I don’t think I like my apartment. I’m not sure if it’s the mini hike I have to take each day to reach the top floor, or the dusty stairway that makes me reach for my inhaler, or the lack of closet space, or the fact that it’s an absolute sauna in the common areas, but an igloo in my bedroom that bothers me most. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two thousand and three little things that are starting to bug me. I actually roam my neighborhood, peeking in my neighbors windows trying to get a look at their first floor apartments. I daydream of wonderful balconies that are covered from the rain and the shade. I long for the serial killer-lite laundry room in the complex across the street — the one that has the condo that I rejected due to its awkward layout and formal dining room. I would welcome a formal dining room at this point and would gladly take the strange layout over my current situation.
As I fantasize about these other spaces, including the one that I initially rejected, I often think to myself: why did I even rent this place?? All of those nagging things were in existence before I signed my lease. I wrote about this before, but there were all kinds of show stoppers present when I came to view the apartment — like a dog, and smokers, and general decrepitude. So why did I go through with it?
The truth is: I was tired of looking. I was tired of squatting in the Bestie’s guest bedroom. I wanted a place of my own — a place in Ghent in an old house — and I wanted to move in yesterday. This place fit the general guidelines so I settled on it.
Ah, settling — a condition to be avoided (by any means necessary) by single women everywhere. The act of settling is very similar to what I did with my apartment. One picks someone who meets the general guidelines for a significant other (male, single, breathing) while completely ignoring the particulars (lover of literature, Jesus, and all things Jada). The rationale for settling is that having something — even if it isn’t quite what you want (or need) — is better than having nothing. Settling is often espoused by friends and helpful parents alike only they usually refer to it as “settling down” and always suggest the most random and completely unlikely candidates. What about that nice boy, Carlos, that you were good friends with? Ma, I was eight and he moved back to Puerto Rico!!
This particular SGP sets your thirties apart from your twenties due to its dogged persistence and greater significance as you age. In your thirties, your friends will get married, divorced, and even remarried while you remain single. You will attend many weddings where it’s you, the 5-year-old flower girl and 7 teenagers (kids of your longest married friends) on the dance floor catching the bridal bouquet — the bride won’t even bother turning around but will hurl her bouquet directly at you (and the 5-year-old will intercept it). You are quite literally inundated with friends (and strangers) in connubial and coupled bliss. Everything (including your ten-year college reunion — especially your reunion) reminds you that you are a single girl in a world made for couples. My co-workers at my last job, The Boys, would often tap on their imaginary watches and remind me: OPS, you’re not getting any younger; you’d better get a move on it! I wasn’t sure what it was or how to go about “moving on” it. It was obvious to everyone that I was taking my sweet time – I was meandering, having a walk-a-about in finding a relationship when a straight-line-direct-approach was called for.
It’s tempting to rush the process of finding a mate, tempting to focus on your singleness as an equation to be solved, or problem to be fixed: If X leaves his house in Y minutes, traveling at 3 MPH and I leave the corner store in X minutes, traveling at 6 MPH, what is the likelihood of our paths crossing? Or, my favorite, if I fix X problem with myself then Y would like me. Trust me, you could lose 20 pounds and he still wouldn’t like you like that because you aren’t the problem. Let me say that in another way: there’s nothing wrong with you! Really. When your pity party reaches its zenith and you begin to starve on your island of singleness, remember that. Pick up your oars, take your canoe to another island, and hang out awhile.
There is a strong temptation to settle, to rush the sweetly slow process if finding love. Sometimes we lose heart and patience when our heart’s desires are delayed and we give up what we truly want in order to settle for something not quite right. But ultimately, like my apartment, it won’t work. You’ll stare at the peeling paint in the corner, your sleep will be interrupted by the wheezing of the 1970’s style air conditioner, and with every step you take up the stairs that never end, you’ll ask yourself: how did I get here.
Take heart and take pleasure in the waiting, this in-between season where you can write haiku, or join a bellydance troupe, or pursue any of the 2003 things you’ve been meaning to do. Don’t worry about The Boy – in the words of an Italian Proverb: the right man comes at the right time. Now if only I could say that in Italian…
In the words of Sugarland:
I ain’t settling for just getting by
I’ve had enough so so
for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low,
so raise the bar high
Just enough ain’t enough this time
I ain’t settling
for anything less than everything,