I've been reading advice and etiquette columns since I was eight years old.
There wasn't much to read in our local newspaper, and the advice columns were right there next to the funnies.
As an adolescent, I thought this was a good way to avoid making stupid mistakes as I navigated my own way through life. To be sure, I've never taken up with a man who abandoned his kids and cheated on his wife. No drug problems or other addictions. I consider that a success!
I still love advice columns. I read almost all of them.
Last week, there a was a letter from a woman in her 30s who was concerned that her enthusiasm for marriage, might be scaring off her dates. She explained that while she's not sharing this obsession with them, she fears that they're picking up on it. and turning on their tails as a result.
Sorry, I can't find the link back... I read so many of these columns, I can't trace my rabbit hole path.
But in the comments section, after the advice... people who don't even know the letter writer, started pouncing on her - urging her not to be so pathetic (sound familiar?) To give up the idea of marriage and to stop sharing her silly dream on the first date.
Now, doesn't that sound like the Telephone Game that teachers employed in school to teach us a lesson? Where did she say that she shared these fantasies with her dates? It didn't. Where did she say she was dumping anything on them on the first date? She didn't.
It sounded to me like she's simply afraid her enthusiasm is noticeable and scaring off men. I think we all worry about that to some degree.
The comments that bugged me most though, were those that advised, less than politely, that she should focus on doing the things she loves... getting out and being active and then someone will love her involved, fulfilled self.
Yeah it's good advice. But what happens when it doesn't work?
I've had plenty of people give me the same advice, whether they know me or not - whether or not they know what I've been doing with my life for the past 20 years.
Let me tell you something, I rocked my 20s. I had a high profile job, I was in great shape and I was out doing things I enjoyed. The men I dated at the time were divided into two types; the devout Christians (not Catholics) who were a bit overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for intimacy (not that we went too far, but I guess I was still too big of a challenge to their chastity), and completely secular guys who couldn't believe I wasn't dying to sleep with them even though they had no plans for commitment.
When I reached the end of my 20s surprised that I was single, everyone told me that it must be men are intimated by me - with my great, highly visible career, and the fact that I was in awesome physical shape. I didn't really believe them, but figured there was a nugget of truth - and it was easier to believe that than to think that I wasn't appealing.
In my 30s, I suffered through one layoff that hit at my self-esteem, then I moved to another state for a job which wasn't exactly in my chosen profession - and I didn't feel good about having to explain what I was doing for work, because it wasn't the impressive high-profile gig I'd had in the past. It messed with my identity, but I still threw myself into my community, volunteering, exercising, roller-blading around the see-and-be-seen park at least three times a week. I was dating a lot. I actually met a couple guys while rollerblading. Still single, and people still telling me that I was just so great, men still found me intimidating.
So as I approached my 40s, I thought that if I was just too intimidating for all these men maybe I just have to tone it down. I saw that the fact that I could take care of myself, provide for myself, buy my own home - was probably not attractive to men who feel like they should be able to provide for a woman. Actually, I wanted to attract those kinds of guys... because all I was meeting was guys who wanted strings-free sex and certainly weren't looking for marriage.
Then I went through a couple more bouts of unemployment - which wasn't easy - but I figured maybe the fact that I was more vulnerable would cut down on my intimidation factor. Even so, I was still self-sufficient (unless you count earning unemployment benefits as being dependent - but I earned those too, so...)
In short... I've been on both sides of independence. I've been on both sides of awesome. Both sides of doing my own thing.
So when strangers and people who don't really have an investment in my well-being tell me to just be more awesome and enjoy myself, and the right man will come along -- I have to resist the urge to kick them in the shins. I was awesome. I AM awesome. It doesn't work. God wants more of me, and I don't know what to give Him. And I don't know why I have to give more than all the people around me.
I'm just saying, if this is the advice you're giving single women, reconsider saying it aloud. Unless you know for a fact that she's been sitting on the couch for the past 38 years waiting for a man to drop through her ceiling, just shut up. You're not helping.
If you really want to help, go poll some single men about their thoughts on independent women. That might help.