What I Learned About Myself After My 7-Month Dating Hiatus

Female office worker looking out of a window.
Female office worker looking out of a window.

When I am single, I date freely. I maintain an intricate roster of guys I bench, penalize, throw in the game, and fire from my team as needed. In the past, I've kept the rotation going until I found my MVP (a steady boyfriend) and I'd retire from the game at that point. Things with my last lineup ended a little differently.

Earlier this year, I found myself in an awkward position. I wasn't the girl who complained that there weren't enough good men out there; my complaint was that there was too many. A man's general care and thoughtfulness felt overwhelming and clingy to me. Dating was no longer the fun game it had been before and the last thing I wanted was "something real." Over a few weeks, I fired each player one by one and didn't bother to fill their positions.

Then, I came to the last guy on my roster, Dave. He was the most thoughtful, most romantic man I've met in my entire life. He was definitely husband material, but I was 24, selfish, and incapable of giving him what he deserved. He's the guy I wished I could preserve in a Ziploc bag until I was ready; but you can't do that sorta thing. So, I got to be the evil bitch who broke his heart just a couple of weeks before Valentine's Day. It made me sick to my stomach, but I had to break things off before he started planning some grand romantic gesture because he was that kind of guy.

I flirted with the idea of taking a mancation for a while, but after hurting Dave's feelings, I went for it. I felt like I was poison to good men and I felt smothered.

I made a dramatic declaration to my friends and told them I was officially on a mancation. I defined it as a state in which a woman purposefully stops establishing emotional connections with men in an effort to make more time for herself and reboot her level of consciousness. It was a big deal, but no one believed I could or would quit men cold turkey. But hey, it lasted seven months, I did some soul searching and learned a lot of cool shit that I wanna share with you.

1. I'm not "too pretty to be single" and I wish people would stop saying it. I'm not sure where that saying came from, but it's stupid and offensive as fuck! I've been in love, I know how it feels to realize your heart is no longer yours because you are completely wrapped up in another person. I welcome the feeling, but I will not rush it. I respect love way too much to settle for a cheap, bootleg version to cure a few lonely nights. It's easy for me to be single because I like myself. That's it. I think I am amazing. Boys are fun, but so am I. Oh, and quit saying I'm "too young to be so jaded" too!

2. I made my happiness my responsibility. Without even realizing it was a bad habit, I put an unfair amount of emotional pressure on my boyfriends. If I had a stressful day at work, they were accountable for turning my day around. During my mancation, I dated myself. I was forced to brighten my own shitty days. Whether I took myself on dinner dates, bought myself pretty gifts, or drunkenly danced around my apartment to Beyoncé; I learned how to spoil myself and indulge.

3. I'm secretly Mr. Heckles. You know, the irritable old guy from "Friends"? When I go out I am friendly, I talk to strangers, tell jokes and have a lot of fun. But that's my going out personality. Generally, I'm an antisocial cynic who is always complaining about people being too loud and I don't see anything wrong with that. Oddly enough, my crankiness makes me laugh.

4. I became more selfish and thoughtful at once. I had never been in a relationship where things were split 50/50. I always tried too hard or hardly tried at all. Spending time with myself allowed me to understand the mistakes I made in the past. I learned that I cannot compromise some things like my space and quiet time while I can afford to be more lenient in other areas. As a result, I will never settle for less than what I need or act like a total brat again. I am more balanced as a person.

5. My confidence skyrocketed. I took better care of myself mentally, physically and emotionally. I became disciplined and more driven to meet my career and fitness goals. I learned not to stress about things I couldn't change, and now I laugh at my flaws. I still have insecurities like everyone else, but they no longer control me. I began taking risks, I stopped apologizing and overanalyzing people's opinions of me. These revelations made me walk taller and prouder. I wouldn't say dating held me back, but it blurred my concentration which was my own fault.

6. I found closure. I can't remember a point in my life where I had been able to openly forgive people who had wronged me. In my mind, forgiveness was weak. I used to think it was a way of telling people it was okay to hurt you. The truth is, I had allowed anger and bitterness to weigh me down to the point I'd take those emotions out on people who didn't deserve it. I forgave the last guy who broke my heart, got over my daddy issues, and grew. Anger is a natural thing and I may always be a hot head, but now I only give myself twenty-four hours to be as angry as I want. After a night's sleep and honestly speaking about an issue, it is dead to me.

7. I learned to accept people for what they were. You're definitely supposed to have standards, but I admit mine went too far at times. When you're constantly referring to a checklist in your head, it's hard to be present and bond with someone because all you see are the boxes they cannot fill. Since I wasn't romantically involved with the men I associated with, I was more accepting of guys who weren't "perfect". Doing this, I learned that my checklist was bullshit. When I meet men now, I treat them like friends and not potential husbands. This makes the entire situation more laid back, natural, and less controlled. I'm also more understanding.

8. My sexuality makes me feel strong. I quit dating, I stopped caring and putting men's needs before my own, but I didn't stop being a woman. Before my mancation, I wondered about the connection between sex and love. I wondered if it was possible to have one without the other, and if I had been wrong about having meaningless sex in the past. I didn't have these questions based on how I felt. I was confused because I was taught that sex and love were supposed to exist simultaneously, or not at all.

I know what it feels like to be slut-shamed by strangers and even an ex-boyfriend. It took a while to realize my sexuality isn't something to be embarrassed about, but it's something I should have always owned because like the brown in my eyes, it's never going away. Sex is another way I take care of myself mind, body and spirit. As long as the intention is understood, the attraction is raw, and the chemistry is great, I don't need anything else.

9. The secret to becoming a fearless badass is actually quite simple. You must look your fears in the eye to understand them and that is when you'll be supplied with the tools to overcome them. Otherwise, you will never truly know what you're up against. You will continue repeating the same fruitless actions while hoping for fruitful results. I also believe that's the definition of insanity. You don't want that shit. Don't be that girl.

10. I'll never marry my soulmate. My soulmate and I have been best friends for 14 years. He is my voice of reason when I'm crazy and he's the devil on my shoulder when I'm too boring, but he's gay. Either the universe hates me or the idea of soulmates and finding "the one" isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'll go with the latter.

My mancation is over. I'm dating again, but I haven't put much effort into building a new roster. I remember a point before I started this thing where a relationship was the only thing in the world I wanted. I was the most hopeless romantic. I don't like the person I was at that point. That girl was awfully weak. I like that I can stand on my own and be alright with that and if things are meant to change, they will. I'm just not going to be weird and desperate about it.