“There was (and still is) something wrong with me. And it’s the same thing that’s ‘wrong’ with pretty much every single woman in New York complaining she can’t find a decent man … We don’t know what we want. And so we want a little bit of everything, over and over again.”
Jennifer Doll’s words on the plight of the NYC single woman in the Village Voice last week have been keeping me awake at night. She’s right. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I’m rendered inert by my confusion. I’m stuck.
While Doll’s piece was thought-provoking, eye-opening, and well-written, it’s part of a larger trend in “advice” offered to single women; the “it’s not them, it’s you” school of thought. Yesterday, I came across a piece on the Huffington Post, by “Mad Men” writer Tracy McMillan, called “Why You’re Not Married.” Eager to be enlightened, I clicked on the link only to discover that some of the reasons I’m not married are that I’m a selfish, slutty, lying bitch who doesn’t think I’m good enough. The tone was tongue-in-cheek, but still. Ouch. I closed the tab, feeling motivated run out to the nearest book store and pick up a copy of Lori Gottlieb’s book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough which proposes that women are too darn picky when looking for a mate and that we should just settle. Maybe her words could reassure me that Mr. Good Enough would be willing to settle for a self-loathing bitch like me, Mrs. Not Good Enough. Obviously, I am being sarcastic.
In reading all this “it’s not them, it’s you” advice, I’ve been seized by moments of shame and intense self-doubt. It’s the next logical step — from “man bashing” to “me bashing.” But isn’t any bashing unproductive? It’s a waste of energy. It’s negative. It’s not helpful. It’s not fertile ground for love to grow. You’re still stuck playing the blame game, even if you are blaming yourself.
This concept isn’t new for me. I’ve been sitting with it for the last year or so. I gave myself bountiful time to hold a mirror up and contemplate the plethora of reasons why I’m single at 32. I unpacked my satchel-o-issues and made changes in my approach to love. I took a hiatus from dating, I started taking more risks with my heart, I said no to people I wouldn’t have in the past, and I focused on self-improvement. I took — I take! — responsibility for my singlehood. I changed for the better, but so far, my experience in the dating world has not. So I ask you, now what?
What “it’s not them, it’s you” doesn’t address are ways to cope with the all the pressure, stress, and frustration of being single, even after you’ve identified the ways in which you have been contributing to the problem. It doesn’t suggest any possible solutions. How do you get from realizing it’s you, to galloping off into the great beyond with Mr. Good Enough? It is just a matter of timing, luck, patience, karma, and remaining positive? I really don’t have the answers, but I’m posing the question, hoping a discussion will foster them. Because it’s insufficient to talk about a problem without moving toward a solution. The problem is me. Fair enough. But I want to keep moving forward, moving towards finding love, not just focusing on why I haven’t found it yet.