Don’t Pity Me Because I’m Single

9 min read

“Are your standards too high?”

My concerned dad, seated in front of me in the booth, waited to hear whether I was self-sabotaging my romantic possibilities and thus crushing his dreams of seeing more grandchildren. Grandchildren from his firstborn. No pressure.

Love LifeI’d returned to Houston to visit my family for the Christmas holiday. My dad had kidnapped me from my parents’ house, where funnily enough I’d been regaling my mom with dating horror stories. He’d returned from running whatever errands dads run and whisked me away. He didn’t tell me where we were going. I didn’t know until we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. I guess we’re eating then.

I knew I wouldn’t escape this trip without one conversation with my dad about my love life. I know he just wants me to find love. Of course, what’s amusing is my dad spent a large majority of my existence trying to keep the male species a universe away from me. He’d warn me: “I know what boys are like, Keisha, I used to be one.”

Once in high school, a boy called our house asking for my older sister. Unfortunately for him, my father answered. I couldn’t hear the boy, but I did hear my dad’s booming voice sternly admonish,

Young man, when you call to speak to one of my daughters you first
say, ‘Hello, Mr. ___, how are you?’ Then you ask to speak to my daughter. Do you understand me?

No doubt by this point, the kid was shitting his pants and “yes, sir”ing up a storm. My dad has a way with words and a voice that rightly suggests you best not mess with him. He hung up the phone on the boy. My sister was teenage-d pissed, which is pissed with a large injection of crazy-hormones. To the four girls under his protection eavesdropping upstairs my dad yelled, “Don’t be having none of these knucklehead boys with no manners calling here with some foolishness!” My whole family is full of “articulate black people”, but get us worked up and the blaccent suddenly makes an appearance.

Dos Equiis GuyDecades later, here we sat, dad and daughter, released from her cage years ago. My dad was essentially asking me what was wrong with my pimp game.

I hate this assumption that single women past a certain age are single because they have unrealistic expectations. That may be true for some, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. Trust me, I’ve done the self-reflection.

I sighed, as respectfully as possible, before answering, “No. I mean, unless you think wanting someone who is gainfully employed, ambitious, open-minded, clean, socially conscious, knowledgeable about current events, has social skills and likes to travel, is having high standards. Even then, someone can have all these great qualities, but for some reason, there’ll be no connection.”

“For instance, dad, I have a guy friend who told me he wants a basketball team full of kids. First of all, nobody in this area,” I said, while pointing at my “womb” region, “wants anything to do with five babies. Second, I wasn’t then and am not now young enough to be popping out all those kids. There’s not enough time! So, needless to say, he’s out. He’s a good guy, but I don’t want five kids.”

He nodded, pensive, and asked curiously, “What do you mean by ‘social skills’?”

I thought back to a date I’d gone on last spring.

His appearance was fine enough, but you know how “they” say that a woman knows within some number of minutes of meeting a man whether she’ll sleep with him? Upon seeing him, sex-repellent particles filled my body with a rush. No way it was ever going down with him. But, I thought, who knows? Maybe his personality will change things.

photo cr:

photo cr:

We met at a cafeI suggested because although he asked me out, he had no plans to offer. I’d been in San Francisco all of four months at that time, so I had a limited knowledge of date spots. My criteria were simple: Yelp-approved food, on a bus line and alcohol available. Ain’t nobody here for a first date without the option of loose juice.

He arrived before I did and I’m perpetually five minutes early to places. Points for timeliness!

The conversation was a bit stilted. He was a little awkward, more than “first date jitters” awkward. If he looked like he wanted to fall asleep while telling me about his job, you can imagine how I felt hearing about it.

“You’re really pretty. You must get lots of dates on Match. How many dates have you been on?” he asked.

A proper compliment (yay!) and an odd followup. “Thanks! This is my first date actually.”

Are we supposed to talk about this? Like comparing war stories of the online dating game? Show our battle scars in the form of baggage and skepticism?

