If you’ve never read Lauren Wiest’s xanga, you’re missing out on one of the most profound and entertaining pages out there. She graduated from BFA two years ago, yet her wit, wisdom and cognitive reasoning put most of the adult sites I’ve read to shame. She is transparent and luminous, and her words are as harsh as they are redemptive.
Before reading any further, you might want to take a look at Lauren’s Oct. 5 entry. Follow this link to get there:
She’s also just discovering the highwire balancing act that is being single in a world designed for couples. Moreover, she’s living in a relationship incubator called “college”, which hatches thousands (millions?) of couples each year, particularly during the months of April and May. Some are stillborn, others have the potential to endure through life’s ups and downs. The most dangerous hatchlings are those that are doomed but still believe they have what it takes to survive. They’re the ones for whom life’s first speedbump has the effect of a fortified wall. They hurl themselves against the wall in a frenzy of hormones, hopes, and hallucinations and only come to their senses when staring up from the ground at the enormity of the insurmountable challenges ahead of them. There’s a good chance being a nun would be a preferable fate to this kind of relationship!
But back to Lauren. She mentioned in her xanga entry the well-intentioned comments of “couplized” friends, and I must admit that I used to be pushed dangerously close to the edge (ie. the abyss of petulant self-pity) by questions like, “What’s a nice girl like you doing still single?” Furlough is always a whirlwind of such questions, often followed by elderly hands placing small pieces of paper in my palm on which they’ve scribbled the contact information of a handsome coworker, a friend’s son, or a “responsible young man” related to them. One supporter went as far as to sign me up for six months of free eHarmony service! What?? Support, apparently, comes in all varieties, the rarest of which is matrimonial sponsorship!
Ah, Lauren, if such well-intentioned questions bother you now, just wait until you’re…uhm…”vintage”, like me! (I used to call myself an old hag, which I thought was a cute/accurate description, but I’ve been threatened with bodily harm if I ever do so again–at least in writing. So I must now limit my use of the term to verbal, therefore undocumented, exchanges, lest the self-defamation police be watching!) Depending on my state of mind and current level of maturity, my answer to “What’s a nice girl like you doing single?” goes something like this:
Cynical: “What–would being married make me a better person?”
Witty: “Well, my husband’s parents decided not to have any children, so….”
Sarcastic: “I blame it on my mom. She’s been praying for decades and nothing has happened, so there’s clearly something very wrong with her prayer life. Pray for her, will you?”
Geographical: “I was born and raised in France. Have you SEEN French men??”
Philosophical: “I’d rather be single and wistful than married and wanting out.”
Honest: “At an age when there might have been possibilities, I was still too wounded to enter a viable relationship. And now that I’m a missionary…you know…I might as well be a potato.” A romantic potato, mind you, a potato who still dreams and yearns, but a potato nonetheless. All of life is a trade-off, and this is one of the few downsides of the life I’ve chosen. There are many more upsides.
I’m single…any questions??
Someone asked me recently when my life began to get “better”. The only answer I could think of was this: My life changed the moment I realized that my worth comes not from who loves me, but from how I love others. If I can take my focus off wanting to be loved and invest my energies instead in loving others and loving them well, my life becomes something I can live not as a victim, but as a decider and an agent of positive change. And there is no greater joy or satisfaction than in committing the surplus of affection God has given me to a Higher Cause. As long as that is my goal, my life can be fulfilling and my singleness merely a minor point of my identity.
Does that mean it’s always easy to be single? Whether you’re Lauren’s age or mine, the answer is a resounding no. Why do you think my DVD library contains such romantic drivel as “While You Were Sleeping”, “Message in a Bottle”, “Serendipity” and…sigh…”City of Angels”? As fulfilling as it is to give affection to those who need it, it’s not the same as being truly loved in a committed, devoted, romantic way. Nor will it compensate for our very human needs for touch and emotional intimacy–needs which must be acknowledged and kept alive (though not necessarily met) if we’re to be truly whole. There’s irony there–that being whole requires recognizing a void. Yet it is the recognition of that privation that keeps us human, sensitive, and compassionate. The void will not kill us–it will only deepen us if we allow it. As single women, of course, there is absolutely nothing we can do to influence who loves us and how. What we CAN do is decide to love regardless of being loved in return.
Bottom line? I encourage you to invest in others. Lauren is volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Other friends donate time to homeless shelters, pregnancy homes, youth groups, BFA dorms and one-on-one mentorship. Whatever it is you do for others will give your passage on this earth an eternal value, one that often could not be attained in the same way if you were married or a mother.
May we all, whether we stand alone or in pairs, be sources of light for the world we touch. And may we find in that usefulness and radiance a higher purpose for our existence. We live in a world where love is bastardized and cheapened, but if we are able to redeem Love even in small ways in order to heal and empowe
r those in our care, God, our Creator, is pleased indeed.