I've been angry, recently. And sad. Yes... I'm sad. Because I'm lonely. I'm thirty-four and single. And I'm not quite sure how I got here.
I have a weekly radio show on Heritage Radio Network - Love Bites - where my co-host Ben and I talk about being single in your thirties and how it relates to working in the food world for us and our industry guests. On the show, Ben has sometimes said, "there's a reason why single people are single."
My ears first took that as, "if you're single, there's something wrong with you." But I know Ben enough to understand that he's not saying that. A reason could be because of baggage, distrust, because someone's narcissistic or cruel or selfish, yes. But I like to think single people are single because life things happened in an order that somehow brought them to where they are.
And so I turned that idea to myself. Why am I single?
Before I get to that, a few disclaimers:
I have a very good life, and it's a life that I have chosen. I don't own property. I'm not married, and I don't have children. I rent an apartment in a non-trendy neighborhood of New York City. I work from home. Simple things -- being warm, taking a bath, drinking bubbly white wine, walking my dog, laughing with a friend, an incredible meal -- make me truly happy. I call some of the best people in the world my friends. I have a supportive family. I've been loved by some very, very good men. I feel calm and confident and at peace with the world.
So, what path brought me to this sad, angry moment?
First, I dated a man for almost ten years; we broke up when I was twenty-eight. While our friends were in and out of relationships, we had each other. I don't regret a single minute with him, but we both missed out on many years of dating and discovery that we had to make up for. He's engaged to a wonderful woman, they have a beautiful child together, and I'm 100% happy for them. He has the life that he wants, chooses and loves, and I have mine. But that brings me to another "why I'm single."
The boyfriend after him wanted children. He promised that if I stayed with him (in Kentucky) he'd make me happy for the rest of our lives, and I believe him. He is kind, supportive, and he treated me well. But I don't want the picket fence and babies at my feet (as I wrote for Cosmopolitan and Elle). At the core, we wanted different things; he wanted a family in the suburbs, I wanted my creative life back in New York. Now we both have them.
The man after him broke my heart. My whole being told me I'd spend forever with him, and he’d told me the same before I'd even uttered those thoughts aloud. He wanted a family, and for him I said that I would make us one. Then, as young and crazy love sometimes does, things quickly shifted: he left me, and I fell into a darkness I didn't know could exist for me; the independent, happy, spiritual, everything-happens-for-a-reason me.
There are men between and around these three. Some I dated for weeks, some for months, some for one night. Some were for love, some for friendship, and some purely about lust. There were also waves of my chronic illness, my heartbroken depression, and my revival.
There was a deepening of who I am, a newfound confidence, a sense of peace and a renewed love for the life I choose to have. I'm in a good place right now: not the healthiest I've ever been, but not nearly the sickest; not the most guarded, but not rashly uninhibited; not naively open-eyed, but not distrusting; neither frantically happy nor frequently sad.
Yet I am here, alone.
I am often alone because my body needs me to be, as I wrote again for Cosmopolitan. And I enjoy it; an extreme extrovert for most of my life, I’ve naturally become more introverted as I’ve aged, and I have a huge appreciation for quiet, solo restoration and reflection.
But being lonely is different.
Dating now is far different than it has been in the past. Whether someone would find me in real life or online, it was easy to date, to dine, to have sex, to find someone who wanted me. I honestly don’t remember if I did anything in particular to attract such attention; I was just being honest about myself in whatever moment I was in.
Now, I’m equally as honest. Despite the melancholic throughline of this story, I’m happy. I’m fun. So how did I get here? I’ve been cranky this week. I’ve found myself lying in bed resting or going to a function or sitting at a table and thinking, “I wish there was someone with me to care about.”
I don’t “need a man” to fulfill me; my life is extremely fulfilling. I don’t believe that everyone needs a partner. For much of these past few years, I’ve really enjoyed being single, as we discussed on our 9th episode Lisa Mendelson.
But I’m not naturally a lone wolf. I’m a caregiver. I like to give to others. I’m happiest when I’m baking something for a friend, or cooking for an intimate dinner party, or dropping off chicken soup to someone under the weather. I have a lot of love to give, and there’s a lot of love I’m open to receiving.
The headache is, this makes me feel like a cliché; a woman whining about how she’s got her shit together yet can’t find a man. My closest girlfriends – single and dating and struggling while I was comfortably paired off – are now moving in with boyfriends, or getting married, or having babies, or moving out of the city for larger spaces. And I’m still here: owning who I am and what I want, practicing compassion for myself and others, generally having my shit together, and getting stood up on the day of a date from another lazy guy I met online.
I don’t know how to change this. I don’t know how to cycle myself out of this week and back to where I was a few weeks ago; happy and confident and owning the fact that I have a full life on my own, as I shared on one of our shows recently. Where going to events solo is more fulfilling than going with another boring date. Where spending my energy on the people I love makes me happier than swiping left or right.
I want to say I defy the cliché. The cliché that’s included so many women I admire. That’s spanned from Mary Louise Parker to Gloria Steinem to the Carrie Bradshaw quartet to the thousand of faces I see on a daily basis and to the many wonderful women in my life ruling the world.
On Monday's show we’re going to talk about the frustrations of being single in your thirties. We’ve spoken a lot about what works right and what doesn’t on pretty deep levels, but as of now Monday’s for bitching. Bitching about being ghosted, about superficiality, about the finances of dating, about disappointment.
And maybe after that I’ll be cleansed, and can get back to being a happy, ass-kicking single lady again.
Jacqueline Raposo writes about people who make food, gathered at www.wordsfoodart.com. Recently, she's written about chronic illness for Cosmopolitan and Elle. She's the producer and host of Love Bites Radio every Monday at 4pm EST on Heritage Radio Network and iTunes, and on Facebook and Twitter. Jacqueline writes healing, gluten-free recipes at www.TheDustyBaker.com and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for reading.