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I’m pretty tough. During the holidays I can generally handle the abundance of unsolicited advice that oozes up like noxious gas from the pores of my Irish family members, their pale skin slick with dust-bowl era words of wisdom and antiquated advice. This holiday season, however, aside from my outfit choices, my friends, family, family friends, pediatrician, and Instagram feed all seem to want to comment on one thing: my single-hood.
I can’t take it anymore. Not only do they call attention to my lack of significant other, blood relatives and strangers alike all seem to have the same advice – When you stop looking, you will meet someone – and honestly, it’s very insulting.
So, this holiday season, I’m finally calling bullshit. I’m telling the truth about this off-hand advice people throw around like doctors diagnosing adult onset ADD. While it may not be popular, for the sake of all my single hustlers out there, I need to set the record straight.
I can’t tell you how many times, whilst observing my lack of significant other, people in relationships will lean in, compassionately touch my arm, and whisper eagerly over a glass of red wine some version of the following.
“The minute you stop looking, someone will appear! Just focus on yourself!” they coax, as if I’m a newborn first learning to chew my food.
“The minute I gave up on dating and finally got over XYZ, I ran straight into Kevin in the grocery store! Not kidding, I literally bumped into him! I spilled grapes everywhere! Isn’t that amazing?!” they’ll giggle, as if there is an unlimited supply of Kevin’s loitering around the produce aisle just waiting to be bumped into. Only, of course, if you have “stopped trying”!
I think what has caught me particularly off guard, though, isn’t the ridiculousness of this advice considering today’s app fueled dating landscape, but how presumptuous the whole thing is.
First, working on oneself and looking for a partner are not mutually exclusive! You can do both. You can go to the gym and go on dates, you can start meditating [read: download the meditating app] and still agree to go on blind set-ups, and you certainly can swipe left and right while maintaining a robust social life. The assumption that I am just fumbling around life, a disorganized, unfulfilled mess all because I have put “myself” on the back burner on the quest for companionship is insulting. It is just another way to single-shame someone, as if I am less-whole for putting effort into looking for a lover. That’s right. I said lover.
Working on myself does not negate my ability to seek a boyfriend, nor does seeking a boyfriend negate my ability to take care of myself. I’m a mess for a lot of reasons, none of which are a product of my unwavering determination to actively date.
I don’t think people realize how unsettling it is to be told, time and time again, that only when I fall to my knees at the alter of St. Valentine and stop actively dating, the perfect man will tumble from the heaven’s adorned with a sparkly bow and perfectly chiseled abs. I’ve given up the dating game in the past. I’ve thrown my hands in the air in dramatized exasperation and thrown in the metaphorical towel. I’ve gone months without actively pursuing a significant other, filling my time with yoga and “working on my screenplay,” and the only thing that has come out of it is a semi-permanent impression of the Hulu remote on my cheek and a sheen layer of Doritos dust on my upper lip.
Sure, these love stories are real. The “we were both buying basil at the organic farmers market!” meet-cutes do exist, but when we insinuate that they are better, more fulfilling, or only likely to happen when you have given up the game, we are disregarding and diminishing the efforts of the people that try.
Look, love is a crap shoot. Hell, even finding a semi-permanent boyfriend to spend the winter with is a crap shoot. Sometimes you meet them in a bar and sometimes you meet them at a yard sale and sometimes, and I would say statistics are in my favor here, you meet them while you’re hustling the dating apps like a first rate gangster.
I refuse to feel badly for trying, as if I’m desperate because I give a shit and don’t spend my time sitting in bookstores hoping to god some cute poet notices me. With the ever growing prevalence of people listening to podcasts while they grocery shop and scrolling through Instagram while they wait in line for coffee, it don’t think bumping into a compatible, sexy stranger is getting any easier. So dammit, don’t tell me to tap out of a game that, these days, demands more effort than ever before.
In conclusion, I implore all of you out there, the well-intentioned advice givers, whispering over spiked cider to your single (probably slightly lonely) friends, to think twice before you tell them to “just stop trying!”
It’s not easy to put yourself out there. It’s hard work, but it’s work worth doing. And to be told the fruits of your labor, all of the nervous first dates and numbers scribbled on bar napkins, are probably for nothing, isn’t encouraging – it’s insulting.
I’m not going to stop looking, I’m not going to give up the pursuit, so I hope you’ll stop advising me to. Plus, if I stop dating, where on earth will I get all my content?
Happy holidays single squad – keep on keepin’ on. I’m here to tell you it’s worth it..