I love the series Sex and the City more than is healthy. I mean, I love it enough that at regional church women gatherings, I might covertly whisper to a church woman, “I know I shouldn’t watch it, but there’s an episode of Sex and the City,” and the woman would respond, “You know you have a Sex and the City story for every occasion, so you don’t have to treat it like your dirty secret. We all know you watch it.” I love it enough I’m pretty sure I’ve quoted it in sermons.
So you won’t be surprised to hear me say tht there’s an episode of Sex and the City that I believe fits my current situation. It’s where Miranda announces that she’s on strike. She hasn’t had a boyfriend in 6 months, and so she’s on strike.
“Honey, that’s not a strike, that’s a slump,” responds Samantha, vaguely horrified.
“No, at first it was a slump, but I’ve taken charge of the situation,” responds Miranda. “I’m on strike until conditions improve.”
“Who’s affected by this strike?” asks Carrie.
“So far, just me,” says Miranda, then with a tip of her head, she cracks, “but I’m optimistic.”
And yes, that’s from memory.
A friend of mine who’s been reading my series on intentionally staying single til Thanksgiving asked if I’m going to intentionally stay single until the end of the year instead of ending at thanksgiving, and I am. But I’m not sure I’m going to do much that’s all that different in the new year, when the strike has been called off. See, I don’t think dating has helped me like myself very much. And as a result, it has gotten in the way of me liking other people.
The real shift in this narrative for me is that when I started this journey, I was combining two different people’s wisdom: one person suggested I take a season to grieve, to get in touch with the fact that I might never find that life partner and find some acceptance around that. Another suggested I gather sisters together, put my intention to be with a loving partner and invite them to carry that vision with me in prayer. My plan was to do three months of single and grieving, and then hit the reset button and gather a sister circle on my 39th birthday, January 2. I had already started to ask close friends to keep that day open. But I’m not sure I want to do that any more.
I had brunch with a friend a few weeks ago and she said she has been celibate for a year now, and “I’ve become more of a misandrist since I stopped dating men.” With fewer men in her life, the war on women by men in power is so much more tangible and unmitigated by men she dated and was maybe distracted by.
“That’s funny,” I responded; “I’m less of one. When I don’t have a regular flow of men either not valuing me or not contributing to my life, I find I like the men in my life so much more that the category of men is less prone to getting caricatured.”
The thing both of us agreed on is that for such dedicated feminists, we have allowed intimate relationships with men (and the aftermaths of those relationships) to consume so much more of our bandwidth than is helpful for either of us. For right now, not getting consumed by that feels better to my soul. I’ve given too much of my power and too much of my heart to people who didn’t ask for either and didn’t know what to do with them.
During my intentional “Delve into what is hard about singlehood,” I unearthed two absolute gems for anyone who is single not by choice and has been for a number of years.
The first is a four-part series from Lea Thau’s podcast “Strangers,” called “Love Hurts,” in which she interviews men who didn’t go on a second date with her and went on to have meaningful relationships with other people. She also interviews the author of a book vaguely like “The Rules.” The whole series is worth listening to, but the highlight of it for me was she introduced me to the most comforting book ever:
It’s Not You, by Sara Eckel. Lea interviewed the author about it, and I will probably do a review of that book on its own later on, but for now, I will note that the author took on 27 things frequently placed on single-not-by-choice people about why singleness was their fault, and she dismantled them. (“You’re too picky.” “You’re too vague about what you want.” “You’re too selfish.” “You’re too independent.” “You’re not putting yourself out there.” “You’re too desperate.” “You need to put it in the universe.” “You need to figure out the math and play the numbers right.” “You have to love yourself first.” “You’re the common denominator in all those bad dates and broken relationships.” If you’ve ever asked a partnered friend why you’re not, you’ve gotten at least one of those and often multiple ones, including the ones that are self-contradictory.)
She spent her thirties doing all of the self-improvement and self-love stuff, and she discovered activities she loved and she dealt with some of her neuroses. But they didn’t make her un-single.
She says that she found a partner in her early forties. And she was likely a better her when she met him, but he would have loved the more neurotic, less evolved her. It was luck, she says. It was that she happened to meet the right person.
You have no idea what a gift it is to have someone, even if it’s a complete stranger, take the burden of failure off of my shoulders. The loneliness I talked about in my last blog post from this series is so much easier to navigate when it’s not cluttered with other emotions, primarily the emotion of guilt that I was not able to be partnered.
Now, I’ll be the first among you to concede that I am not an easy match, that the deck is not stacked in my favor. But I pretty much like all of the things about me that make me, well, me. And I can’t do anything about them. So I like not thinking of my existence as somehow impeding my capacity to have someone to keep me company. It doesn’t make me less lonely when the lonely hits, but MAN does it make me less self-blaming, and that makes the loneliness so much easier.
Now I recognize the control issues wrapped up in this. Part of what was awful about dating was the fact that I couldn’t control it no matter how hard I tried. And I feel a lot more in control of my singleness, even though I probably wouldn’t be dating if I were UNINTENTIONAL about this season in my life. But I feel more peace, so I’m okay with that for right now.
So I’m not as certain I’ll have that sister circle for my birthday after all. I might just have friends and cake and an Oakland Peace Center fundraiser instead. Because I think this season is actually making me a slightly happier person, and I don’t know if I want to squander that happiness with another series of men who don’t bring much into my life, and I think it’s worth the risk of dying single to not keep trying to chase love instead of appreciating what’s around me.
So far, the strike is only affecting me. But I’m optimistic.