A recent trip to the land of memes and I found, well, nothing but negativity. Which avenue did I stroll down, you may ask… dating after 40. It’s true, the grey hair is not a fashion statement, God just gave me the expensive highlights hairdressers are making a killing off of. And, you, by now have guessed it… I fall into that been in love before, but not at present, strata of society labeled single. Unfortunately, though, I am not a part of the unsullied, “I put my career first” euphemism of the modern “old maid,” but rather the differently experienced, “I left a BAD one, and so now I have some really healthy boundaries” category.
There are many of us. Some are simply called divorced, others single parents, some long term relationship veterans, but never married… And we all carry baggage. For some of us, it has become a light load; not much more than memories contained in the actual bag, and it’s only the luggage that makes a statement. The “still a mother of two steamer trunk” or a “no need for roots, I’m fancy free carry on attache case” and still the “travelling light, good for the night, valise.” There are more, you know what yours is, I don’t have to tell you.
My difficulty isn’t the shape or size, it’s more the assumption of the weight contained. Imagine if one went to an airport with a suitcase full of feather pillows and a down duvet. It was the same size as a fellow traveller’s, who needed the wheels on his because it was filled with foundation bricks. He, being first in line, had his heavy burden weighed, and he was charged for the extra weight. The attendant then looked at your bag, and without even placing it on the scale, attached the same price to yours. One is fair and just, the other… well, there might be a lawsuit.
I don’t think dating as a full fledged grown up is any different. There’s a question asked as part of the screening process, and being a woman, I hear it mostly from guys… although I have heard it expressed at hen parties in more of a gossip statement, so we probably all say it in some form. “Why are you single?” It’s not usually in the “I just met you, and your face is pretty” conversation, It follows somewhere after you have made him laugh and he starts feeling slightly comfortable and commitment caution kicks in. Gentlemen, correct if I am wrong, I am not in your head… However, judging by the number of men who find a reason not to call after that subject has been breached, I’ve decided it’s a screening system. You see, we all seem to want a relationship virgin. We want to find someone to pick out luggage with. We definitely don’t want to carry someone else’s baggage. I think, perhaps because like the attendant at the airport, we make the mistake of assuming that everyone else is carrying the same weight we are.
But…What if? What if some of us don’t define ourselves by our experiences? What if there is an intrinsic worth assigned to each of us. What if that man or woman with the matching valise was made stronger, or wiser, or more resilient, or kinder or peaceful because of the perspective gained in the processing of unpacking the bag? What if the status of a person does not actually declare the weight they carry? What if that person who left an awful marriage discovered their value and has those boundaries because they now know who they were created to be? What if the mud in the pit they were in became the bricks that built the stairs they walked out of the hole with? What if the kids they have sole custody of were part of what taught them that they could love and receive love, and give when it hurts and still not completely dry up inside? What if their experience of being lonely in a relationship taught them to go deep enough inside to find Spirit and it connects them now to all humanity in a more meaningful, empathic way, spurring compassion in their actions?
What if it isn’t someone else’s baggage you are afraid of? What if it’s your own?
I think that, “Why are you single?” question should be an opportunity to tell your story. I think that your story should be voluntarily told before you are allowed to ask that question. We all have a story… all of us came out of the womb. We grew up in a family situation of some sort, had a first crush, figured out what we could or wanted to do to make a living… Each experience lends either wounding or healing to the soul. It provides a platform to discover who we are designed to be. Grown up relationships aren’t for our comfort, al though we may find comfort in them. They are for our growth as humans.
So tell your story. Admit the bad. Take responsibility for your part in it. But don’t camp out there. Tell the story about the trip your soul took. Make the destination about who you have become. How your rough edges have been made smooth. How you have learned to love. And if that isn’t possible… maybe it’s time to accept the healing held out to you when you think you are alone in your loneliness, so the next time you tell your story, you know WHO you are. You know who is telling it, and you are prepared, not only to hear another one tell you their tale, but to love the person who is telling it. They may not become who your heart settles on, but be willing to be a compassionate part of another’s journey.
A word to the men we women truly want, If this all feels a little vulnerable, here’s a little encouragement. If you ask a girl why she’s single, be prepared for an answer that may require you to be the man who changes her mind about love. And pray she wants you to. It’s been my experience that she most likely does.