Your life will change. Your life will change when you realize that you’re just one woman in the history of many women, and that romantic happiness was never promised to you, any more than it was promised to anyone else.
You’ll spend your early twenties going to parties and barbecues and bars and laughing and flirting and bonding with your friends over your mutual romantic travails. Then one day you’ll be sitting in your friend’s backyard and having the same conversation you’ve had for years, about a bad date or unreturned phone call or sexual dysfunction and they will nod in an encouraging but bored way and it will hit you: that stage of their life is over. Their lovelife is no longer a subject of conversation but a private domain only accessible by other couples. And then you set down your fork, look around and realize that you are surrounded by couples. Everyone you know, everyone happy and healthy and sane that is, has paired up. Every one of your friends and acquaintances and classmates has been Chosen. They have started a life and a family with someone else. You feel like the leftover child on the soccer pitch, weak-kneed or asthmatic, unsuitable to be on anyone’s team. Aren’t you happy and healthy and sane? Why wouldn’t someone pick you?
The fallacy is, of course, that everyone gets picked. Plenty of women don’t get picked. Some women are, by their very nature, unsuitable for matrimony. And some women are eminently suitable for matrimony but circumstance denies them the chance.
If you are used to living a life of expectation, the denial of this expectation will frustrate you. You’ve been taught from a very young age that everyone gets picked. Everyone finds someone to fall in love with. Sometimes it’s where you’d least expect it! Sometimes it’s someone that you initially hate but grow to respect and then love through mutual trials and overcoming of adversity. This story usually ends with a tiara or a perfectly fitted pair of ballroom slippers.
The truth is, you were not issued a contract at five that stated you would get to be someone’s princess. You can be demure or spunky, pretty or punk, one of the guys or a high-maintenance queen, but no strategy will guarantee results. In real life, if you hate someone initially you should trust your instincts. In real life, spunky punk princesses often get labeled as butch or bitchy. In real life, if someone breaks into song when they see you, they’re probably schizophrenic.
You can do everything right and still end up alone, single and childless. When you realize this and the floor opens in front of you, revealing the terrifying gap between what you thought was promised and reality, panic can set in. Following the panic usually leads you to one of two options.
Option One: Settling. Go on the hunt. Find someone, anyone, willing to ejaculate inside you and raise your compromise-inspired progeny. Breathe a sigh of relief. When he does that thing that you hate for the umpteenth time and there’s no affection to soften the blow of your irritation, take a deep breath and remember that you made the choice you had to make to be somebody’s bride and mother.
Option Two: Giving up. Give up on underwire bras, defoliation and joie de vivre. Resign yourself to a life of shapeless cardigans and sex toys covered in cat hair. Stop going out. Experience a brief resurgence of hope in your middle age when you start corresponding with an erudite man in a state penitentiary but sink to new levels of crushing defeat when his niece takes all of your money in a Ponzi scheme.
I think that there is room for a third option, one that doesn’t involve making choices based on panic or fear. You can stop looking. This is not the same as that old saw, “Stop looking for love and love will find you.” No this is simply: Stop looking. Stop expecting life to deliver you a man. Stop hearing ‘At Last’ by Etta James every time someone handsome crosses the room to speak to you. Stop planning your dream wedding. Throw yourself an amazing 30th birthday party instead.
Because if you don’t know how to be happy yet, now is the time to figure it out. The one person you are definitely going to spend the rest of your life with is you. So what if that life is uncertain, unconventional, open to pity and ridicule by certain family members and friends? Uncertainty is the price of an extraordinary life. Show the world what happiness looks like. When Disney makes a movie about an aging, happy woman who’s never been married (and who isn’t a witch or frumpy fat friend of the main character) you can consider yourself a pioneer.