“I’ve been on a few,” he shared. “The girls are pretty cool. Lot of people who seem to want to go do all these crazy, adventurous things though. I’m more of a homebody.”

The sex-repellent particles buzzed in my body like crackhead tics, reminding me of their presence.

Nope, no sir. Been there, done that. Not looking for a homebody! I am sure he will find a compatible quiet girl going-on-a-datewho wants to be home with him indenting the sofa, but I’m not that girl.

I sifted through my arsenal of conversation topics, attempting to the keep the conversation lively, pulling a little too hard on my beer. If I drink it, this will be fun.

Out of nowhere he asked, “So are you really 3_? A woman I went out with from Match told me she was 36, but she was really 38. If I had known she was 38, I wouldn’t have gone out with her. I mean, I have to think about having kids. She said she gets more hits when she says she’s 36. I didn’t ask her out again.”

What in the? I sympathize with the woman; I’m younger than she is, but not by much. I could be her in a few years: single and increasingly worried about aging out of the window of much male interest; feeling the weight of my declining fertility. But, I don’t lie about my age, or at all, really. I have spent the majority of my life having to convince people that I’m not as young as I appear. When I was 13, my parents tried a few times to buy me the 12- and under ticket at the movies to get the discount (“Keisha, just pretend you’re 12 if they ask.”). I would expressly and proudly tell the cashier I was 13, thankyouverymuch. My parents couldn’t be mad; I’d told the truth. My truth cost them two extra dollars.

The idea that I would age myself down made me chuckle. He sounded a touch paranoid. “Yes, I am really 3_.”

“Can I see your driver’s license? Haha. I’m just kidding.” He totally wasn’t kidding. I pulled out my driver’s license to humor him (I covered my address; I am nobody’s fool).

“See? 3_.” He nodded, satisfied.

“So, do you want to go on a second date? he blurted. The only thing is, I don’t drink during the week. But, I drink on Friday and Saturday nights.”

martinisWho said anything about drinking? I know I showed more affection for my beer than for him, but I still had a third of a pint remaining! And what’s with the rules? Drink or don’t drink, that’s your prerogative. But, to have a rule about when you’ll drink it? How very opposite of fun. Rules for what days of the week you will and will not drink seems rigid to me. I don’t do well with rigidity. It makes me feel…confined. What about Thirsty Thursday? No drinking on weeknights? Get outta here with that crazy talk!

We didn’t go out again. He was nice. Nice isn’t a positive descriptor though. It’s just there. Sitting. Being nice. Doing not much else. Nice doesn’t light anyone’s fire. Nice doesn’t wiggle eyebrows. There was nothing wrong with him, he just wasn’t right, for me. He was nice though.

I concluded the retelling of this date to my dad with, “I am a social person. I like to meet people, I like to learn about people, I like to entertain. I cannot be with someone who will be on me like a boil if we’re at a social event. Following me around because he can’t make conversation on his own. Fearing what words might come out of his mouth. That will get old fast. He told me he’s a bit shy and a homebody. I wasn’t interested. He was nice enough though.” I don’t mean nice in that “women always reject nice guys for bad boys” way. No mature woman with sense is still chasing “bad boys.” I mean nice as in, neutral.

My dad made a noise I can only describe as a cross between a huff and grunt – a gruff – indicating he was absorbing my words and ready to move on. We were done…for now.

photo cr: mattsko

photo cr: mattsko

There is no great answer to the question of why I am single in my 30s. I didn’t choose a career over love or any of that nonsense posited in silly articles berating women for their single status. I didn’t push away great catches. I wasn’t tossing Idris Elbas or even Stephen Colberts (smart and makes me laugh? *swoon*) aside on the regular.

I dated around in my 20s, with some difficulty at times (thanks Los Angeles), and eventually dated someone for a significant part of my 20s, but things didn’t work out, for which I am actually quite grateful, though at the time it devastated me. We broke up a couple of months after I turned 30 and I recall thinking with a heavy heart, “I am now a 30-year old single woman. I am that stereotype. I will never find anyone now. Couldn’t we have broken up when I was 28? Nobody wants anyone after 30.”

