We’re all single.
Well, I’m married. I have a husband. But I don’t have a “better half.” I came into this world alone. I experience the triumphs, tragedies, and boring details of my life from inside my own head. I’m alone in here. It’s just me. I feel fortunate to get to share a home with my best friend and raise kids and critters together, but standing up in front of my family and friends and declaring my love for my husband didn’t make us the same person.
It’s easy to buy into the Hollywood myth of completion. Nearly everything in our culture tells us to. Thanks so much, Jerry McGuire. The truth is that we’re born complete. We may be broken and messy and deeply flawed, but each of us is one single person, and none of us needs another human being to be worthy and beautiful and valuable and complete.
The myth of completion is insidious. It’s wrapped inside pretty things. Hearts, chocolates, love-poems, romantic movies, tax breaks, social status. But underneath the lovely trappings, it’s ugly. It gives some of us permission to pity others, to look down on them, to assume we know what’s best for them, to judge.
So this Valentine’s Day, just to be ornery, I’d like to skip the cupids and play devil’s advocate:
-Your single friend has dated way more people and had way more marriage proposals than you. Does this mean she’s unlucky, poor thing? Or could it possibly mean she has higher standards than you?
-Your single friend is all alone on V-Day. Aww. Does this mean she’s sad? Or is she way more secure than you are, so secure and fulfilled and content that she actually enjoys her own company? Can you stand to be alone with yourself?
-Your single friend isn’t dating anyone, and doesn’t seem to be looking. Does that mean she’s given up? Or does it mean that (gasp!!) she may have better things to do?
-Your single friend has “let herself go.” Does this mean she’s destined for loneliness? Or does it mean she’s way less shallow and image-obsessed than you are?
-Okay, so maybe your friend is single and you know she’s unhappy about it. Is it really helpful for you to say well-meaning things like, “Don’t worry, someday you’ll find your prince”? Did you find a prince? Would you really want one? Is your relationship so utterly, unbelievably perfect that everyone should aspire to the exact same thing?
-Your single friend doesn’t have kids. Is she unfulfilled, or free? Is it possible you’re just a teensy, tinsy bit jealous of her freedom?
-Your single friend has kids. Should you be pitying her, or bowing down to her awesomeness and taking notes?
Just because you “have someone” doesn’t mean you’re not alone, either. Paired-off people can be just as lonesome. What about the ones whose partners are abusers, addicts, cheaters, neglecters, or simply clueless? Is relationship status so overwhelmingly important that a messed-up disaster of a relationship is really better than not having one at all?
We come into this world alone. And someday, we will leave alone, too, to embark on the last voyage, the final adventure into the great mystery. We don’t do this in pairs. Or trios, or with sister-wives, or whatever. We do this alone. Singly. And we must be sufficient in and of ourselves. The singleness that’s part of the essence of being human is what makes all our relationships–not just the romantic ones–so vitally important. We each blaze a lone trail across the landscape of our lives, and sometimes, for a while (short or long), our paths cross those of fellow-wanderers. But at the end of the day, at the end of this life, that journey is ours alone.
So why should you feel sorry for your single friends on Valentine’s Day? If it’s because they’re alone, then maybe you should feel just as sorry for you. Or maybe we should feel sorry for single people because they have to put up with the rest of us.