August 9, 2010

It wasn’t so long ago that I was sitting on my therapist’s black leather couch, sobbing my eyes out. At the time, I was a few years into post-divorce dating and, then not dating. I was still alone — and scared of being alone.

Not dating was especially depressing since, up until then, my shrink was always telling me, “I know you’ll meet someone soon, I can just feel it!” Or, “You’re not going to be single for long, trust me.”

Her encouragement made me believe that someday, eating sushi by myself would be a thing of the past.

Betty Ming Liu sushi painting

But on this particular morning, though, she apparently had a change of heart about why I was not dating. In the process, my dear therapist gave me a different kind of hope that has held me steady ever since. I didn’t tape our session, but it went sort of like this:

“You know,” she sighed, “there are a lot of single women out there. And given the statistical odds, the reality is, you might never meet a man to really share your life with.”

Listening to her, I must’ve looked like death because she sat there squinting at me for a long moment. She seemed to be making some kind of  professional assessment because she suddenly leaned forward in her rocking chair and looked me in the eye.

How to cope with not dating

“All right!” she said. “Is that what you want? Romance? Well, you can have that right now! But if you really want romance, don’t wait for a man to give it to you! Besides, with the way you’re acting, no matter who he is and what he gives you, it will obviously never be enough.”

Ouch. Unfortunately, she was right on about my neediness. She wasn’t done yet, either. “You need to wake up every morning with a passion for life!” she continued. “That’s what it takes to be a true romantic. Don’t wait for some man to show up before you finally start dressing your best. Look like a woman-in-love now! Throw on that pretty scarf to please yourself! Listen to the music that brings you joy! And just maybe, you’ll fall in love with the person you’ve become.”


Her pep talk only made me cry more. I didn’t want to hear about being doomed to singlehood. But I’ve been divorced now for a decade. I’m nowhere close to getting remarried. Guess what, though — it’s okay.

Why not dating is more than okay

Actually, I’m better than okay because I acted on her advice. Instead of waiting to meet a man to take me dancing, I joined a salsa class. Forget about wishing for a hot guy to rock out with; I learned to play the drums. (Not very well, but that’s another story.)

Throwing myself into finding more work gigs not only filled out emotional spaces but also my wallet, which gave me more self-confidence. The dating continued too, with less desperation. Today, the person who smiles back at me in the mirror is truly my best friend and greatest admirer.

I’m also happy to report that my shrink’s advice is definitely worth passing along. A few years ago, one of my college students was acting unexpectedly mope-y. After class, we chatted about homework — and then she blurted out the sad story of a boyfriend break-up. In return, I blurted out what I’ve written here.

We had gone beyond our student-professor comfort zone and sat there in the empty classroom, just two women on equal footing as we shared about guy-pain. Wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. But afterwards, this fabulous, gorgeous 20-year-old emailed me to say that our chat pulled her out of her funk and put her on firmer ground.

I actually wrote this post on my old blog, on Feb. 10, 2009. But now that I’m dating again, I’ve been thinking about this moment from my life a lot. I felt this was one post that was definitely worth reviving.   :-)