You have to find yourself to find love, goes the mantra. You have to love yourself enough to attract love into your life. You have to be already be complete before someone else can complete you (wait, what?).
A lot of the advice hurled at single people suggests that there is more work to be done. You have to solve your issues. You have to learn to be happy, all of the time, on your own.
Single women are constantly blamed: You’re giving off the wrong energy. You’re too desperate. You’re not open enough. You’re intimidating. Men are attracted to non-threatening, smiley women with big, friendly teeth and a successful career that isn’t successful enough to be intimidating. You have to be self-sufficient but not to the extent that it renders you unfeminine. And don’t text him so soon after the date! And don’t sleep with him right away, for f*@ks sake! Or, wait, maybe do. You don’t want to be weird and uptight about sex.
A happy, committed relationship is dangled like the yummy, carb-y prize at the end of a grueling marathon of personal improvement.
My own journey to love was more like a lazy stroll down the block.
I am an online dating success story. “Just sign up and try it for a month!” my best friend urged.
I signed up. I jotted a quick profile, slapped up a lone, somewhat flattering photo and flung my single self out into the universe. Two weeks later, I went on a first date with a guy who sounded funny and smart in writing. He was even more than those things. I fell in love with him right away. We got engaged six months later. We’ve now been married for four years and I am still bowled over by his awesomeness. He lights up my days.
So of course, immediately after meeting him, I started preaching the gospel. “You have to sign up!” I told my single friends. “Just try it! You never know who you’ll meet!”
I talked quite a few of them into it. They went out hopefully on first dates. They reported back. Some duds. Some weirdos. And then some guys who seemed wonderful but suddenly disappeared after having sex. Nice guys who they didn’t “click” with. Gorgeous guys who seemed to be drifting, distracted. Cool, shaggy-haired photographer guys who texted “I might be free in an hr. wanna meet up?” and then canceled.
We analyzed and analyzed. I tried to be encouraging.
“Wait,” they started to say, “you met him after being on the site for how long?”
“Two weeks,” I said, but now it felt like bragging. So I began to say, “Maybe a couple months?” But soon even that sounded very quick, unrealistic.
A few of my friends found love online or elsewhere, but the majority of them are still dating. Or they’re not dating right now. They’re taking a break, because, enough already! But soon they’ll try again. Their stories are full of incredible, buoyant hope and, increasingly, creeping resignation and quiet despair.
More often now, they ask, “What is wrong with me?”
We try to figure it out sometimes.