One of my worst fears came true: most of my closest friends have started dating men. When I pictured this point in my life, I imagined an utter dystopia. I would try to talk to my close friends and our conversations would always devolve into them describing a nice yet somewhat unremarkable deed their boyfriend did, like cooking lasagna for dinner. Or I would try to make a more radical point about men being trash and my friends, who would once side with me without blinking an eye, would look at me, gesture to their patriarchal monogamy devices wedding rings, and say “not all men are trash.” Or, I would feel so alone in my singleness that I would settle for Joe Smith from Tinder, a guy whose hobbies include Netflix, going on hikes with his dog, and practicing active listening once out of every two or three conversations.
“Do you think I’m too picky?” I asked my most recent therapist. “Like, there are a couple of super nice guys who’ve expressed interest but I’m just not into them. A couple of them are therapists who are into social justice but to be honest they bore me. Not to be all Freudian because Freud is trash, but like, do I have some weird attachment issue going on?”
“Thomas, you’re a gifted person.” She looked at me with caring and patience. “You want someone who’s on your level, someone who can challenge you. It makes sense that you wouldn’t be into some boring psychotherapist.”
In a society that encourages us to settle as soon as possible with whomever for the sake of fulfilling the heteronormative patriarchal romantic narrative, I felt so validated by her then. Sure, she overstepped by describing me as gifted when the only things I’m gifted at are oversharing about my life on this blog and singing Ariana Grande and BlackPink under my breath when I play tennis. But she also acknowledged that I want more from a male romantic partner than the options I have. She normalized my desire for a guy who inspires me, who as Ariana Grande once said in her masterpiece “Into You,” a guy who “lights me up.” All of my closest friends inspire me with their compassion and social justice values, so why would I settle for a man who exhibits less than that? It reminds me what one of my close friends once said: that both she and I do not want date someone just because they are nice, because being nice is a basic prerequisite. All the people we keep in our lives should display basic human decency. I want more.
The dystopia I conjured has not come true either. I have not settled for a man. My friends and I, even the ones dating men, talk about so much more than men. Sure, I mourn the days when I could actively bond about being single and defying patriarchy through that singleness with some of my friends. And perhaps when more of my friends have government-sanctioned romantic over-prioritization ceremonies weddings and kids I will feel some type of sadness or longing. But, right now, I love my singleness. I wake up every morning and I do meaningful research, or therapy, or mentoring, or I play tennis, read books, or spend time with friends. No man will ever give me the happiness I can give to myself. Over the years I have learned how to make myself pretty damn happy, and if not happy, then at least fulfilled. This type of self-compassion took work and it takes work. I put in the work.
Sometimes I despise my attraction to men. Not because I despise my gayness at all, just because it sucks to feel attracted to a gender that so often disappoints. In simpler terms, I have not met a man who has met my standards, including the crush from my most recent post. It hurts to have a longing I cannot control, that I wish I could just get rid of.
But then I remember that my attraction to men constitutes a pretty small part of my life. I remember this when I feel sad about a man and then blast BlackPink and Ariana Grande, artists who sing about their feelings for men and also their power and strength with no men in the picture at all. I feel this strength when I play tennis outdoors and spend every moment thanking my body for its endurance while warm sunlight bathes over my skin. One of my former professors, whom I have so much respect for, once said she started dating more when she noticed she disliked coming home to an empty apartment. I love coming home to an empty apartment, because now the apartment itself remains far from empty – it has me. When I open the door to my apartment after a long day, I feel a sense of relief, that after all I have been through, on that day and beyond, I still have what I need. I still have me.
I feel like I post about my happiness without a man on a pretty consistent basis, so I guess we can all expect another one of these posts in like a month, lol. I have not posted on this blog for awhile because of life – applying for a fellowship and a small grant, providing therapy, submitting academic manuscripts and creative writing, mentoring students, etc. – so I wanted to share something, just as an update. I definitely did not post this to signify me finally getting over the crush I had in my most recent post, nope, that’s not the reason at all, okay except that maybe it is. I realize this post contains so many half-baked ideas (e.g., how I’ve navigated my closest friends dating men, which has mostly involved us setting boundaries around how much we talk about men and also being explicit about our wants/needs with each other within each friendship). Hope you are all well, and I will respond to blog comments as soon as possible, sorry I have not gotten to them for my most recent post yet!