The sounds in the house shifted steadily throughout the night. At first, there were stories in the kitchen, and the sound of vodka bottles being opened; laughter; the splashing of water in the hot tub outside. And then, the crying began. I felt like a relative newcomer to the group, so when one of the girls began throwing up in between long, heart-stopping wails, I felt helpless. When she came from the bathroom, dizzy and wet, I told her to sit on my lap. She was small, and curled up on my thighs, fitting neatly into the various curves of my body like a huge puzzle piece. And she grieved. Her body shook and her face was wet with tears. Her words were choppy, and in that moment, my heart broke so deeply for my friend, that I pulled her close, and fought back my own tears. He had broken up with her over a year ago, but when he left, he’d ripped out a huge part of her spirit. It was a grotesque act, and I saw it in the way her mouth would open in a soundless cry, and her eyes, normally lit up with wit and happiness, seemed blank.
In Christian circles, marriage is held high as the ultimate goal for women. I didn’t know this at first, but it became obvious soon enough. In Grenada, I was celebrated for my academic achievements, my intelligence and the ways I honored my family. In America, women are referenced in relation to their husbands. It’s odd to me, because I’d always imagined myself getting married in my late 20’s, so was I supposed to lay in wait in my apartment, pining daily for a man? A man to do what? To do what I couldn’t do myself? I’ll call BS on that one for myself, and for my grieving friend. And it’s definitely not just modern churches in the US. This rhetoric is everywhere.
When one of my roommates asked me if I was a lesbian, I froze. She and I had worked together for over 2 years, and the question not only stunned me, but it stung as well. The underlying implication sunk in: she could not imagine me with a man. It wasn’t too long after that that I started my journey through the wonderful world of online dating (if you know me well, I trust you read the sarcasm of that last statement). It was a year-long journey, with months of active profiles, months of being off-the-grid, and a long stretch where I was on multiple sites at once. I was determined to define my womanhood with the validation of a man. In retrospect, those were some of my bleakest months.
During that time, it became clear that I was thinking about it wrong, and not just thinking about “dating” wrong, but viewing myself incorrectly. When did that become obvious? When I found myself hinting to one guy that he needed to take me out on a real date, and when he did, he told me we were a poor fit spiritually, and should stop seeing each other. I can’t remember feeling more slighted by a guy, especially one I felt like I was settling for…
So after that, in the quiet of my bedroom with nothing to entertain myself except for a few books and social media, I came into my own. Instead of viewing my singleness as a curse, and hinging my self-worth and emotions on men, I decided that I was going to become every good thing I wanted in a guy. I wanted ambition, so I started grinding away at work on high speed; I wanted strength so I started pumping iron at the gym; I wanted a spiritual backbone, so I committed myself to service and learning at my church. There would be nothing I would one day look for in a guy, that I didn’t possess in myself. And by the end of the year, when I hopped onto another dating site, I was whole. And I was ready.
So whenever I was asked out on a date after that, I made it clear that the choice whether or not we moved forward was mine, not his. And I came home after each failed date, content that if I really wanted to be wined and dined, I could bank-roll myself. Now, I can look back and say that I’ve had adventures and grown beautifully – by myself. I smile now at the memories of solo road trips, concerts, movies, events and nice dinners; of the extra time I had to develop lifelong bonds, and the bravery to approach both women and men with an offering of friendship, learning their stories and being emotionally available. It was freeing.
Riding solo is a gift as much as being in a relationship is. Yes, I know this cliche is hard to believe, but it’s coming from someone who spent the first 22 years, 11 months and 3 weeks of her life preparing for the convent, and getting ready to die alone. I know how frustrating this is. But if you’re single, this is your time to invest in yourself the way no man will ever be able to; no one else will have more of an interest in your life than you. So grind, balance your checkbook, set the dance floor ablaze solo or with your squad, knowing that your happiness is in your own very capable hands.
For some balance, I will say that women do have very specific roles. I take absolute pride and pleasure in being a helper to my boyfriend, as much as is expected at this stage in our relationship. I love reassuring him, encouraging him, spoiling him whenever I can. However, we are called not only to be strong mothers and wives, but also to be industrious and to build (see Proverbs 31:10-31). But if you ever feel like you’re “less-than” because you’re single, then it’s time to focus on developing yourself; whatever you’re looking for in a guy, write it down, and challenge yourself to become all of those things.
And remember, God’s most treasured gift to humanity lived His entire life on earth as a bachelor… When you do get hitched, that is the time to cherish unity with someone else. Until then, have a single-hood that you will remember far beyond children and houses and retirement. Use this time to complete yourself because truly, any relationship where either person looks to other for completion, is unhealthy and sinking. Sweet lady, be the man of your life and thrive.