Charlie Brown Syndrome (or, Chronically Single on Valentine’s Day)

Last July, I wrote this post about my experiences of being a 30-year-old single woman. It still holds true for me. One downside of this, though, comes along every February. February 14th of every year marks Valentine’s Day, or as I like to call it, “Singles Awareness Day” (as in it makes me aware…very aware…that I am single). In a time of year when people are talking about dates and flowers and love and special moments, it often leaves me feeling sad, lonely, and oftentimes jealous because I somehow always feel left out. For all intents and purposes, I am the real-embodiment of Charlie Brown.

This is not a new experience for me. I experienced it all through high school. In a time of one’s life when people are normally pairing off and experiencing the wonders of things like dating and making out and relationships, I was one of the ones who was shut out (I came close to it a time or two, but it never worked out). I’d see classmates receiving things like teddy bears, flowers, and candy from their significant others, and it almost always made me feel sad and jealous. Some classmates tried to “help” me out of pity one year, but unlike Charlie Brown when a girl named Violet finally sends him a (used) Valentine, it only made me feel worse. After a while, I just got tired of it: the gift-giving, the making dates, and even seeing the shelves of the local Walmart lined stem to stern with boxes of chocolate and similar candies, loads of large stuffed teddy bears holding little red hearts populating other sections of the store, and greeting cards proclaiming messages of love was enough for me to feel sick to my stomach.

In my younger years, my friends knew and understood this and would try to help me feel better. A lot of those friends are now married themselves and have their own traditions, so my community of fellow singles has shrunk considerably over the years. Now being 30, almost 31, and still never having been in an actual relationship…it’s more of a feeling of general loneliness now than actual sadness. My loneliness has accompanied me through life, not as a friend or a companion, but as more of something familiar that has just kept me company for all these years. I’m used to it by this point. A lot of times, I wish it would just go away, but I’m used to it being around me…I know nothing different.

I know I’m not the only one out there who’s going through these feelings. There are many, many other people out there, chronically single, who are feeling similar emotions to the ones I feel every February. If you are one of those people, I just want to let you know that you are not alone, your feelings are valid, and that it’s okay to feel sad, jealous, and lonely on Valentine’s Day. But it’s also okay to take those emotions and do something positive with them, and that’s something I try to do every year. That’s what I’ve been doing in writing this post. It’s okay to love things about yourself and try to celebrate those things. It’s okay to celebrate what you love about your friends and your family instead of trying to find a date for the sake of finding a date. It’s okay to stay at home and watch Netflix with your dog, if that’s how your plans are turning out. And it’s okay to just hang out with your friends, maybe watch some movies, play some poker, or spend the evening making lots of snarky comments on some ridiculous TV show…perhaps The Bachelor? (FYI, I can’t stand that show. I usually watch wrestling instead. 😆) Don’t have a spouse or significant other? Make Valentine’s Day what you want of it. You will get through this day, one way or another.

For me, there is always a bright side in getting over the hump that is Valentine’s Day: My birthday will be coming up around the corner. I start to look forward to my birthday once Valentine’s Day passes, as it is about five and a half weeks away. It is a day that is mine and one that I can get excited for as I know the year ahead will be an unpredictable ride. I know I’ll be okay. I won’t be happy tomorrow, but I know I’ll be okay.

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On Being 30 and Single

Pardon me for the radio silence…I’ve been chugging away on my afghan (about 3/4 of the way finished now on the main portion and I just got the yarn in the border color a couple of days ago), but other than that I’ve been dealing with general blogger’s block.  That is, until yesterday.  Let’s see, I recently started emailing an old friend of mine from when I was attending college (I only attended for three semesters at a local community college before dropping out due to financial and transportation problems, and I still have aspirations to return someday to finish the associate’s degree I started; this friend and I attended the same high school, graduating a year apart, but we didn’t meet until college), and when I informed him of my brother’s wedding date, he responded with a somewhat cynical email about all of his friends’ marriages that he’d seen fall apart.  I kindly let him know how cynical he sounded, and his response and my reply ended up being quite reflective of something that I don’t think gets talked about a lot in a real, honest manner: the experience of being a single thirtysomething.  What follows is reflective of my experience, and my experience alone, of being single and in my thirties (granted, I am only four months into being in my thirties, but I am in my thirties).

