6.07.2010

I Am Not Single. I Am on Vacation

Being on vacation is awesome.  Being unemployed is painful and depressing.  I've decided to take a summer vacation, not be unemployed.  The two concepts have few differences.  In both cases: I don't have to get up early in the morning, I have few responsibilities, and my time is my own.  Whether I feel good or bad about it depends on the way I define my situation.  I choose vacation and awesomeness, not unemployment and misery.  Because, the way we define our state absolutely affects how we feel about it.

I think this applies to my single status as well.  I am not in a relationship.  But,  I do not feel single either.  I am on vacation from my relationships, in between them.  The two are very similar: no relationship obligations, no stress over relationship status, no worries about someone else, no answering to anyone, no disagreements or misunderstandings, and, no hurt feelings.  Awesomeness.  (This is not say there are not really sucky things about being single, only that we don't have to feel so bad about it.)  Being on vacation is better than being single because: vacations are temporary, they're fun, good for one's emotional health, voluntary, and  most importantly, they imply the existence of something from which we are taking a break.  Vacation implies the existence of a relationship.  This is a vast improvement over singleness which can feel interminable and involuntary, with a dash of inferiority.

My friend complained of waking up to "single suckhood".  I know what that's like.  But I'm not feeling it right now.  I'm sad about my break-up but not about my circumstances.  I don't really feel single.  I feel between relationships.  So, I know the label "Single" creates more yuckiness than is necessary. It's the connotation of incompleteness, single as opposed to whole.  Being incomplete, there is something wrong with my life, and wrong with me.  In addition to that, we're surrounded by negative judgments and we absorb the negativity.

"Poor girl, still single."
"Don't worry, the Lord will reward you in the eternities."
"I sure feel sorry for her, not getting to be a mother."
"There must be something wrong with him, he's single."
"He's failing his responsibility as a man by not getting married."
"They're single, but by no fault of their own." 

We've all heard these at church.  We believe them, often, we put them on ourselves.  If you're single, those words probably make you ill.  Why? Because they mean that your life is less than.  Sometimes, people think they are comforting you with these words.   But they're not because the implications sting:  it means that they think you need comforting simply because you are single.  And because this kind of thinking leads to destructive ruminations: I am an object of pity.  My life is tragic.  I deserve to be rewarded for suffering my terrible life.   I need to wait for another person before my life is valid.  I am nothing without children.  Being single is a failing.  I am not a real man.   So, of course being 'single' makes us feel bad.  These conclusions are wrong.  I have decided to free myself from them.  I don't have to define myself that way.  I'm on vacation.
   
We've heard this before, we should stop thinking negatively and we'll be happier.   This may sound like the same pablum regularly served up to us, "You should enjoy being single,"  "You'll miss it later",  "Stop feeling sorry for yourself" .  . .  blah, blah.  Despite being well-meant, and bless their hearts for trying, that doesn't help either.  The only thing they mean is that you should stop feeling bad.  I'd love to stop feeling bad!   But, how?  Sometimes we're told,  "Don't give up", or "Stay busy".  Great.  But that doesn't really work.  Staying busy distracts you from negative thoughts.  Which is good, but it doesn't change the way you define yourself.  And no matter how busy you are, you still have to go to bed at night, and lie there alone and in silence.  That's when it really haunts you.  Especially the long lonely nights when you can't sleep.   I am single.  There is something wrong with me. No. There is not.

There is nothing wrong with me.  My life is not incomplete, nor lacking.  I have challenges, just like everyone else.  Consider this parallel: I am not wealthy.  I would like to be.  Some things in my life would be easier if I were.  But this doesn't make my life incomplete, or wrong.  (Despite the propaganda from American Consumerism.)  I made the choices that brought me to this financial state.  I wouldn't change most of those decisions.  Being broke stinks, but it is not a measure of my value as a human being.  It's the consequence of certain circumstances and bad luck, it is not a condemnation.

Likewise, I am single because of bad luck and, as a result of certain circumstances and choices I've made.  I didn't go to BYU.  I didn't move to Utah.  I pursued my education and career instead of men.  I chose not to pretend to be like women that Mormon men prefer.  I rejected the men who wanted to marry me because I knew we wouldn't be happy.  I chose to stay faithful to my religion.   I wouldn't change any of that.  And, for a long time, I wasn't ready.  I had a lot of issues to deal with.   I own the responsibility for all of this.  I am not a victim.  That this is taking so long,  is probably where bad luck comes in.  Such is life.  The point is, singleness is not a condemnation. 

So, I will not think of myself as single and sorry.  I am on a relationship vacation. 

17 comments:

Sterling Fluharty said...

But how do you escape that nagging sense in the back of your mind that all vacations, no matter how good they are, must come to an end?

stacer said...

I went to Utah. I transferred to BYU. I pursued both my education and men--including brownie deliveries, I am embarrassed to admit, yes. I never rejected a single date--but even at BYU I was lucky to go on more than 1 date a year.

So welcome to the club. It has nothing to do with whether you went to Mecca or not. You can still leave empty-handed, no matter how you try or what you want.

JL said...

Sterling,
That's the whole point. Vacations are temporary, so it reminds me that my relationshipless-ness is also temporary.If I believe something else is coming, then I can wait peacefully, without anguish.And I'm not saying this is all awesomeness. I'm trying to convince myself of that.

Stacer,
I probably wouldn't have gotten married had I done all those things too. That's partly why I never bothered. I don't want to feel like a victim because I'm single, so if I take some responsibility for it that gives me back some power. But it's a thin line between that and blaming yourself, which I don't want to do either. I need some peace in my life right now. Everything is going so wrong, I need one less thing to feel bad about.

Sterling Fluharty said...

