Being single might be better after all

February 4, 2013 · 12 comments

in Relationships

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Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and the view from my solo perch is just fine. Of course, as an incurable romantic, I will always hold out hope of someday being with someone special who is worthy of my exceptional  charms.

Until then, the occasional lonely moments are just part of life’s natural rhythms. Thankfully, I no longer see them as reasons for high drama, self-flagellating freak-outs.

At most, they are passing lulls to just….breathe. After all, the alternative is unthinkable; trust me, there’s nothing more miserable and lonely than being in a relationship that doesn’t work.

Sandwiched in between these two extremes is the reality of dating, which has never been easy. But based on what I’ve read lately, the landscape is rockier than ever. So cupids, bring on Valentine’s Day. I can go with the flow without fear or regrets.

Apparently, today’s lads are lacking

I use to have times when I felt, “Oh, to be young and beautiful.” The thought would usually hit me after some idiot waiter called me “ma’am.” But then, reading The New York Times article “The End of Courtship?” made me glad to be an oldie-but-goodie. At least my generation knows how to plan a decent date…

Unfortunately, it seems today’s young men think with their mobile phones, which have come an unfortunate appendage. Clueless on romance, they view hanging out as the new dating. The piece opens with the scene of a young woman who said “yes” to a Friday night invite, which leaves her sitting home alone that evening in her skinny jeans, waiting to hear from The Boy. He finally texts at 10:30 p.m.: “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever? I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”

If you don’t have time for this story, all you need is the two-paragraph nut graf/summary from the piece. (Read here about nut grafs):

Dinner at a romanic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of the so-called “hookup culture,” millenials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.

Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Sad. And the scenery got even sadder with my next read….

 The dumbed-down formula for Internet romance

When I was in my 40s, I was a single, full-time mom with a little kid. Meeting men online got me outta the house. But everything changed after the big 5-0 birthday: “Dating online at Match.com can be frustrating for a 50-something woman.”

In the two years that I’ve been off-line, it seems there are more options for older folks. And I know of happy matches of all ages that were made online. But right now, the prospect of cyber-socializing leaves me cold — especially after perusing an excerpt from a new book, “Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating To Meet My Match.”

The author, Amy Webb, found her husband after a systematic analysis of her failure to meet nice guys on websites. For a month, she posed as an attractive, single man on JDate.com for Jewish singles. Her mission: To figure out what 96 popular girls were doing so that she could revamp her profile.

Her tips for success: Use only three to five photos. Write only about your “non-threatening” hobbies (tennis is good, martial arts is not). Keep the profile short, under 500 words. Write cheerful generalities about goals and things you like to do. Don’t mention work because “during my experiment I found that women were attracted to men with high-profile careers, while the majority of men were turned off by powerful women.”

She also found that women lied about their height rather than their weight; almost all of them said they were 5’1″ or 5’3″. By the way, hair really matters:

Women with curly hair are at a distinct disadvantage online. I have no idea whether men prefer blondes, but I can say definitely that most men prefer women with healthy, long, straight hair. if you have curls and feel comfortable (and look good) straightening your hair, give that a try.

Big sigh from me. Must I say more? Yes, yes, yes, I will — because there is hope…

True love is still possible

You might enjoy “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap.” It’s a  Sunday New York Times “Modern Love” column, a weekly feature for personal essays on relationships. In this one, writer Eve Pell met the man of her dreams when was 68 and he was 78. They belonged to the same running club. Since I am 56 and can barely jog down the block, this fact impressed me right away.

I won’t spoil this one for you by sharing the details. But in this beautiful reflection, Eve Pell notes that with their children grown and their finances stable, they “had nothing to do but love each other and be happy.”

Okay, okay, I’ll add a few of her words, without revealing specifics:

Old love is different. In our 70s and 80s, we had been through enough of life’s ups and downs to know who we were, and we had learned to compromise. We knew something about  death because we had seen loved ones die. The finish line was drawing close. Why not have one last blossoming of the heart?

I was no longer so pretty, but I was not so neurotic either. I had survived loss and mistakes and ill-considered decisions; if this relationship failed, I’d survive that too. And unlike other men I’d been with, Sam was a grown-up, unafraid of intimacy, who joyfully explored what life had to offer. We followed our hearts and gambled, and for a few years we had a bit of heaven on earth.

