Last week, I came at you with the most depressing “Dater X” ever. I was feeling sad, and lonely, not to mention disappointed after realizing that Brown Eyes and I don’t have relationship potential after all. As I pressed send on that last column, I asked myself a question: Would you rather have met someone a few months after your last long-term relationship ended, and not have done the dating life for the past few years?
My first answer was: Duh, of course! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn’t actually true. I’ve learned a whole freaking lot in the past few years as a single woman—about myself, about people, and about the nature of relationships. I wouldn’t give that up.
I remember back in college, I got a bad grade on a short story that counted for half my grade in a creative writing class. The professor didn’t think my story was authentic to the characters I’d created. So I did what any uppity college student would do—I met with the professor to try to convince him otherwise. After trying to bargain with him for 15 minutes, I finally admitted that I’d written what I wanted to happen for the characters, rather than what I thought would really happen. He stared at me and said, “Well, rewrite the story.”
“You mean, I can submit a new draft for a new grade?” I asked, naivety sparkling in my eyes.
“No,” he said. “The grade stands. Rewrite the story for yourself.”
It was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. I did rewrite the story. It became the beginnings of the first novel I published.
And so I, Dater X, am taking that same advice again. I am rewriting my story. I am no longer thinking of myself as the girl who’s been unsuccessfully searching for love for years—a younger, hopefully edgier, East Coast version of Jennifer Aniston. I am challenging myself to change that story, and tell one that’s a little closer to reality: that I am a girl who has had an amazing few years in New York City and who is more ready than ever for real deal love.
Here are some of the things I’ve gotten out of my years as a single woman that might not have happened if I was in a relationship:
- I’ve learned what I really like in bed. The sex in my two multiple-year relationships was good. Or so I thought. But now that I’ve had the chance to fool around with a wide variety of people, I realize that it was actually bland and predictable—the same few positions, the same order of operations. Being single, I’ve seen that everyone has a different style and everyone teaches you something new. The list of things that get me off has gone from a three-item value menu to an overflowing all-you-can-eat buffet. And I’m way more confident in my ability to please others, too.
- I had time to write that aforementioned novel. Without having to worry about whether I was neglecting my significant other as I typed, typed, typed away through my evenings and weekends. Not to mention that if inspiration struck me at 4 a.m., I could get up and turn on the lights without having to think about waking someone up.
- I’ve shown myself that I can stand on my own two feet. A certain classic crooner once said that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Over the past few years, I’ve proved to myself that I can do just that, no help from my parents or a significant other required. I’ve built a career, curated an amazing community around me, bought an apartment, even installed my own air conditioner. That’s a pretty powerful feeling.
- I’ve traveled. One of my long-term significant others was always broke, and the other couldn’t drive and had panic attacks at the thought of flying. Needless to say, traveling wasn’t high on their priority lists. So I did it on my own. Now I know I want to be with someone who’s got a lust for globe-trotting.
- I have a better appreciation of just how rare a deep connection with someone is. I firmly believe that if meeting someone after my last relationship had been easy, I might have continued to have the same attitude I’ve held for years: that there are many fish in the sea.
After dating for a while, I’ve seen that, yes, there may be many fish in the sea, but there are a select few who you like the taste of. And even fewer who will be happy about you sticking a hook in their mouth and yanking them out of the water.
In other words, I realize now that to forge a relationship with someone, things need to work on a zillion and five different levels, which is not an everyday occurrence.
- I’ve built new friendships. Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of interesting people at work and at parties who, if I’d been in a relationship and had a default person to spend time with, might have just become acquaintances. Being single, I pushed myself to contact them, ask them if they wanted to hang out, and really get to know them. I can’t believe the amazing friends I might have missed out on.
- I’ve become a better friend to the ones who’ve been around forever. I’ve made time for them, and shown them that I can be a crisis call who will always be there to listen. I’ve been through some serious ups and downs, and that makes it much easier to relate to whatever people are going through.
- I have a better relationship with my family. Visiting my parents involves hopping on the train and traveling an hour and a half. When I’ve been in relationships, I’ve been much less likely to do this on a regular basis. By hanging out with my parents and sisters more, I’ve gotten to know them on a deeper level than I did a few years ago.
- I’ve put more energy into how I look. To some this may seem shallow, but it isn’t. (Just watch an episode of “What Not To Wear.”) As a single lady, I’ve become a regular at spinning class and developed a better sense of personal style. A few years ago, I would have described myself as reasonably good-looking. Now I look in the mirror and think, “Hey, I’m hot!”
- I’ve learned to be resilient in the face of rejection. I used to take any kind of breakup, even if I’d only been seeing someone for a few weeks, as a sign of some severe inadequacy. Now I realize that’s not the case; it’s just what happens when you aren’t a match with someone. Sure, when someone fades out or tells me, “We have to talk,” I get bummed. But I get over it. And pretty quickly at that.
- I value love in a way I couldn’t have before. I know what I want: an amazing partner who makes me feel loved, adored, and respected. Someone who cracks me up, challenges me, and whose clothes I want to rip off a high percentage of the time. When I find that, you best bet I am going to appreciate it on a level I never would have had finding him been easy. Never again will I take a significant other for granted.
Overall, I may get down sometimes and feel the single loneliness. (See: last night.) When that happens, I need to indulge it. And then flip my thinking. Move from “Wah! I don’t have anyone!” to getting myself excited to discover how I’ll finally meet my green zebra. It could be next week or another few years from now—who freaking knows? And that’s kind of beautiful.
Now, if you were one of the people who identified with my column last week, it’s time to rewrite your story. Do it! In the comments section! Now!