I’m 29 and, in a mere 6 months, I’ll be 30. For the past (almost) six years, I’ve dated A LOT. I’ve had a few legitimate boyfriends, countless almost-boyfriends, and enough werecasualbutwhatthefuckwaitwhatarewethough situations to last me a lifetime. Seriously, if I never find myself in another one of those situations, I will know I’ve made it and am going to be okay.
Suffice it to say, I’ve been through and seen a lot. The stories I’ve accumulated over the past six years are some of my best because they create a personal archive of some of my cringe-worthy, unbelievable, WTF-inducing worst. Day after day, month after month, year after year, I’ve done what I could to keep my head up, as they say. But some days, my head is way harder to keep afloat than others. Some days, it weighs 100 pounds and all I want to do is feel pathetically sorry for myself. To curl up in my bed in a robe in the fetal position for the entire day and let the onslaught of new couple/engaged/married/pregnancy announcements fill my newsfeed and fragile, vulnerable head with depressing thoughts and weep. Not cry. Weep (weeping’s more Scarlett O’Hara). Weep about how shitty past guys were, how shitty future ones will be, how shitty present ones are, why I keep running into these situations, why I haven’t found IT yet, why everyone else seems to have what I want, why I attract all the wrong dudes, why something that feels so close to what I want turns out not to be, why why why why why WHY. Ultimately, during those really down days, I question myself and my worth as a partner until I wear myself down, close my eyes, and pass out (much like a toddler after having a tantrum).
And all this is hard to admit because I want to uphold my label as the quirky, outspoken, funny girl who can make any nightmare of a dating story something to laugh about with a light heart. I want to be strong; an independent, I-don’t-need-no-man, “I’m amazing and perfectly content on my own” representative for all single womenkind. I don’t want to let it all get to me like it can. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. But I’m only human — a human with a pretty big heart full of affection that wants to dump that affection into someone’s deserving lap for keeps and, when that enthusiastic affection backfires, I get sad.
This has been the pattern for the past six years — these let downs followed by short-lived pits of despair out of which I can’t find my way and, finally rising like a Phoenix from the ashes (dramatic) and doing it all over again. And you know why?
Because I refuse to settle.
That’s the thing. When I sit back and really think about all the men (more appropriate term would be boys/children) that have come and gone (pun intended?), I realize how many of them I could still be dating if I was willing to settle for less than what I know I want. I mean, it’s not always them calling things off. In fact, most of the time it’s me. Because I see something about them or about us that doesn’t sit right, and my gut sends up about 52 flares and some Russian submarine captain frantically screams “ABORT! ABORT!” in my head until I can no longer ignore him.
The fact of the matter is that not settling is actually the harder road to travel.
I don’t want to keep calling things off. I don’t want to continue to sit back and wait for the inevitable red flags to show their faces. It’s awful. I hate it. It sucks. I want to settle — really, I do. I want to be able to say “You know what? This is good enough and he’s fine enough and we’ll have a good enough life and I love him enough and we’ve been together long enough and sex is good enough and he’s nice enough and this’ll do.” I want to just decide on someone, make the call, and be done with it. I want to look past the crimson-colored flags, sweep them aggressively under a rug, and lie to myself about them until I actually believe the lies. I want to make excuses for shitty behavior and get past it. I want to not care so much and overthink and overanalyze. I want to tell myself I can put up with something I know I can’t.
I want to be able to say “I don’t need a guy who fully gets my humor or I his. I don’t need to be made to feel special and unique. I don’t need to be treated like a prize; I’m fine feeling like any girl to this guy. I don’t need to be made a priority; I’m fine being an option. I don’t need to be courted; “hanging out” is the new dating and I’m okay with that. I don’t need real dates that are planned at least a few days in advance; last minute requests that showcase a total disregard for my time and lack any sense of urgency are just fine. I don’t need to have an understanding between the two of us, a mutual respect. I don’t need to be fully sexually satisfied or exceptionally intimate; it’s not that important and him getting off is way more vital anyway. I don’t need to be cherished. I don’t need to be someone thoughtful. I don’t need to be in love in a way I’ve never been; that’s not even real anyway. I don’t need flowers or thoughtful cards or any of the cutesy things females pretend not to care about but live by. I don’t need doors opened for me or to be treated like a lady; I can get my own doors. I don’t need to feel a crazy connection; just liking him enough will suffice.”
But I can’t. I literally cannot bring myself to do or say any of that because, at this point, I will be damned if I settle. I haven’t gone through what I’ve gone through just to settle; I haven’t called guys on the carpet for their less-than-stellar behavior or treatment of me to ultimately roll over like a dog and say “Ya know what? Nevermind. It’s fine. I’ll shut up now and take whoever and deal with whatever.” HELL NO. But because I refuse to settle, it makes this entire process harder, longer, more strenuous, and often unbearable. Because I’m a girl with expectations and standards in a generation that has enabled ghosting, fuckboys, and the refusal to commit to anything more than a boozy Sunday brunch, I’m having a really hard time out here.
And please do not take me for a girl with unrealistic standards, because I can assure you I am very much not that. I know probably more than anyone how imperfect people are. In fact, even after all the ugly situations I’ve experienced, my natural inclination is to still give people the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. I am well aware that I am nowhere close to flawless (although, admittedly, Queen B can make me feel like I am most days). I am willingly willing to put up with a long list of a lot as long as the most important things (what I like to refer to as the “non-negotiables”) are undeniably met and everything feels “right.” And because it’s theoretically only supposed to be “right” with ONE person, I will not settle for wrong after wrong after wrong.
So I’ll continue to keep a small guard up, pay attention for warning signs, question questionable behavior, and trust my gut when it’s frantically trying to tell me something. That’s the one thing the past six years has gifted me with — a credible gut and the ability to actually listen to it. Like any good young 20something, I used to be an expert in ignoring it, but the wait time has steadily decreased over the years. Slowly but surely I started to chip away at the amount of time I would consciously discount my gut — it’s gone from literal years, to several months, to only a few months, to mere weeks and I’m proud of that. The goal is to get it down to one week, then five days, then three days, then, hopefully never because, finally, all it’s telling me is, “I’m good. You good? Good.”
Here’s to holding out.