This essay made me cry. It also inspired me to believe in my revised timeline. It is a blessing to be free of my 30s and 40s, when my ticking biological time bomb left me desperately hoping to have more children. The 50s have been a great decade to find myself. With continued good health and prosperity, the 60s and beyond might bring some very pleasant surprises.

Wow, did I really just write that? How different this is from my 20s, when I thought that my 30s would be the death of me! And at 40, I thought my life was almost over. Haha.

I guess this is a long ramble to say that if you’re single during Valentine’s Day, you are in very good company. If you’re in a good relationship, I am incredibly happy for you. Let’s just enjoy it all — we have the power to seize the moment and we should do it. xo

 

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TJ & MJ February 4, 2013 at 2:04 am

Betty,
Back in the 70’s they had a game called “mystery date”. I never played the game but it was a hit with my sister and her friends. I thought that the game and other silly shows that were so popular at the time were not a good thing. The problem with them is that they give girls a false sense of how the world is. I always saw myself as the “flop date”. The fact is the girls all seem to want to go out with the guys that don’t seem to really care about them anyway.
Maybe the internet will take some of the stress out of dating. The reason that kids would rather text vs. talking is that it is less stressful. Let’s face it dating is stressful. It was even more so when there was raging hormones involved in the process.
So what should we do now? Sing along with Karen Carpenter? (“I’ll say goodbye to love”)As it turns out all the women I “meet on the internet” are from half way across the world. Meeting someone on the net isn’t any worse than in bars is it? There are more chances for the girls who “shy”. The true revenge of the nerds? The reason I never met anyone at a bar, or even tried, for that matter, is I had no desire to meet an alcoholic. My family had more alcoholics than it needed. The guys appreciated having a designated driver and I didn’t mind so long as I didn’t have to breathe smoke all night. I got free cokes but never met anyone.
I would like to say I gave up on finding love, but I am not sure I ever tried. I just didn’t like all the rejection. Why smack yourself in the head all the time?

2 betty ming liu February 4, 2013 at 7:13 am

T&J, I don’t think we should ever give up. It’s just that there are times in my life, at least, when I am more open and times when I’m not. If you read my post, Case #3 involving the older couple is my model. They didn’t meet online but in real life….they belonged to the same running club.

One of my good friends finally met the man she loves at a local hiking club. Try http://www.meetup.com/, a website that features all kinds of groups and clubs. Search for your hobby and/or interest; see what happens. :)

3 Toby February 4, 2013 at 8:21 am

Wow! At the risk of seeming smug, I have to say straight people are evidently losing the skills of romance (to judge by what you have presented here.) I can’t speak for the entire gay community but watching my crew of 20-something adopted sons – all gay – go to work in this regard gives an entirely different picture. Flowers on a first date are not unheard of. Sex on a first date is not the rule if there’s any hope of a serious relationship. Any of the boys who were treated like the girl in skinny jeans you wrote about would UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES tolerate it. I can guarantee you that text from Pub & Kitchen would have been unanswered or responded to with a real put-down and that would have been the end of that – no second chances for the inconsiderate fool. Dinner and a movie is absolutely still the norm and the guy who does the asking picks up the check. All the boys believe in a fairly long courtship before announcing on Facebook that they now have “boyfriend status” (the modern equivalent of reading the banns in the village church) Once BF status is announced, etiquette requires other boys to go “hands off.” It’s all quite Victorian, actually. One of them once even asked me what roses meant in “the language of flowers.” How quaint is that? Maybe it isn’t so surprising though, since it seems its gays that want to marry, while divorce rates among straights are skyrocketing. Go figure !

4 Bria @ West of Persia and Yoga With Bria February 4, 2013 at 8:21 am

Betty, I like your take on things. Especially this:
“At most, they are passing lulls to just….breathe. After all, the alternative is unthinkable; trust me, there’s nothing more miserable and lonely than being in a relationship that doesn’t work.”
Right on! Couldn’t agree more.

5 ingrid February 4, 2013 at 10:37 am

I see the whole hookup culture as GIGANTIC male takeover of the mating process. Basically, the men are saying, wait until I say “jump,” and then you better jump until I say stop. Not making a date is TOTALLY disrespectful of a woman’s time — implying that the man’s time is the only time that matters, and the woman must keep herself available at the man’s pleasure.

