I am eight years old and sitting in the back seat of my mom’s blue Toyota. In the front seat, my nana is talking to her about a colleague’s daughter “finally” getting married.
“They didn’t know if it was ever going to happen,” she said.
“How old is this woman?” I remember thinking to myself at the time, assuming she must be in her 60s or 70s.
When nana recently looked me straight in my now 29-and-a-half-year-old face and said without laughing that she is “only staying alive to come to my wedding,” it occurred to me that the woman they were talking about was probably younger than I am now.
“You’re so pretty,” she says every time I see her. “I don’t understand why you can’t find someone.” When I brought her to Fashion Week a couple of years ago and she got to sit in the front row at the Nanette Lepore show, she beamed with pride all day.
A few days later, I asked if she had told her friends about it. “Yes, they thought it was very nice. But they don’t understand why you don’t have a boyfriend.”
My grandmother’s out-of-touch outlook and outdated parameters for success have no doubt informed my own ideas about love and self-worth, however subconscious they might be. She is highly concerned with my physical appearance, romantic prospects and ― even if she doesn’t say it directly ― the relationship between the two.
And indeed, I have attributed my lack of meaningful romantic relationship to my appearance countless times: being too ugly, too fat, too undesirable to find love.
When I share that (ongoing) feeling with my therapist, she gently reminds me that people who look many different ways have relationships ― and also that I am being a little absurd. At first, I took that to mean that she thinks I’m unattractive. Do you understand (one of the many reasons) I am in therapy yet?
She also brings up the trauma of losing a parent at a young age. The fact that I have had very few men in my life to look up to in any real way. The fact that I only very recently even started becoming comfortable being in my own body. The work I need to do on myself before I can even imagine getting close to someone else feels palpable.
The thing is: I don’t really fucking mind being single. The truth is, for many single people ― especially those around the same age as me, whose Facebook feeds are a mashup of first looks, girls in matching T-shirts and gender reveals ― the desire is not simply to find a partner. It is to accept and find freedom in being on your own damn timeline.
This is not to say that I don’t get lost in black holes of vintage engagement rings (Doyle & Doyle has my favorite by far), imagine what I would wear to my own wedding, am convinced that my quality television intake would catapult if I just had someone to binge with, am slightly uncomfortable during the one slow song at every wedding and would love to be having more consistent sex.
But then, those moments, which I’m not sure are actually a product of my thinking or the way I’ve been conditioned to think, pass. The faster songs are the most fun at a wedding, anyway.
Still, many people in my life cannot understand or accept that I’m moving on a path that doesn’t look like the ones around me ― the one where you grow up, meet the right person (whatever that means) before 30, get married and, I don’t know, spend the rest of eternity tolerating each other?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept, too. “Dating is so hard!” everyone says. And it might be. But it’s not that hard. Just ask someone in credit card debt from being a bridesmaid so many times.
For me, and maybe for you too, there is freedom in remembering that things happen for a reason, when we are actually ready for them. And finding your happiness ― whether that be through a relationship or otherwise ― will happen on your own time. I have never been quite like anyone else, so why would my love life be?