I don’t have much of a dating history, just one date in high school to my senior prom, and that was 12 years ago.  I haven’t been on a date since, and while it bugged me quite a bit in my 20s, it doesn’t bug me so much anymore now in my 30s.  Sure, I get the occasional questions asking why I don’t have a boyfriend or (on rare occasions) the assumption that because I don’t have a boyfriend that I’m into girls (sorry, I have no interest in playing with other ladies’ fun parts), but otherwise, it doesn’t bother me and I don’t care if it bothers anyone else.  Other than that one date, I really have no other experience other than that of being perpetually single. It hasn’t been easy, but I tend to approach this with the mindset that I’d rather date few men of quality than a sizable quantity of men and hoping I strike gold.  Unfortunately for me, there aren’t a lot of quality men where I live.  Where I live, the ones that aren’t married are the type where I take one look at them and I know I could do better.  Most of the quality men where I live have usually had the sense to move away to pursue better opportunities than what’s necessarily available in small town and suburban Florida.  And what remains are men of simpler means and simpler needs, the kind that like to go four-wheeling, mudding, or fishing.  I have never been an outdoors type of person.  Not a lot of these men are into reading the kind of books I like to read, or would be willing to pay attention to my thinking out loud about my knitting or other creative endeavors, or share my ideas and opinions on things that matter to me.  Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong part of the country.  I’m the kind of girl who knows what she likes and knows what she needs in a potential boyfriend or husband: I need someone who challenges me mentally; who is a voice of encouragement in whatever I decide to do; and who will allow me to be my own ridiculous, opinionated, goofy, intuitive self without trying place his own expectations on me and holding me up to be something I can’t.  I’m, among other things, a terrible housekeeper, a pretty good cook, a somewhat masculine woman in personality (though I am not above wearing a dress or a shorter skirt when I want to feel feminine, which isn’t very often), and unashamed of my geekdom.  I know by this point I will never be a girly-girl, a supermodel/beauty queen, June Cleaver, or a trophy wife…but I hope I can still be a nice match for somebody.  I know at this point in my life, though, I am not settling for anything.  I deserve the best, and I’m okay with admitting it.

It seems like society often looks down on people my age who are still single.  And true, a lot of people in my age group are starting to marry and have families of their own.  And yet, no matter if it’s the government or a religious group, most social institutions seem to value people more if they’re married: married people get tax breaks, married people get to have children without being judged for having them out of wedlock, married people are more trustworthy because the single person might try to *gasp* sleep with your spouse!  Sometimes it feels like in the eyes of society, though I may not be worthless, because I am single I am literally worth less in social capital.  Now, all this may have been an issue in my twenties, but honestly, now that I’m in my thirties, I don’t care.

I think I’m happier now being single at 30 than I was being single at 20; part of it is just understanding myself a little better as a person and being able to own my flaws, and the other part is just the fact that there isn’t really any pressure for me to fit in anymore. In your twenties, you’re coming out of adolescence and trying to find your place in the world, and people place a lot of expectations on you; in your thirties, you’re more assured of yourself and feeling more confident in your own decisions and aspirations. I feel no personal pressure to date, I feel no pressure to marry, and I feel no pressure to have a child.  I’ve accepted the possibility that my life may not necessarily include a husband or children. I could be happier when it comes to things I want to do in life (career, education, traveling, et cetera), but where I am right now is where I’m needed.  I could be happier with how I feel about my looks, but then again, it’s all superficial anyway.  But I’m content with where my life is right now for the first time in a long time.  I’m not angry with the world.  I’m not angry at anyone.  And I’m not angry with where life has taken me.  I could be happy, but if content is all the universe wants to give me right now, then I’m okay with it.  At this point I am just along for the ride, and I hope I can get as much out of life as I can.  I wasted my twenties with fear, anger, and cynicism.  I hope I won’t do the same with my thirties.

I hope other single thirtysomethings out there can take some solace in my thoughts and know that their worth is not determined by their relationship or marital status.  And those that do have love in their lives, know that what you have is rare, special, and something that not everyone will get a chance to experience in this life.  Cherish it, treasure it, and don’t let small things get in the way of the bigger picture.  And to those out there perpetually single like me, don’t fret over it; take the opportunity to learn great things about yourselves, appreciate all of your strengths and own your flaws, and don’t be afraid to put yourself first.  Singlehood should no longer be a scarlet letter, a badge of shame.  Singlehood may be a part of my life, but it doesn’t define my life.  I’m a geek, a knitter, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger, and a smartass who just happens to be 30 and single.