I don’t know what women can do about it. but the Greek play, Lysistrata — where women withhold sex until the men stop making war — could show the way. It’s time for a “no more hookups” movement for women.

6 betty ming liu February 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

Toby, I’m glad you raised your boys to be good men. Your comment also explains why so many straight women adore the company of gay men. But being with my gay friends can also make me a bit sad….last year, a middle-aged friend of mine who is gay invited me to on a walking tour that he helped organized. The wonderful event was PACKED, with older gay men accounting for the majority of the crowd. They were in my age bracket, attractive, friendly, smart, and — boohoo — gay. Nearly broke my heart!

Ingrid, I’m sorry to say this but I think women have been trained to wait on men since the beginning of time. But it would be fantastic if young women put a stop to the hook-up culture. It’s so, so wrong. Thanks for making the point.

7 Elle February 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Aaah Betty Betty Betty, you rock my world. GREAT column!!! You read my mind and made my day. I was wondering about all of these very things and how I would ever learn to handle loneliness. And you’re right, the way to look at it is as a lull, a breather. Because dating IS exhausting. With every date, I leave a little piece of myself behind, whether it worked or not. So maybe I can start looking at the alone periods as a time to rebuild myself and yes, breathe. :) … And maybe get some work done… Here I go! Thank you.

8 Elle February 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

And one more thing: your column made me realize is that a better way to look at those stretches of singledom, for those of us anyway who don’t enjoy it all that much, is as a new beginning, instead of a dreary and. Instead of “oh my God it’s over, I’ll never find anyone again etc…”, a “Hey, now I can think for a minute, re-center, learn the latest batch of lessons, and when I’m ready, I’ll move on!”

9 ingrid February 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Yes, women have been trained to wait on men, but hooking up dating is a totally new level of disrespect. When a man makes a date with you, he expresses respect: he is putting aside time and is respecting your time. When he notifies you of a hookup, he implies that your time is worthless because it’s entirely dependent on his time. It’s a very different game.

BTW & apropos: did anyone see the doc on Gloria Steinhem that’s running on CNN? Not a bad recap and very much to this case.

10 betty ming liu February 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Elle, thank you for giving me the validation! Loneliness is AWFUL. But learning to be alone is a GIFT. While there were wonderful things about my nearly 18-year marriage, I stayed in it waaaay too long because I was terrified of being by myself. I’ve now decided that the only way to be a good partner is to understand how to be alone. It makes my expectations much more realistic, opening more room for enduring fun. Btw, here’s one of my favorite blog posts. I think about this every morning as I gratefully breathe through another new day: http://bettymingliu.com/2010/08/how-to-have-romance-when-youre-not-dating/

Ingrid, agreed! And no, I missed the Gloria doc. She had a tough time dating too, based on my recollections of gossip column fodder from the ancient past.

11 TJ & MJ February 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Betty,
It is interesting to read comments and perceptions. The “Maybe we can hang out ” thing happened to a friend of mine. She felt bad because she realy lked the guy. It was something that a teenager may do but not an adult. I think that there is a time when things should be formal and when they should not. Some relationships can only go so far. Learning to accept that usually dosen’t come when we are younger.
When I was in the Navy I had a friend who was a Lesbian. It was durring the time when they were formulating “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Well she was asked, she told them and then they didn’t know what to do with her. While it was waiting to be adjudicated we had time to spend together. (Since she told the truth when asked there is the option of writing it all up, adding that they would let the Navy know if someone tried to black-mail them and signing it. The paper goes in their file and they go on with their career)
I only have one possible regret about that relationship. We had a chance to swim with dolphins one day and didn’t do it. I am not sure a chance like that will come again. I enjoyed being her dance partner.
My sister has some friends who married when they were older. In their case they knew each other when they were younger. Now both retired and widowed the met again.
I think the curly hair part is an indication of high maintence. Guys don’t like that. In my own case, I have been married twice. Neither of my wives were American. I think I would like a romantic relationship but I have given up. I think I give up to easy. What should I do?

12 Asianmommy February 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Interesting how times have changed with regard to dating. I’m not looking forward to the moment when my girls are ready to date!

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