It’s Not You

This is a heartening article for all single  women (and possibly even men) who sometimes feel not “full-blown self-loathing, more a hollowness that [hits] in the chest at certain times”. It is SOML, aside from the happy ending part. But I’m not 39 yet, so I guess it’s still heartening. (Except that I’d rather not wait until I’m 39. But aside from that…)

I’m tempted to quote bits, but it is hard to avoid quoting the entire thing. But here goes:

“My solace came from the place where single women usually find it: my other single friends. We would gather on weekend nights, swapping funny and tragic stories of our dismal dating lives, reassuring one another of our collective beauty, intelligence and kindness, marveling at the idiocy of men who failed to see this in our friends.

“Mostly, we would try to make sense of it all. Were our married friends really so much more desirable than we were? Once in a while someone would declare that married women were actually miserable, that it was they who envied us. But this theory never got too far — we knew our married friends wouldn’t switch places with us, no matter how much they complained about their husbands.”

“Like single women everywhere, I had bought into the idea that the problem must be me, that there was some essential flaw — arrogance, low self-esteem, fear of commitment — that needed to be fixed. I needed to be fixed.”

“A lot of good things happened during my period of constructing Sara 2.0. I went to artists’ colonies, taught storytelling to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, adopted a rescue dog, learned to do a handstand — all under the banner of “Learning to Love My Single Life.” And I made sure everyone knew my life was super-duper awesome with or without a man — my adorable apartment! my fulfilling career! my amazing friends! But I also knew I couldn’t play that card too often, lest the Greek chorus conclude that my well-oiled life left no room for love.”

Read the rest over at the NYTimes blog.

Guest Post: I’m Crazy, But Only For Today

I’ve never done a guest post before, but YH landed this in my inbox, and I like it. Even better, YH is a guy.

When I got back into shidduchim last year, there was one rule first and foremost in my mind: I wanted to get married, not play games. One of the reasons I want to get married is to find the happiness that comes from stability, because it’s hard to be happy when you have this huge gaping hole in your life. It’s hard to see the positives past such a big negative. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when all you want to do is lie down and indulge in self-pity. We’ve all had something which makes us feel incredibly lousy. It’s the essence of the shidduch crisis. The crisis isn’t that there are thousands of unmarried men and women who desire strongly to have kids and raise a family. The crisis is you and me. It’s a personal crisis shared by thousands.

I know what it means to hold a baby in your arms, to teach a child to read, to show little ones right from wrong. Boruch Hashem, I’ve been blessed with several ridiculously cute kinfauna (kn’ayin harah) whom I treasure more than anything and who love me back unconditionally. Boruch Hashem I have a close relationship with my married siblings, so I have a glimpse at the inside of the married universe.

It’s the hardest thing for me in the world.

How can I maintain a balance, an equilibrium, when every day I’m constantly reminded that I’m still alone, that I’m still single – especially in a culture that revolves around family life? How can I maintain yourself through rejection after rejection; to see my optimism and self-confidence crumble into dust?

I have to take some time off. Indulge in a little of that self-pity, and do it without feeling guilty. Just let it wash over myself. Watch a movie, seek out sympathetic friends. Do something relaxing, comforting. Then think it through – remember what my life is about. True, the life I want includes a wife and family. But that’s not the life Hashem has given me – not yet – and I have to live the life I have now to the best of my ability. There is so much out there for me to do: I have no business wallowing in yearning for something out of my reach.

To the contrary: it’s time to grab life by the horns. Time to kick back into high hear, make a goal for myself, follow it through to the triumph. Start exercising, drop a few pounds, ditch the raggedy sweater with the nachos stains and get a nice shirt and new tie. It’s time to feel better about being me, to start being proactive about life in general.

It’s okay to have a bad day, but only as a launchpad for a better future. It’s okay to crazy – but only for a day.

Good Advice

I was reading An Ideal Husband, by Oscar Wilde, last week, and came across this line of unmatched wisdom: “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

If good advice were meant to be passed on, I imagine isru chag would contain a flurry of advice-exchanging from “older” singles who have had the secret of their singleness revealed to them by wise relatives over the holiday.

One of the nice things about strangers is that they don’t give you advice. They just adapt to your “quirks” and get on with business. This is why some very flawed people have become very successful. Friends will sometimes share their insights, but only after agonizing over whether it’s really a fatal flaw, and then rehearsing their lecture in the shower. Relatives, I am sorry to say, rarely take showers before starting in on you.

Now, my relatives behaved this Pesach so I have little advice to pass along. I am only scarred by a few backhanded compliments (my favorite: “You sound so reasonable online”). However, on an annual basis I get an earful. I have become quite good at taking it. I can now listen to advice for a full five minutes before my eyes cross, my ears turn red, and steam starts dribbling out my nose. At this annual rate of tolerance growth, I will be more than ready to handle the censoriousness of my teenagers when I have them.

It’s not like it’s usually such great advice, I must note. People grasp at the simplest solutions. If you tell them “Former Date didn’t like my boots,” automatic reaction is “You should wear nicer boots on a date.” Yep, that should do it. One shopping trip and they’ll all be falling at my feet – and proposing to my footgear. I mean, seriously. If he’s going to be a shoe critic he can find himself dates by standing outside the outlet store of his choice.

I take it because I tell myself that the advice itself is a compliment. They really care. They think I’m not completely hopeless. No… what I mean is like this:

If you think Someone is absolutely wonderful, you naturally assume that everyone else will see this Someone as wonderful too. When it becomes obvious that scores of dates do not realize how absolutely wonderful Someone is, you begin puzzling over why. Could it be that so very many dates are blind? Or is Someone somehow obscuring his/her wonderfulness? You can’t help the amount of unperceptive people that Someone goes out with, but you can help Someone make his/her wonderfulness more obvious to these not-quite-perfect date.

So, by advising me on my boots, these well-meaning folks are just affirming that, in fact, they think I’m wonderful. Except for my boots. Those could use help. But everything else about me is just wonderful.

After all, there’s no point in advising a hopeless case, is there? Which means—can you imagine—they think there’s hope!

But… Wait… why didn’t anyone give me advice so far this Pesach?

Have they given up?

Battling Ogres for My Fair Gentleman

Way back in a probably non-existent era of history, knights would choose themselves a lady so pure, so virtuous, and so good, that they would feel unworthy of her. They would have to venture forth upon quests to succor the poor, aid the innocent, and rescue the helpless just to prove themselves worthy. For these knights, love made them better people.

Now, truth be told, these women were human and probably not as virtuous as the troubadours would have you believe. (Indeed, the very fact that the knights would get into fights over whose lady was more perfect suggests a deep psychological need to prove it to themselves as much as anyone else. One doesn’t fight over certainties.)

So, I was thinking… somewhere out there is my perfect guy – sweet, religious, perceptive, responsible, successful, considerate, and just plain ol’ nice. Now, do I deserve such a hypothetically perfect man? I wish. Does such a perfect guy actually exist? Never mind that. Like the knights and their ladies, the distance currently between me and my Perfect Man is an opportunity for me to work on deserving him. It may not be through knocking bad guys off their chargers – that require specialized equipment that I don’t have. I don’t need to quest across the countryside for dragons when I have the landscape of my life to do battle in.

So, Lady Bad4 is on a quest conquer the demons of sloth, the dragons of selfishness, the ogres of indifference, the giants of unkindness, and the sorcerers of insouciance to prove her worthiness to Sir Charming, the most amazing, virtuous, and otherwise perfect knight in the realm.

And I just dare you to suggest that he’s otherwise.

…now, with that pep talk, bring on the holiday!