I’d fed on a societal diet of sexist, limiting, defeatist, panic-inducing, judgmental, regressive, unrealistic views of female self-actualization and dating. I’d internalized a lot of it. I know better now. Those woeful thoughts have long been expelled, like the absolute crap they are, and I have a more measured and optimistic view of my dating life.

I am single because I am waiting for the right person. Unfortunately, I only have so much control over when and how I may meet the right person for me. It may be cliché, but I do want to be with someone I feel like I can’t be without and not just someone I can tolerate.

I would rather wait for the right person than be with someone I know I’m settling for because it eases societal pressure and judgement. I fear ending up in a bad marriage or relationship more than I fear ending up an “old maid” with cats.

Speaking of “Old Maid”, I played that game as a kid. It occurs me to now just what a horrible game it is. What a message to send to young girls; nobody wants to end up with the loser Old Maid card.

Kids, look at this poor old wrinkled lady. She’s ALL ALONE. She can’t possibly be happy ALL ALONE! BEWARE, this could be you one day if you’re not careful, girls! ALL ALONE!

I date. Of course I date; I’m a young female with a pulse who isn’t a dog. It isn’t all that hard to find someone who will take you out, well, kinda – the quality may be questionable. With some people, I get the impression they think I’m sitting at home many nights, deciding whether to knit or cross-stitch, sullenly dreaming of a Prince Charming scooping me up, self-pitying my life of solitude. If I even so much as acknowledge I think an adult human with a penis is cute, it’s “Oh! Is he single? Did you talk to him? Are you going to ask him out?” It’s all said with a great sense of urgency, as though men are high-speed trains running on a tight schedule and I need to hop on the next one coming before it’s too late and the train makes it to the final destination, marriage, without me. It’s not that serious. Like, damn, I didn’t say I want to babymake with him. I am out living the best life I can and having a damn good time doing it! I already have many colorful stories to share along with the accompanying memorable experiences, and I have, I hope, decades remaining to create even more, with or without a romantic partner.

Self help booksWhen in I was in my 20s, out at bars, clubs and restaurants, as I often was, I’d observe a subset of women in their 30s & 40s and their intense pursuit in search of “the one” before the clock ran out. The pressure came from everywhere. They were constantly talking about men, dating men, looking for men, talking about ways to attract men, places to go to meet men. Their eyes would automatically scan any room they entered for eligible bachelors as they halfheartedly listened to a friend prattle on about what she learned in the latest self-help dating book You’re Single Because You’re a Smelly, Toad-Like Nice Girl (but too slutty). There’s Still Hope For You! You’re Not a Total Loser!

It saddened me for them, but I also saw these experiences as cautionary. Some women truly did seem desperate, which is attractive to few; others were just earnestly hoping to find “the one.” I never wanted that to be in the desperate class. I have better things to do in this short life than obsess over men.

I don’t really share my dating life with many outside of a small circle. People are at times nosy, gossipy and easily jump to conclusions when it comes to the dating life of a singleton and I’m not here to be anyone’s live episode of Scandal. Save it for Olivia Pope. There’s still a double standard in societal perceptions of the dating lives of men and women.

There’s also a tendency of some to second-guess your behavior, to try to help you avoid coming off as a bad catch, or to give you unsolicited dating advice, because obviously what you’ve been doing isn’t working. I appreciate the advice random co-worker who probably last dated in the ’70s. Unless you can tell me how you’d handle a guy requesting you text him photos of your its ‘n’ bits after one date, I don’t need to hear it from you.

My dating life is none of anyone’s business and it’s not fodder for others to live vicariously through. I’ve had coupled up people say to me, “I have to live through your dating experiences!” No you don’t. If you want to be entertained by dating experiences, date, shake up your own relationship or watch Maury. Single people aren’t here for the entertainment of the paired up.

