As a single woman in my mid-30s living in Los Angeles and casually dating (i.e., not trying very hard but open to meeting dudes), I feel a lot of pressure from other people in my life, as well as society at large, to find "The One."
You know, my soul mate, other half, best friend, partner-in-crime, person who whispers "you complete me" in my ear just after we make sweet, sweet love. Friends hope each date I go on with someone new will be my "last first date," that I'll find someone who lets me "delete those dating apps forever." I get it, people want me to be happy and live a full, enriching life, and our culture consistently instills in us that for women to be happy and live the best life, we have to partner up and settle down.
Here's the thing, though. I actually am happy and living a full and enriching life as a single woman. Is it perfect? Nope. But when I examine the lives of my friends who are married or married with kids, I don't see perfection there either. Even in the best marriages and relationships I still see stress, resentment, personal sacrifice, unfulfilled expectations and forced relocations to undesirable suburbs with affordable housing and good schools.
That's not to say I think my friends made the wrong decision to get married or have kids or move to Encino, it's just to say it's not the best decision for everyone and shouldn't be regarded as the end-all and be-all of life's journey.
I have a few female friends and family members who are deeply mired in the romantic comedy myths of how women's lives should go. These women in my life are all married, and their greatest hope for me is that I become married too -- as soon as possible, 'cuz you know my clock is ticking.
I wouldn't characterize them like the "Smug Married" villains in "Bridget Jones's Diary" -- they don't project superiority over all singletons or blatantly dismiss my lifestyle. They simply want all of us single folks to join them on their side, with holy matrimony, blissful monogamy and complete sets of beautiful Le Creuset cookware courtesy of a wedding registry. These friends are more like "Marriage Missionaries," well-meaning folks who assume you'll be happier if you open up your heart and let "The One" into your life, because that's just what they know and what they expect for you.
When I tell these Marriage Missionaries about a new guy I'm dating, no matter how I describe him and our situation, invariably the first response is "Oh, my God, he sounds like 'The One!'" to which I usually respond with a long, dramatic sigh. No, he is not "The One." He's a 24-year-old actor / bartender living with three roommates in the Valley whose idea of "dating" is texting me when he's drunk and inviting me over to look through his latest head shots and help pick the ones in which he looks "the least bro-y." I wouldn't even call him my boyfriend, never mind "The One." Somehow this makes my Marriage Missionary friends sad and discouraged (But maybe things will change with him?), even when I explain, yet again, that I'm fine with casually dating right now.
But once you enter your 30s, no one wants to hear that you are dating just to date. You need to constantly be searching for "The One," and if you are dating someone who is clearly not "The One," then you are wasting your damn time, woman. Your eggs are dying! It's only going to get harder to find a man after you hit 40! Put yourself out there!
The pressure, if you buy into this business, is suffocating. Unless you are a man, in which case "dating just to date" undoubtedly results in envious encouragement from pretty much all of your married cohorts.
Of course, there are times when feeling alone can feel lonely, but they don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.
As I learned from watching an episode of my guilty-pleasure show "The Bachelor," it's better to be home alone than home wishing you were alone (credit former contestant Emily Maynard for that soundbite full of genius).
There are definitely times when I feel like an outcast in society for being single, but not to a degree I find debilitating. Filling out an "In Case of Emergency" form at YogaWorks gives me a second of pause, but I have plenty of friends I can count on to save me from any mid-yoga-class-downward-dog-gone-wrong crisis that arises.
Answering security questions when setting up an online account can also prove challenging when all the questions pertain to my nonexistent honeymoon location, anniversary date, children's birthdays or spouse's shoe size. They may as well just ask me, "At what age do you think you will be dying alone because you never found 'The One?'"
Maybe someday I will meet a man who makes me want to "settle down" and write the last chapter to my dating life. But I don't have to wake up every morning wishing and praying for it to happen.
It doesn't have to define or guide my life. And in the meantime, I'm going to live my life and unapologetically date lots of "Not The Ones."
The author lives in Beachwood Canyon and is a freelance producer and writer. She is on Instagram @kingofkatie
L.A Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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