s okay to want a relationship and be sad that I don’t have one. I do think what’s not okay is beating myself up over it.
That’s what I’m trying to stop. Instead of looking at this amount of time with no dates as a desert, I’m going to look at it as just another stretch of ground on the journey of life, if you will.
Maybe it’ll last forever; maybe it’ll end tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself and everyone around me that there’s nothing wrong with being single and learning to love yourself.