A reflection written and contributed by Camille Michelle Gray
When I was in college, the only time I’d see my extended family was during the holidays. Heck, the only time I ever see my extended family is on holidays, but I digress. These holidays are a chance for everyone to catch up—“How’s the practice going?”, “How did the operation go?”, “How did that trip go?”…so on and so forth. When it’s my turn to churn out the perfunctory things are going great catch-all, I was and am always troubled by the so where’s the boyfriend question. When I’m asked about school or work or my travel excursions abroad, I am always met with a matter-of-fact tone. But when people inquire into my dating life, or lack thereof, their heads tilt, they smile saccharinely, and their voices always go up at least an octave—all things that tacitly connote an air of pity, like they’re all secretly thinking you poor thing, bless your single little heart.
When I was in high school and starting out in college, this question bothered me because I, too, would look in the mirror and say you poor thing, bless your single little heart. Back then I subscribed to the societal stupidity of I Have a Boyfriend, Therefore I Am.
Now when I hear that all so common question (asked by all types of people running the gamut from my family to total strangers) about my lack of boyfriend, I become internally infuriated. Before when I answered I would say really depressing things like I don’t know, no one likes me, I’m shy and probably ugly or too pretty and intimidating. Now, after years of spiritual growth, introspection, and romantic experience, I answer Because I’m working on being with myself right now or I haven’t found the right person or I really would just rather work on my music and pet my dog and watch ‘Inglorious Basterds’ for the sixth time.
The subtle change is that now I am opting to remain single. Before I fought against singledom like a tea-partier at an Obama rally. Here is a frank truth that applies to me and many other women I know: If I really sincerely needed a boyfriend or male assurance, I could put on my Uggs from 2008, drive down to CVS right now, and charm a fellow into being with me. I could charm at least half of the men on a metro car at any given time. I have grown into myself and know I am capable of these things, shy/intimidating/ugly/pretty or not. This is a fact. The problem for me (and other women) isn’t that there is some dearth of men who would like to be with me in some capacity. The problem, which isn’t really a problem, is that I’m much more obsessed with quality. Sure CVS man could be anatomically male and that is where the standards stop for some women, but is he smart? Is he witty? Is he doing something with his life? Does he respect me? And can he watch ‘Inglorious Basterds’ with me for the sixth time?
People love to tell me why I needn’t be single. Things like: but you’re so pretty, you’re so smart and funny, you went to a college with more men than women for God’s sake!!! (By the way, no humble brag intended. People have told me these things and I’m merely recounting them…don’t shoot the messenger!)
But because I am obsessed with quality checking the person I will be spending my life, or at least my twenties (or at least 2014) with, the Getting A Boyfriend process is so much slower for me. I know what you’re thinking: Camille, it’s slow because you’re picky and have dumb standards. Ouch. But…maybe you have a point. Is being picky dumb though? Why should I dishonor myself by having someone around who isn’t lighting up my heart space just so I don’t have to be alone? Why should I have to settle in order to please the population of people who look at single women like me with judgment and pity? Don’t I deserve to have someone who makes me smile, makes my heart jump, and shares a similar passion for life? The answer is: yes, we ALL do. And here is a bonus: THAT PERSON EXISTS!
And don’t discount me. I’ve played the desperate woman, holding onto men who are just terrible for me out of the fear of being alone. I’ve also played the super-open minded-nothing-fazes-me woman who dates anyone with a sparkle of potential. And guess what: both situations left me unhappy. So I made the decision to stop burdening myself with that injustice and to just be alone for now.
At the tender age of twenty-two, I feel so amazingly blessed to be in on a little secret: I am whole and complete without a romantic partner. The love and validation I used to seek from men already exists inside of me. Nothing outside of me can supply my happiness, self esteem, or worth—it’s all an inside job!! Does that mean that I don’t want someone to cuddle up with on a rainy Friday night (re: ‘Inglorious Basterds’ watching)? No. It means that as I wade through the purgatory between relationships, I can feel secure, vibrant, loved, sexy and just fine instead of twiddling my thumbs, remaining idle and crying when I see people holding hands.
But Camille, how did you get from feeling depressed about being single to being okay with it in a matter of years? I’ll tell you how: a lot of f*cking hard work. I worked on myself via my spiritual path non-stop for two years straight and it was ugly. I shined light on all my dark places, I got real with myself, I cried, I practiced newly learned spiritual skills on dates, I sought counsel, I read books, I DID EVERYTHING. And I am so much better for it. By no means is my work done. Sometimes I catch myself scrolling through pictures of engagement photo shoots on the Internet, dipping my toes into an insidious river of envy flowing in the back of my mind. But now I can catch myself, snap myself back into reality, and breathe into the knowing that I am fine as is and that the Universe’s timing of events is smarter than my petty wants. It’ll all happen in due time.
Think of it this way: if you went to a psychic who had a 100% track record of predicting future events, and she said to you I see you with the love of your life. You’re perfect partner is coming soon would you feel anxious anymore about being single? That’s where I am right now. I’ve relaxed into singledom and have adopted a blind faith that it will happen. I don’t beat myself up anymore. And if I don’t beat myself up about it, it will be hard to let anyone else beat me up about it either. A positive side effect of all of this: by virtue of being single and happy despite it, not only do I have more time to work on myself and my goals, I also elevate my energy and become more apt to attract awesome things like a job promotion (check), a healthier body (check), and yes, a boyfriend (no check…yet!)
And so it is that the holidays are among us and I will be soon sitting around bloodlines, awaiting a barrage of questions about my life. And when someone inevitably asks about my relationship status, I plan to just sit there champagne flute in hand, shrug nonchalantly and reply: Oh I’m single? Didn’t even notice.