This letter makes me sad

September 25th, 2009

Salon’s Cary Tennis answers a question from a woman that begins,

I’m still single at 32 and hate it. I absolutely want to find and fall in love with a man I can spend the rest of my life with. The problem is, I keep ruining things by sleeping with men too soon, often right away. And each time I make this mistake, I am left even more hopeless, feeling worthless, terrified and convinced that I’ll never find a man who wants more from me than sex …

and goes on to describe a typical situation:

But after our first real date, I never hear from him again. Because this is not my first rodeo, I slowly come to realize, AGAIN, that I’ve completely ruined any chance he and I ever had by sleeping with him right away. And it’s my fault; I ruined it and now I feel absolutely worthless. The whole thing crashes down and it’s MY FAULT. My fault for being spontaneous, for wanting to have fun, for being a fun girl. It’s MY FAULT because it’s my responsibility to say no, to know that a guy couldn’t possibly stop it and beyond that, has no reason to do so.

No, hon, it’s not your fault. You know why you’re 32 and single? It’s not because you have sex too soon. It’s because you haven’t met the right guy yet. It’s that simple, and that hard to accept.

If a man was going to fall in love with you, he will do so regardless of whether you sleep with him on the first date or not. I have known women who have postponed even kissing until their wedding night. I have known women who have slept with men on the first date. I have known women who have slept with men before the first date. I have known women who were single and pregnant with a baby they planned to give up for adoption when they met Mr. Right. I myself was having a herpes outbreak on my first date with Mr. Improbable. (It was a nice way to find out that he holds hands real good.)

When you find the right one, you’ve found the right one. If you’re asking, “What date is should be the booty date?” or “Is it okay to ask a guy out?” or “When should I tell her I have herpes?” … you’re asking the wrong question. Because if you’ve found the right person, these issues of timing don’t matter a whit. And if you haven’t, it doesn’t matter how perfect your timing is. They still won’t love you.

We really want to think that if we do all the right things, the universe will bring us the love we deserve. If we hold out on a guy physically just long enough to get him intrigued, but not so long that he’ll think we’re a tease, he’ll love us. If we come up with the perfect opening line, that hot babe at the bar will go home with us.

It doesn’t work like that. Another person is not merely an obstacle course to the physical and emotional intimacy you crave. They are an individual with their own desires, and hopes, and fears. I think when you’ve been single for a long time, it’s easy to forget that. (Oh, hell, I know when you’ve been single for a long time, it’s easy to forget that, because I’ve been there.) Finding love isn’t some kind of battle that can be won by superior tactics.

I remember, when I was single and unhappy, someone said to me: “You just have to find someone you want, who wants you.” I hated him for saying that. I wanted to think there was something I could do. Or stop doing. I wanted control.

But he was right.

And when you take in that lesson, you gain in freedom what you lose in false hope.


3 Responses to “This letter makes me sad”

  1. Terri on September 25, 2009 7:19 pm

    That was the perfect answer! I empathize with Cary and wish someone had told me sooner what your friend told you – “You just have to find someone you want, who wants you.” Can you imagine if you married someone and felt your whole life like you had to walk on eggshells because if there was a problem you felt is was ALL MY FAULT? It is NOT Cary’s (or my) fault. We just haven’t found someone we could be ourselves with happily.

    The old rules set us up for pain. You sure are a modern Miss Conduct. Thank you!

  2. Robin on September 25, 2009 7:33 pm

    Thank you, Terri! And in case anyone of a more traditional mindset is reading — or, what I’m really concerned about, MISreading this — I’m not saying you should have sex on the first date. Or the third. Or whatever. What I’m saying is, your sexual standards should be your own, and reflect your own desires and values. They shouldn’t be an attempt to manipulate others.

  3. bluemoose on September 28, 2009 3:49 pm

    Plus, feeling hopeless can lead to feeling desperate, which can lead to doing something not in your best interests (like marrying Some Person hoping you can mold him into the Right Person).

    I hope the LW keeps dating and finds many other happy things to do with her time that do not involve dating so that she has something to talk about on dates AND so that her life is not empty and alone.

    I do think her letter is painfully honest about her feelings about sexuality. And I didn’t feel that Tennis got that (which didn’t surprise me). She wants to be sexually liberated but feels like a slut. What she’s doing is not working for her — I agreed with that part of Tennis’ assessment, but not for the same reasons. He seems to think that’s part of her problem with “getting” a guy, and I think it’s part of her own personal growing pains. If you do something over and over and you don’t feel good about it, maybe that’s something to change. Not to meet someone or be someone else, but to honor yourself.

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