Sunday, 1 March 2015

-|Nothing wrong with me! |-

I hadn't planned it this way. I have always been open to love and relationships. I have held on to hope and to expectations and to dreams and to grief and to men I should have let go of much sooner. I have been high on love and tip-toed on top of clouds. And I've lost my breath under a dark cloud, wondering why it's so hard for me to have the long, meaningful relationship I deserve.

I am at an airport where I meet this long lost friend, a little annoyed for delayed flight but happy to catch up with him after so many years .  I'm focused on the moment I'm in right now. This is life. This is my life. And notwithstanding it not turning out the way I had expected, my life is beyond my expectations. I have chosen to live my life to its potential, and I've never felt better about myself or more comfortable in my own skin.

We are getting to reacquaint with each other over cups of coffee (tea in my case). After some time, he has decided it's time to find out what's 'wrong' with me. And after all these years, seasons of loves and likes and not-quite-there feelings, I recognize the conversation that's about to begin.

"So are you married?" comes the expected question.
"No," I say.
"Have you come close? Like engaged or lived with someone?"
"Nope," I add.
His lips are pressed together in judgment. "When was your last long-term relationship?" , believing my answer is the answer to whether or not I want to be in a relationship. Or, perhaps more importantly, whether or not I am capable of being in one.
"It's been a while," I softly respond, noticing my own disappointment, let alone his.
"But you're attractive and smart. I can't believe you haven't had a boyfriend in a while," he says, but I know his flattery is a guise to learn the great mystery of why I'm still single. "Like how long?" he continues. "How many years?" He wants details. He wants to hear proof that he's right about his assumption that there is something wrong with me. Perhaps, he thinks, she can't commit.
"I don't even know," I say with a smile and a nonchalant shrug. And I'm being honest. I don't know.
"That's OK," he offers as consolation. "Some people aren't interested in having a serious relationship."
I immediately find myself rising up to my own defense and resent us both for having to do so. "Does it mean I'm interested in having a serious relationship if I stay in one too long because I don't know how to leave or because I can't bear to be on my own?" I ask. "I never married the wrong guy or pretended to be happy in a relationship when I wasn't. And it hasn't always been my choice for a relationship to end. I've been in love. I've wanted to be in love forever. My heart has been broken," I add.
He is relieved at this last note. My black-and-blued heart is proof to him that I've gone to battle for love. But I'm more focused on the fact that I've survived and have moved forward than on the battles I've lost.
"So, what's the issue?" he asks. "I can't believe you would still be single. You must be picky."
It occurred to me that he  will keep trying to deduce what's wrong with me until he hits the jackpot.
"Of course I'm picky," I say with confidence. "I want to be in love with the man I'm with and he deserves to be loved. If being 'picky' means I won't settle for a lesser love, then you are right: I'm picky."
Our conversation moves on to our respective careers. He goes first, and I'm sincerely impressed. And then I share my work and the profile that I have trying to work upon for the last eight years. But for him, he's not so much interested in my work, but in how my career might be the root-cause of my singlehood.
"Some people choose to focus on their careers and some choose to have families," he says emphatically, making the assumption that because I haven't had a family, I've made my choice.
"I didn't choose to have a career over falling in love, getting married and having children," I reply, my voice again slightly raised. "I can control many aspects of my career, but I cannot choose when and with whom I fall in love and who returns the love to me. I didn't plan to be single or not to have children."
"I have a friend who admits she spent too much time focused on her career and not her dating life," he says, like it's a diagnosis: "Career-Womanitis."
"Women don't often forget to fall in love. They don't often forget to have children. Sure, time passes faster than we'd all prefer, but if someone wants to be in a relationship, and most women do, then we find a way to do that when a man who wants the same thing is present in our lives," I reply. "Women are better multitaskers than men are in general, so I don't buy into the 'too focused on career' script modern women have been given instead of the truth: Despite having a great career and taking care of ourselves financially, while also taking care of our health and well-being, we haven't met the man we're meant to be with."
"Maybe you're too independent," he suggests, more to himself as he looks down his mental list of possible reasons for my singlehood.
"I'm independent," I reply. "But that doesn't mean I can't be dependent on someone else for a change. We keep hearing about how women should 'lean in.' I am leaning in so far that I'm falling over. I don't have a net, emotionally or financially, to fall back on. What I would do to be able to lean back for once. What I would do to have a man in my life whom I could count on when times are tough..."
He is running out of arguments. I'm running out of patience.
"If you spend the rest of our time until flight is announced,searching for what's wrong with me, you'll never discover what's right with me," I say, trying to soothe us both into another topic of conversation. "I have no regrets. I'm living a life I never dreamed of in many respects. Yes, I wanted to be married and become a mom in my twenties, but here I am with all my bumps and bruises, still in the ring, unwilling to give up on love."
He seems satisfied, at least for now, and we begin to chat about other things. As our flight is announced, he gives me a hug and we promise each other to be in touch. 
I smile back as I settle in my seat - In this frenzy of match-the woman-to-the-man, we have forgotten about the multitude of relationships that can exist in the world. My ' single status' has given me an opportunity to explore the intricacies of my individuality while celebrating the friends, soul mates, adventurers, comrades, mischief makers, mentors and sisters in my life. 
And I am never going to apologize for the life I have created for myself. 

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