Just this morning I received a message from someone on Match.com who apparently wants to make her vacation permanent. As she put it, "I think I need to be 100% comfortable in my skin and 100% okay with the fact that I may be alone the rest of my life." I believe she can do it. It is good to hear that you see things differently and that you get to experience some peaceful waiting.

JL said...

Sterling,
Did you get that message from someone you asked out? A lot of women have used that line.

Sterling Fluharty said...

I haven't met her, but suddenly she turned really chatty tonight with messages through Match.com. I haven't ever asked her out. She just kind of opened up to me, I guess. Do you think most women use that line as a subtle way of telling a guy they aren't really interested in him? Oh, and sorry to hear about your financial struggles.

JL said...

Sterling,
I've used that as a line, as a way to say 'no' without saying no. "I'm not dating right now. I need to concentrate on myself. You're a really great guy."

I don't know what her deal is. Maybe she just needs to talk to someone. It definitely sounds like you are in friend territory. No woman in her 30s would turn down a date from someone she was interested in, no matter how much work she needed to do on herself. And I wonder why someone who doesn't want to date is paying for Match.com. Be careful.

Sterling Fluharty said...

That is a provocative assertion about women in their 30s. It sounds like you're saying they are a little desperate. But I have seen it happen in my own life. So maybe you are right.

My problem is that I am not careful enough. I become that friend who listens and then I get my heart broken. I guess it is hard for me to give people just one chance, especially once I get to know them. Maybe I can start drawing the line at second or third chances.

JL said...

This woman has you in the friend zone. Unless you want another friend, you're wasting your time. It's not about chances. Once a woman puts you in the friend zone, you're pretty much there to stay. (there are rare exceptions) But, if you're in the friend zone, it's because she wasn't interested in the first place, and that rarely changes. Unfortunately, being the nice guy who is there for her almost never wins over the girl. Rather, she starts thinking of you as a girlfriend. That is NOT what you want.

JL said...

I wouldn't say that women in their 30s are desperate, rather, we're very conscious of time. We can see ourselves aging, we know our eggs are getting old and there are fewer and fewer good men available. Given that reality, a wise woman knows that she does not have the luxury to turn down a man that she wants for pretty much any reason. Likewise, we have less patience for indulging the men we're not interested in.

Sterling Fluharty said...

Wow, if I had realized the finality of the friend zone that would have saved me a lot of heartache this last time around. And yeah, I'm not getting a lot of mileage out of the nice guy thing.

I like your point about about women in their 30s being reluctant to waste their time on guys that don't hold their interest. It sounds like I should I have read your comment as being about determination rather than desperation.

Sterling Fluharty said...

I thought some more about what we said. I think your point applies more to women in their 30s who have never had children. Those who already have kids may not worry as much about the aging of their eggs. So I think it makes some sense for women in this latter group to turn down dates from men they may be interested in, especially if they have become accustomed to putting someone else's needs above her own.

JL said...

Ok. A mother is clearly not worried about her biological clock. And, if she's too busy with her kids to date then she would pass on a man. If that's the case, she's not going to waste her money on match.com. In my experience, single mothers are much more aggressive and eager when they find a man who is ok with their kids.

this would have been a good post, send me a dear celibate email if you have any questions.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

JL,

I partially agree with your ideas of friendships not working out. However, I have had two relationships that started out that way. Neither of them worked out ultimately, but it had little to do with the fact that we were friends first.

I think that our behaviour becomes a self-fulfilled prophesy with regard to singles in the Church over 30. We decide that it has to be instantanious attraction or nothing. We are taught by Church learders to avoid that habit, however.

So, I think that the jury is still out on this. I don't think that the idea of friends becoming lovers is as rare or ridiculous as we all want to believe. I think that 30+ dating requires some real maturity along these lines for both parties. I mean, the situation could be that one person likes the other, but the other just wants to be friends. This requires some real maturity on the part of the one who has feelings. Also, there is the situation where two people like eachother paternally, then surprizingly have a shift in feelings just out of the blue. It happens alot, and can make for a really good relationship.

I mean, how do you think office romances happen? People have some real, constant interation with eachother, and somewhere along the line the two see eachother in a different light. It does happen. But rarely in the Church does it happen for a number of reasons. 1)Because the activities we are given do not foster any real quality interation, 2)Everyone is in such a hurry, and has an agenda...not to mention a long list that no one can really fulfill, and 3) We aren't very good at having "friends" of the opposite sex because we are all so sexually frustrated that one of the two parties will almost always push for sexual contact, which is the first way to kill any deeper friendship that could be budding.

It's all screwed up and very depressing, honestly. I have little hope for the honest, chaste, single Mormon over 30,of which group I am a part. I don't care what impressive trickets you bring to the table.

Personally, I think that there needs to be a Singles Revolution in the Church in order for singles to be given thier autonomy. I mean, is there any wonder why 90-95% of all singles over the age of 30 in the Church are inactive?

This is such a depressing subject, but what else can you do but talk about it in order to try to bring about some change?

Jess

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

JL,

I tried to send you an email, but CityJL@gmail did not work. Do I have the wrong address?

Jess

JL said...

it's cityjl@gmail.com

What I was trying to say was that it sounded like this woman was blowing him off. That's different from actually being real friends and then falling in love. Being real friends first is awesome.

But, when a man PRETENDS to be a woman's friend because he wants to get in her pants, that sucks and does not work. Because the friendship is never sincere. Pretending to be someone's friend is NOT a good dating strategy or a good way to pursue a woman because it's dishonest. Frankly, right now, I wish all my fake male friends would leave me the hell alone.

Notes From The Glass Ceiling said...

JL,

I get it. And I agree. What a lovely dating world we have here.

Jess