It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single

As of yet, there is no peer-reviewed data on the efficacy of journaling by candlelight.

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We all want to feel needed, and we also want to be with people who can manage on their own, if needbe.

Dating is an act of outrageous vulnerability. You're leaving the comfort of your home and your friends to subject yourself to the scrutiny of strangers. You're sliding into that restaurant booth, plopping your laptop and gym bag on the floor, and saying, 'Hi, I'm Sara. Let's see if we can start a life together, shall we?'

It doesn't get more optimistic than that.

Did my friends and I make mistakes when we were single? Probably. Did we arrogantly dismiss men who could have turned out to be great husbands for us? Could be. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did not take the advice of the acquaintance who said, ‘You select a husband the way you do a house. You choose from what’s available at the time.’

Human beings are not houses—you don’t walk in and say, ‘Well, so long as we gut the kitchen and add a third bathroom, this could work,’ or, ‘It has no charm, but it’s close to work and it’s all I can afford.’ No. You love them as they are, or you let them find someone else who does.

Here's a thought: Maybe you've remained single well into adulthood because...you know what you're doing. Because there is something right with you.

Human beings are not houses—you don't walk in and say, 'Well, so long as we gut the kitchen and add a third bathroom, this could work,' or, 'It has no charm, but it's close to work and it's all I can afford.' No. You love them as they are, or you let them find someone else who does.

If you’ve dragged out the crystals and started exploring your chakras for the express purpose of finding your soul mate, then it’s going to be rough if that person doesn’t materialize.

Now you’re not just alone, you’re also out of sync with the universe. And that’s sort of heavy.

Especially when people try to cheer you up with their own magical ‘how we met’ stories. They might be encouraging sometimes, but they also beg the question: Why do the universe’s elves and fairies keep blowing you off? How come every time you meet a guy at the supermarket he turns out to live in his mother’s basement?

I have friends who are still looking, friends who are married, and friends who are divorced. The difference, I've come to see, is largely due to chance, rather than character. Because after all those years of self-doubt, my late-marrying friends and I found men who love us even though we're still cranky and neurotic, even though we still haven't got our careers together, even though we sometimes talk too loud or drink too much or swear at the TV when the news is on. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us anyway.

What's wrong with me? What's wrong with any of us? If we're honest, the answer probably is 'plenty.' But that's not the point.

I have no problem with being fabulous. My problem comes when you won't allow yourself to be an ordinary woman with a decent apartment and an okay job. When only the mom is allowed to be boring—because her life is so rich with meaning.

When I carefully choreographed the story of how amazing I was, I was acting like one of those helicopter parents—you know, the ones who refuse to admit that their Jackson might suck at math or Stella might not be the world's greatest violinist. 'You are special! You are special!' they cry to their children, hoping this will boost their confidence. But the real message is one of panic: You must be special. Ordinary is not okay. When I walked into a party projecting the Shiny Girl—she of the lighthearted flings and glitzy job—I was essentially doing the same thing.

Let's take another look at that awful word 'desperate.' As Stephanie Coontz points out, the fact that we throw this label on women who have refrained from marrying is absurd. 'It's understandable that many women are anxious about the prospect of finding a good husband,' Coontz wrote in Marriage, a History. 'But few modern women are actually desperate to marry. Historically, desperate is agreeing to marry a much older man whom you find physically repulsive. Desperate is closing your eyes to prostitutes and mistresses and praying you don't get a venereal disease. Desperate is having child after child because your husband won't let you use birth control or covering the bruises you got last night when you hurry to the market to shop for the evening meal. Women today may be anxious about finding a mate, but most could not even imagine being that desperate.'

You didn't rush back to that mediocre relationship. You didn't grit your teeth and enter some passionless union with a perfectly nice guy who doesn't get you. There are people who are afraid to be alone, who head for the nearest warm body after each breakup, or who stay in miserable relationships because the alternative is so terrifying. But that's not you, is it?

Loneliness is treated like the ultimate taboo; at the same time, it’s regarded as a trifle. That to be a thirty-seven-year-old who has spent a decade without someone to hold her hand at the doctor’s office is akin to being a thirteen-year-old sighing over a boy band.

Again, I know—‘single’ is not a synonym for ‘lonely.’ I know there are many lonely married people, as well as lots of single people who have a rich network of deep social connections—friends, sisters, daughters, nephews, etc.—whose lives are as far from Heller’s unhappy narrator as can be.

But for many of us, living alone in a society that is so rigorously constructed around couples and nuclear families is hard on the soul.

Now when I remember the woman I was—heaving herself off the couch to go on another Internet date, taking a deep breath before walking into the party where she'd see her ex and his new girlfriend—I don't feel a trace of contempt or embarrassment. I have a funny admiration for the girl who kept taking her licks and got back up again. That was me. Doing my best. Which, of course, is all any of us can do.

Obviously, I'm not everyone's dream date. Sure, some people would prefer that, when asked about your loathsome job, you take the advice of one pop psychologist: 'Well, I don't know if I can say the work is fun, but the people are great!' Some people hate the sound of bad news.

On the other hand, some of us hate the sound of bullshit. Some of us would rather hear, 'You know, I've been doing this for fifteen years and I really don't like the direction my profession is headed in, and I'm honestly pretty confused about what to do next.' Whether a person is a 'downer' or refreshingly honest is a matter of taste.

So while you could try to act like a nitwit to soothe some dude's fragile ego, Ruti points out that this is rather self-defeating. 'You may think that playing helpless will give you a romantic edge. But actually, all it does is to weed out the egalitarian men,' she wrote.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, for example, only entitles spouses, grown children, and parents to take time off to care for a sick loved one. If a childless single person falls ill, only her parents have the legal right to take off work to care for her. If they’re deceased or not up to the task, she’s out of luck. Even if she has a sister, niece, or best friend willing to take a leave, they won’t be legally entitled to do so. No one has the right to care for her.

There are people who are afraid to be alone, who head for the nearest warm body after each breakup, or who stay in miserable relationships because the alternative is so terrifying. But that's not you, is it?

We had each other of course, but not in the perfectly synced way our television counterparts did. We didn't live in the same apartment building and pop in unannounced to make grilled-cheese sandwiches or coach each other for job interviews. We weren't always available for emergency brunches or last-minute trips to Jamaica. Instead, we had complicated, independent lives wending down many different paths, lives that sometimes had us working sixteen-hour days, or moving out of state, or navigation fledging romance. We saw each other the way most urban professionals do - by booking dates days or weeks in advance. That meant we were frequently alone, with time.

When you're experiencing that year-in, year-out challenge of being on your own, it's easy to ask the question "What does everyone else know that I don't?" I suggest you flip that around.