A common plot gimmick in rom-coms is to show flashbacks of the story’s protagonist where some virtue is asserted that is integral to the character’s arc. Today we reflect on four-year-old Cazey dashing home in tears from his best friend Maggie’s house.
My mom asks, “What’s wrong?”
Young me wails, “Maggie says I have to marry her when I grow up! I don’t want to!”
My mom: “You don’t have to marry her.”
I stop crying.
Jump forward to seventh grade. I had a crush on the most popular girl in the school. I told my friend Cora as much, and she replied, “Maybe you should like me instead. Will you be my boyfriend?”
Me: “Eh, I guess so.”
My first-ever girlfriend Cora: “Yay! But let’s not tell anyone.”
Four days later, I still like the most popular girl in school and my new-found girlfriend wants me to hold her hand after school. My girlfriend goes to the restroom. An acquaintance of ours passes by. (Do seventh graders have acquaintances?)
Me: “Did you know I’m dating Cora?”
The next day, my girlfriend interrogates me, “Did you tell people we’re dating? I told you not to tell anyone.”
Twelve-year-old me shrugs. And that is how I engineered my first and only breakup.
(Also, why were we not telling anyone we’re dating if you really liked me? Something smells fishy, Cora.)
Now accelerate to 2015 A.D. I grab coffee with “Emma” who I met via a dating app. She lives an hour away, but volunteered to drive an hour to meet me. (Me: “I mean, if you want to.”) We get along great. We agree to see each other again in two weeks. Afterward, I announce to my friends, “This is the most promising relationship I've ever had. We see each other twice a month and don’t have to text every day! I’ve always thought long-distance would suit me best.”
At the end of the two weeks, right before we were supposed to meet again, Emma reached out: “You’re such a nice guy, and I had so much fun getting coffee with you, but I can’t really handle dating anyone right now. I’m so, so sorry.”
Me: “Wait, who said anything about dating?”
Okay, I kept those words to myself. I think I said something along the lines of “Don’t be sorry. Why should you be?”
As is no secret on this blog, I am a proud single. I question why people pursue relationships and what compromises people endure for love and why do they do it? But I’ve begun to wonder why this is. Cousins are getting married. Friends are going on more dates than I have homework problems (thanks, grad school). Why am I over here perfectly content and not afraid? (Probably because I’m 24.) And why am I so offended when people imply otherwise?
Whenever I reconnect with old friends, they ask, “Are you seeing anyone?,” sometimes even before they ask where I’m living or what I’m doing with my life (“Well, I’m not doing anyone”). They then ask if I’ve tried online dating. As if I’m soliciting advice on how to find a mate.
Excuse me, I did not say,
“No, I’m not seeing someone. What do you think I should do about that?”
All I said was, “No, I’m not seeing someone. End of sentence.” Maybe I should have added, “It’s not a priority, but obviously it is in your life because I see all your Instagrams with those love letter captions when your significant other isn’t even on social media to read them. Your love is so authentic, please tell me how to replicate it.”
It’s (somewhat) acceptable if my grandmother wants to ask all this (as long as there’s a turkey on the table), but why are my peers concerned? (Maybe they’re not concerned; maybe I’m hypersensitive.)
BUT THEN WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME WHAT TO DO?
For real, I was actually proud when I deleted all dating apps off my phone this summer. (I had no more storage, so Tinder had to go.) Why was I proud? Because it was like me realizing me. I’m not on dating apps to meet the one (or multiple ones); I just wanted to see how many matches I could get and leave it at that (after I get the trophy for most matches, of course). The moment I start talking to someone, I panic because I don’t even know what night of the month I want to make myself available to meet them, and I really wish I didn’t feel pressured to suggest meeting, but after ten exchanges, like, are we gonna stay online forever? And I’m too much of a coward to ghost on someone aka I’d hate myself for being that jerk. It’s not their fault I’m disinterested.
Why do some of us choose – in fact, embrace – the single life while others embroil themselves in long-term romances – and they seem happy about it? They don’t look at all trapped or stifled or stunted or discontent in their Facebook profile pictures. (And why should they? I only speak in hyperbolic cynicism to defend the singlehood that I enjoy.)
Do you hear that, friends? And Mom, especially Mom, do you hear/read that?
I enjoy single life!
I recently mentioned my ambivalence toward dating to my mother and she followed up by asking, “Have you ever thought you might need to get your testosterone levels checked?”
Like, she said that.
My not being interested in dating does not mean I don’t get turned on. (I can’t believe I’m writing that.) But dating requires a lot more effort, commitment, and desire than I’m willing to invest. And that should be okay.
All of this is not to suggest if I met an attractive, intelligent, ambitious woman this afternoon, I wouldn’t delete this post and yell, “Pick me! Pick me!” I’m not Superman. But I’m not looking for my Kryptonite either. Someone just needs to tell my mom and friends.