I sat at the foot of the bed with crossed arms and my mind made up while I ugly-cried: “I will never meet another guy who likes me.” I was 20 and mildly dramatic and my path — one I briefly walked with a blue-eyed, black-haired bass player — had been pulled out from under me.
By text message.
On New Year’s Day.
Single, and I didn’t want to be. Perpetually, too — I was certain. My sole shot at someday becoming a spouse had expired because a boy who smelled like smoke and wore eye liner said so. I grieved, which is natural and good. But then I threw a pity party.
The same pity party I threw when I had never dated before and worried I never would, which I also throw when I am periodically tired of how single I am, again. At the foot of the bed, I told stories to myself about my relationship status. The stories I told were a lot of things (sad, frustrating, neverending). But the stories I told weren’t true.
I snapped out of it (for reasons that include but are not limited to “my mother is a therapist.”). But my heart hurts now, because in real life and online, I have interacted a lot lately with unhappy single people.
Single people who are telling stories. Sad, frustrating, neverending stories. Stories that aren’t true, that we who are single for who-knows-how-long or forever, ought not say to ourselves anymore.
Stories like these:
1. “Nobody wants to date somebody like me.”
If you have met all the people, asked all the people if they want to date somebody like you and all the people said no, then you’re right. But you have not met all the people. You have not asked all the people if they want to date you. That story isn’t true. What is true is that whether you are dating does not determine whether other people exist who want to date you.
2. “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards.”
If you are a time traveler or a psychic or a prophet, then I guess that by virtue of having done your homework, you could be right. But you are not a time traveler. You are not a psychic. You are probably not a prophet. Science says it is impossible for you to know right now all the things you’ll know at the end of your life. So does math. And religion. And logic. The point is stop it. I know a lot of people who once said “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards” who are now married to somebody who meets their standards and have four children.
3. “Single life is not a vocation.”
Except it is, and if it’s yours, telling yourself it isn’t is going to unnecessarily disappoint you. “Some people must accept that, in the Providence of God, they have been called to a single life. Worse things could happen!” (Fr. Benedict Groeschel). Neither I nor Groeschel are asking you to decide today to be single forever. I am, however, asking you to decide today to tell yourself a different story about single life from now on: that it isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.
4. “I’m unlovable (or unattractive, or boring, etc.).”
If you are not a human, then maybe. But you are a human, and humans are of intrinsic, infinite value, on the neverending receiving end of authentic love and unabashed affection from the creator of the universe, in whose not-unattractive, not-boring image you are created. You are not just lovable. You are loved.
What else ought we not say to ourselves while we’re single?