I’ve been talking to this guy lately (and I mean”talking to” in the most literal sense). He’s 31 and he didn’t know how old I was and he didn’t want to ask, so he googled my name and my college and he found this picture of me on the internets:
This picture is about twenty years old and once he determined the year I graduated, he was also able to guess my age. And he asked:
“How do you make it to 37.99 without being knocked up, divorced and never marrying. Are you straight?”
I had a long-winded response to that . Because he’s attracted to me and finds me intelligent, he couldn’t help but to ask (again):
“But why are you unmarried??”
He meant it as a compliment. Everyone does. Surely someone as awesome as you could find someone to marry! You could find someone to love! You don’t have to be a lonely spinster.
Yesterday was my birthday and I spent 5 hours on a plane which gave me plenty of time to reflect on his question and the reason that my life looks the way it does. The reason why my 38th year on this planet finds me single, never married without kids, plants, or pets.
The true answer is: Because God is good and His mercy endures forever. Which is also entirely too abstract.
If I were to cement that statement, to ground it in the here and now, I’d say that God’s goodness and mercy shine on my life most clearly for me in my friendships– in the multitude of people who have for whatever reason decided to love me and do life with me. The underlying premise of the guy’s question- that I need to find a certain type of love – is wrong because eros is not the only kind of love. I’ve already found someone to love — several someones. And they love me in return.
So often we are measured by and measure our worthiness and achievements in terms of our ability (or seeming lack thereof) to secure romantic love. We set eros as the highest and most desirable love attainable. But the truth for my life is that it is philia which has been the love that has sustained and nourished me all along.
People often share with me their struggles to find intimate and lasting friendships especially as they get older and I grow quiet. I, girl who always has a book to prescribe and some advice to share, have nothing to say about how to get and keep friends. It is the magic in my life that I cannot even fully explain to myself but that I accept, greedily, with both hands raised.
Here’s the secret to my success: I am well loved. That’s it. I may be single but I’m not alone. I’m not slowly dying of loneliness. My cup runneth over with friendships. There are people in this world (way more than I have ever deserved) who have experienced and seen firsthand my stubbornness, my flash of temper, my inability to keep a room neat, and the rest of my very human flaws, and they love me anyway. There are people who see me as God intended, who dream with me and push me towards my goals, folks who encourage me in my very real struggles. Women who sit with me and listen when the world becomes too much. And that has made all of the difference in my life and choices.
I am in no rush to overthrow philia. I have little desire to supplant it with romantic love, especially as a marker of worthiness.
As Anne Lamott says:
Close friendships are one of life’s miracles–that a few people get to know you deeply, all your messy or shadowy stuff along with the beauty and sweetness, and they still love you. Not only still love you, but love you more and more deeply. I would do anything for my closest friends, and they would do almost anything for me, and that is about as spiritual a truth as you can get.