Don't Pity Me Because I'm Single Quote Single Pressure | The Girl Next Door is BlackI’m doing what I’m “supposed” to do. I date against my “type”, I try different avenues to meet people, I get out of the house, I smile, I keep clean, hone my feminine wiles, etc. There is nothing more “wrong” with me than the next person with flaws. Married people can be crazy as hell too. It’s just there is only one other person being subjected to their crazy.

I know who I am. I like who I am. I enjoy my own company and the life I’ve built for myself. I can make myself laugh hard. I’m not on some “I don’t need a man” trip.  But, I am not going to invite someone into my life if they aren’t going to enhance it or
complement it, that goes for friends or more than friends. I am fortunate to have much love in my life between my friends and family. I don’t lack love.

I ended 2013 happier than I’ve been in a long time. And I ain’t even got no mans! So, I’m cool. Don’t pity single me.

single-takenMy dad sweetly said to me during one of our now regular discussions of my dating life, “Don’t get frustrated Keisha; you’ll be fine. You’re a [our last name]. You’re gonna be just fine.” Awwww, daaaad.

My parents had a couple of friends over one afternoon while I was in Houston. My parents don’t entertain as much as they used to, so when my dad told my sister N__ they were “having friends over”, my sister joked, “You have friends? Having people over? Who are we? The Winslows?”

I left my parents and their friends to their conversations and hung out with my youngest sister, C___. It felt like we were kids again. In a different room from our parents, the grown-ups, as they did grown-up stuff. My dad called me into the kitchen where they were grazing on tasty appetizers.

“Say Keisha,” my dad began, “we were just talking about having more grandkids…”

I wrinkled my face and silently walked right back out of the room.


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  • Kelly Symone (@HipHopChurchgrl)
    October 30, 2015

    “I know who I am. I like who I am. I enjoy my own company and the life I’ve built for myself.”
    How did you hijack my brain and write MY words like this? Are we fraternal twins, separated at birth? You be knowin’.

    By the way, I highlighted and right-clicked that excerpt to have Google say it out loud before I pasted it here. Just for kicks & giggles. The narrator’s voice sounded about as awkward as that date you talked about

  • Allison
    September 18, 2015

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this & write about this topic ad nauseum on my blog, too. THIS: “I hate this assumption that single women past a certain age are single because they have unrealistic expectations.” Spot on.

  • Sandee M.
    November 12, 2014

    Great post! I didn’t meet the “right” guy (someone awesome enough to make me want to trade in my also-pretty-awesome single life) until I was in my my early 40s. Worth the wait. And though there were lots of times I was lonely, or felt out of it, now I’m really glad that I had all that time to have my own adventures and figure out who I am. There are so many ways to live a fulfilling life–enjoy whatever path you are on!

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      November 12, 2014

      Thank you for sharing your story; it’s encouraging! You’re right, there are many ways to live a fulfilling life – I wish that was reflected more in our society.

  • notk8
    November 4, 2014

    Pressure for grandchildren notwithstanding, your dad sounds amazing.

  • wanderingfireflies
    January 10, 2014

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Reading this really just made my day. I can totally relate. I’m not lowering my standards, and I feel like I am out there meeting people. I just haven’t found the right one yet. Best to live the best single gal lives we can and the right person will come along someday.

  • Dave Hong
    January 5, 2014

    I can empathize with you Keisha, even as a guy!
    So glad my siblings already have kids, or are working on them…

    Happy 2014!

  • Heidi
    January 5, 2014

    Being single is a lot easier when 1) you don’t want kids and 2) when your parents don’t want more grandkids.

    I haven’t dates in ages. Mainly because I’m busy and have no energy for the effort. But also because I haven’t met anyone (that is also single) that I’m interested in.

    Yet, I still enjoy my life and actually find life a whole lot easier on my own. Not the societal norm, but them again I have never been normal. 🙂

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