Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Episode Five: Single White Female Syndrome

So, to begin, let me preface by saying my version of Single White Female Syndrome has absolutely NOTHING to do with being a sociopath. According to my research, this disorder affects young single women and the defining characteristic is the assumption of a friend's look, personality, emotions, everything. It most commonly manifests in women with serious social and personal insecurities and this is their way of coping. Perhaps I should come up with a different title...

Anyway, my version of SWFS has more to do with the people around the woman than the woman herself. I will be my own case and point as I seem to encounter these scenarios on a more than regular basis. Note to friends, family, random man #3 in the restaurant last week: This is not an attack on any of you, so if I make an example you were involved in, please don't be offended.

That being said...

I am a Single White Female. More to the point, I am perfectly content and happy with this status. I find a great deal of satisfaction in being alone. My time is completely my own, and while I don't have a great number of hobbies outside of my work, I do like to indulge in the few extracurricular activities I have. And I do, very often, prefer to indulge in them alone. If one cannot be alone with one's self, well, that's a very big problem. Ultimately, you are stuck with you, and I'd hope everyone has at least a small modicum of tolerance for one's self because even if you're coming home to someone, you'll always be coming home to you, so you had better get used to you being there because you never leave... hopefully.

I say hopefully because, and again being my own case and point, I have lost track of myself several times over the course of my 26 (and half) year existence, which is why I so fiercely guard and protect myself now. I have mostly noted this deviation from self to crop up when I am with someone. Dating has proved the biggest personality thief where I am concerned. I can look back through the relationships and non-relationships and see a very distinct pattern where I simply didn't exist. I was all about that other person, I became like him, adopted his habits, adopted his hobbies. I have come to realize this is the biggest relationship destroyer because more than likely each one of these guys didn't set out with the intention of dating himself, which is exactly what ended up happening.

17 months ago, I joined Weight Watchers. This is relevant because while it initially started out with a focus on weight loss, it ultimately ended with a focus on self. When I started this journey, I really had no clue who I was. I didn't know what I liked, I really didn't know what I was capable of. For years I had exhibited faux confidence, now I was aggressively seeking the real thing. I wanted to find the real me. Not the "me" that I became by honing in on my partner-of-the-time's habits, but the me that loves to cook and bake; the me that will waste hours on video games, books, and wandering the grocery store; the me that will hit the gym in the morning for a 7 mile run (currently in 70 minutes, hello 10 minute mile!) and go for a run again in the evening because I know there will be no treadmills on tour in the fall and I have to learn how to handle running in the elements (side note: mosquitoes SUCK... Literally. HA.); the me that can eat alone in public, prefers seeing movies alone, and is perfectly at ease attending events and parties sans date. All I wanted was to find the me that has always been there, but was buried under a very big pile of baggage, broken relationships, and a lot of over-sized clothing.

Thankfully, I never totally lost myself, but I did become severely overshadowed and colored by my significant other, which gave him way too much credit and way too much significance. I'm sorry, but no one is so awesome and wonderful that they deserve to be two people. My apologies in bursting your bubble, but this is true of all us, including me, and I have to say, I really like myself these days. To my friends and family, a huge debt of gratitude is owed, one I'll probably never be able to repay, but many, many thanks for sticking by me through the multitude of negative but ultimately positive transformations that have led me to who I am today. I honestly could not have reached where I am without your support, especially when it was most undeserved.

Now, to come full circle...

As I said, I jealously guard my independence and "me" time because I so seldomely treated myself to it prior to the last year. I am currently in a semi-self-imposed no dating period of life. I say semi because while I am not wholly opposed to seeing someone, I'm definitely not in The Hunt For Red October phase of finding a mate. I'm not seeking and I'm definitely not waiting (blugh!), I'm just being. I'm being with me and God will bring the right man into my life when the time is right. I fully believe God's timing is perfect, His will is perfect, and the perfect (I use that word loosely) man for me is out there doing exactly what I'm doing (well, hopefully not, that would contradict everything I've just said), and we'll find each other when we're meant to.

However, being a content Single White Female is hard for most people to comprehend. Most cannot understand why I would choose to be alone. Just goes to show the "old" social mores of the 50s and 60s are still alive and kicking despite our claimed progressive, feminist, women-are-allowed-to-wear-pants-and-do-the-jobs-men-do view on life. It seems women are still expected to end up staying at home, rearing the kids, while the man does the "man's" work and provides the support. No thanks. I pride myself on being a successful, working professional and I have no intention of being your conventional, cookie-cutter Donna Reed.

This outlook has invoked some entertaining situations, to say the least. I frequently get asked why "a girl like me" isn't married, why someone hasn't "snatched me up," again, why I would choose to be single. I got told by a man in a restaurant that I was "sad" because I was dining alone. I was really happy, quite honestly. Date night with myself is always a treat because I always end up doing exactly what I want to do (which usually involves dinner, a movie, and ice cream after). I found my situation as far from sad as it was possible to be. I had a co-worker ask, in jest, if I was a lesbian. I have friends attempt to "set me up" with eligible men when I come to visit. I find this incessant harping on companionship as a necessity to be annoyingly cliche. 

In summation, I wish people wouldn't assume that a Single White Female is lonely and in need of rescue from the company of herself. There is a vast difference between being lonely and being alone. Yes, I have my lonely moments, but they are fleeting these days, and I find a great deal of joy in learning about myself and what I'm all about, and I feel these are discoveries best experienced alone. I think everyone needs a period of single-gestation in life. You have to take care of you above anyone else because if you're not taking care of you, how can you expect to fully and effectively take care of anyone else? Alone time is crucial because you need to learn about what you need. I know many will argue against this selfish mentality, but I'm living proof that time spent on you in the long run ends up being time well spent for the benefit of others. 

A strong sense of self is your biggest asset, and your most attractive one, so take some time to cultivate it. Yes, I may be alone, but I hardly consider it a bad thing. I'm learning about what makes me happy and how to hold onto me. At the end of the day, I'm stuck with me, so I better like myself, and liking myself has been one of the most important accomplishments of my life, one I absolutely wish upon everyone I meet, friend and enemy alike.

I'll never be Donna Reed. That's a good thing.