I’m sinking amid a giant chair and the bar of the Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles. And I’ve not even touched the liquor. I’m just…relaxed. It’s November, 78 degrees outside, stomach is flat, skin is clear, still agile (in the sense I can still pick up a pencil if I’ve dropped it), my roots are religiously touched up – because I’m 34. I’ve just wrapped another interview about not being married, and yet I’m still alive in my thirties. How does she do it? They cry.
I realise panic could set in if I’m not careful. I’ve been dating boys (some were even men) for 16 years. Admittedly, a trickle of those ‘relationships’ in my late teens were a matter of exchanging slices of pizza or the odd handful of candy floss, whilst we impressed each other on the most frightening of fairground rides. Admittedly, again, I didn’t actually go on rides because I was too scared of being sick – but boy I won stray, inhumanely trafficked-goldfish like a fiend.
Have all those years of magic, of masculine encounter, of mistakes, of vulnerability, of heartache, of flirtation, of joy, of infidelity, of monogamy, of awkward silences, of sexual misnomers, of purity, of singleness, of team work, of cohabiting, of joint-businesses, of birthday celebrations, of career celebrations, of happy surprises, of ugly surprises, been worth it?
Apart from a couple of experiences which I could have done without. Had I rewritten those two storylines once more, I’d have picked up a more productive skill in Sudoku, than eaten dinner in their company. ‘Well it’s more stories for your writing’ my friends tell me. ‘Not these ones. Oh no. Those stories are thrown into the black abyss of memory land the moment one has processed what one needs to process over the psychological trauma they could have created’. I don’t care for writing material, I care for joyous romance thanks very much. But of course, if you’re going to date for 16 years with a few sublime years of singledom in between, you’re going to have a couple of dodgy late-night kebabs.
But back to being 34 and not yet married. Not being in covenant doesn’t mean my life hasn’t started, it doesn’t mean life doesn’t carry weight without a husband. Show me a man that can’t be single for a week, and I’ll run a mile. Show me a woman who is on the hunt after a bad date with another, and I’ll give her the number for CODA (codependents anonymous – yes there is such a thing). Being content in singledom is vital for future companionship.
I was not the girl that wished to date only one man, who would then form into my life-long partner. I never had marriage plans in my twenties. I was the career girl, believing that I should have the purpose, a knowledge of what I should be contributing to the world, before I contributed to a man, never mind a family. Until then, I dated guys I ‘quite liked’. Often, if not always, attractive, sexy, funny, adventurous, with obliques that could grate cheddar. The soul and healthiness seemed to be a secondary factor. The Christian beliefs a third option – but it was just that: optional. The hope I had in men forming and changing into their finest version was far greater than my fear of it going wrong. So I would dive straight into love affairs with no lifevest – just a lot of lipstick.
Here’s what is interesting: my discernment on them from the very moment I met them was always bang on. ‘He hasn’t stopped talking about himself….’ “He appears to need the spotlight with all women in this place…’ ‘He won’t stop talking about his previous experience with women and not once has he mentioned his faults in the process…’ ‘He keeps coming back to the restaurant table after going out for a cigarette but I could swear I smell pot….’
And so on.
Without wanting to sell myself short on a first date here, I can assure you that although that subconscious chatter did exist in my brain, here’s the conscious thought going on at the same time: ‘He has a very interesting life…’, ‘He’s not shy of the crowd, and boy he’s funny…’ ‘He’s had a lot of experience with women, which could be refreshing to learn from…’ ‘Did he get sprayed by a Skunk out there?….’
And so on.
I’ve travelled, I’ve escaped, I’ve run away and I’ve faced much of what I learnt over these entire 16 years.
The height, the age, the stoic torso doesn’t matter so much to me these days, because quite frankly, none of it has stayed in my heart. The moments that did – were the moments where men apologized. Where men learnt from the incidents in which I was hurt. Their acceptance of my apologies, when I hurt them. The moments where you connected with each other, long after you kissed them goodbye. The most healing of these have been friendships with the exes. The men that were humble you understand. The ones that took ownership of their communication. The ones who don’t dish the silent treatment. The ones who didn’t play victim, who didn’t point the finger, who didn’t corrode your name for the sake of their own.
It’s often in a break up that you learn how much he really did love you. Do they cover? Or do they project? Do they place judgments: “They’re not the person I thought they were”. Or do they still champion you, whilst they watch you fall in love with someone else?
I know the type I prefer and it is the men who stay accountable to their words from the beginning, to way after the end.
Despite my four-month delay on sharing the rudiments of my love life, I decided, after this post, to cut straight to present day and to focus on issues out there.
For now, let us pretend Doc Brown’s DeLorean from Back to the Future was given as a donation this last month; the ‘flux capacitor’ has reached 88mph and we are plummeting into the present day.
It’s time for the bigger picture.
Sometimes in life, when you believe you’ve forgiven those past relationships from a long time a go, God steps in, bringing new people into the journey, to teach you what real love really looks like.
We might forgive, but God doesn’t forget, and he seeks justice, he seeks victory for your heart, just before you were about to give up hope on being loved the way you deserved.
Does life at 34 permit you to place yourself in a Thelma and Louise type scenario when you’re single and free?
Oh sure, if you want to. But for the record, your thirties place the permission (if you’re emotionally intelligent enough) to enjoy being single. Only the roughest types at relationships can’t cope with being alone. You are free. To be who you want to be. You get to say no to the codependents, you get to have standards based on how you know yourself for now.
You get to fly sweet friend, because you didn’t settle in your twenties, and you’re sure as hell not planning to now.