In time for Valentine's Day, here's my Flashback Friday contribution, circa 2007.
Buy lots of cats or personal ads: these are the options of singleness. I choose neither. I don’t recoil when love is mentioned, but the hope of marriage isn’t what wakes me. I want to desire marriage without being labeled desperate; I want to enjoy singleness without being labeled bitter. At the same time.
So I’m declaring a third option. I’m still working on a cool name (it’s not a legit group unless it’s named—preferably an acronym) for Individuals Who Desire Marriage—But Aren’t Desperate, and Who Enjoy Singleness—But Aren’t Bitter (or IWDMADWESAB). I’m open to suggestions because not only is it impossible to pronounce IWDMADWESAB, it doesn’t fit on t-shirts.
IWDMADWESAB is for single people who are bothered that they can’t mention wanting to be married without being pitied, or worse, enduring unasked for advice. When I go home, I’m rarely asked about my Masters thesis, or if I’m enjoying being an adjunct professor, or if my application to teach in Europe was accepted. Nope. I’m only asked if I’m dating anyone. I dread that question—not because I’m embarrassed to say no, but because I dislike the responses. My favorite is approval I didn’t ask for: “I think it’s fine that you’re single. Good for you!” Or, I’m reassured about a fear I don’t have: “You’re still single? Don’t give up. You’ll find someone.” This, more than an unrealized wish, tempts my heart to harden. Bitterness is easier—it takes courage to be proud of a life when it’s doubted just because it’s lived solo.
IWDMADWESAB is also for single people who decide that marriage is an if in their life, not a when. Marriage is not the goal of my life; even if I marry, I will not have succeeded unless I make my dreams as real as my caffeine headaches; unless I leave my students with more questions than answers; unless I’m a person others want to be around because they breathe easier in my presence. Discontentment is easier—it takes courage to build a life when marriage isn’t a guarantee.
But make no mistake, IWDMADWESAB is not for single people who stick their tongues out at couples and have to hold themselves back from spitting on newlyweds. I want someone to talk with on holidays when my married friends are discussing mortgages and I’m bored, and I want a best friend to pester and to laugh with, and I want to wake up to my children giggling at Saturday morning cartoons. Numbness is easier—it takes courage to keep the heart alive to a desire that may never be realized.
Like any membership, there’s a catch to joining: building a life that you’re proud of, and fulfilled by, can raise your standards. You won’t want just anyone sharing the fabulous life you’ve created—which can translate into fewer dating options. But if this membership drawback is livable, and if you’re not get-married-at-any-cost, and if you’re not daydreaming about tripping happy couples, IWDMADWESAB is for you. Join responsibly.