I’m still figuring out what love means to me. I’ve only been in love once; it was young, my first, and – not to take anything away from it; it was real and it held strong for years – I don’t know what it takes to have mature, marriage-worthy love.
I almost wrote about that first love, fleshed out the whole story and all its lessons, but then I realized that’s the past. That’s affected my thoughts on love, but that’s not who I am now.
Now, I’m a single girl, about to turn 30 as she watches all her friends get married and have babies. It’s a weird, in-between place to be, but it’s not a bad place. Despite what most movies and parents that want grandbabies and our recently married friends may tell us, ladies, it’s ok to be single, it’s ok to not want things in the standard time frame and no, we’re not old maids.
And by the way, I am so sick of movies and books portraying any woman single over 25 as being a workaholic in a high-paying glamorous job, as though a job and a relationship are the only things that validate a person and if by that age you don’t want babies, well, you must be career-obsessed. Get with it, Hollywood; show me some real women who can’t be summed up in two words. Can I get an Amen!?
Although I’ll admit, sometimes I let it get to me and I do feel like an old maid; that has definitely been a factor in my QLC. When I’m a third or fifth or seventh wheel in a mob of couples, I freak out a little bit that I’ll end up alone, working a crappy job in a crappy apartment after a long string of sad endings, friends shaking their head in pity while I dress my cats like kids and wait desperately in bars. God, please, no.
So there’s a polar division in me; as I stand in the pews or proudly in a bridesmaid dress, beaming on friends upon friends taking vows, I feel two opposite truths: I want to get married. I’m so glad I’m not getting married.
From my past relationships, I’ve learned the art of missing, the beauty of companionship, and how to know when it’s not right. I’ve jumped in over my head and I’ve waded, waiting, cautious. I’ve learned to recognize what’s not good for me and what my deal-breakers are. All of those relationships have ended, and that’s a good thing.
I was never the little girl planning her wedding; it never even occurred to me to think about it until the past couple years, when I was suddenly snowed in with save the dates and RSVP cards. Complaining to my mom (oh I’ll admit, I have my moments of weakness – “Whyyyy is everyone getting maaaaarrrriiiieeed??? I’m soooo left ouuuuut!!), she snapped me back to reality: “Nikki, if what you wanted was to be married, you’d be married by now.” Touche, momma, touche.
It’s not marriage I’m looking for, it’s a love that makes me believe in marriage.
I’m not jealous of people getting married; I don’t look with envy at the glinting diamonds or the fluffy white dresses. But when I see my friends – of both sexes – that are excited about getting married, who, after years together, are giggling with joy, no nerves only giddy tears, as they vow forever, that sparks a wonder and a pang of selfish sadness in me.
They know who they are and have found the person who balances them. I know not everyone who gets married is that self-aware or perfectly matched, but these friends I’m talking about are; they’ve gone into it with eyes open. They see the challenges ahead and believe it’s worth it. Forever is a long time, and they’d rather spend it together than anywhere else.
And you know what? Until I have that, I’m OK with never being married. In fact, I’ve decided if I’ve never been married by 40, I’m throwing myself a huge damn party with all my friends and family (because, really, when else in your life but your wedding do you get everyone you love in the same room?) and I’m even going to register for gifts. All right, maybe I stole that a little from Carrie Bradshaw, but…
Also, until then, I am so grateful for and contented with all the other forms of love I DO have in my life. The friends that I know I’ll have forever. I’d vow on that. My family, cheering me on no matter how far from them life takes me. My love for travel: the thrill of the new, independence, and exploration not just of place but of self, and my love for performance: the thrill of collaboration, creating a show like giving birth – painful, joyous and alive. My love of Thai coconut chicken soup (my mouth waters at the thought!) and Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (talent crush to the max!) and the feeling of the wind singing in my hair as I bicycle down a hill (sqwoooooosh!!).
But the most important love I’ve found is the love I have for myself. Slightly cheesy but deeply true.
I like my own company. I’m not actually lonely at all. Yes, it’d be nice to find a great big Love, but I don’t need it to be happy. I love who I am, and who I am is, partially, a product of all those “failed” relationships; I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made. I don’t have the high-powered job and I don’t have the guy, but, damnit, I’m ok with that. I am just fine.
Although, if I ever do start dressing up cats and calling them my kids, please stage an intervention.
My dad said to me once, after I told him I’d broken up with my most recent boyfriend-ish guy, “you’re so lucky to have had all these experiences. You will be more ready than most for a forever relationship, when you find it.” I think he’s right.
To all the single ladies out there who aren’t waiting for some guy to “put a ring on it,” I say rejoice with me. We are sure of ourselves, of what we want and who we are, and we will not buckle under societal pressures. We will be thrilled for our friends that chose different lives from our own, and we will be confident in ourselves; we will trust that we are exactly where we need to be, right here, right now. Now put your hands up! Whoa woh woh oh oh oh…