Posted in Dating

The Pain of Singlehood

Last Shabbat I sat around a table with 6 women. Two were in relationships and the rest of us were single. All of us are accomplished women. All of us have jobs, are healthy, seem stable and are doing things in the world. And all of us felt the pain of being single and in our late 20’s and early 30’s.

The topic of the holidays came up and everyone spoke about the pain that it was to go home. Of the looks that they would get in shul because once again they are still single. Or all the other people their age in shul are married or have kids with them. Or the conversation with people would be filled with looks of pity, because even though they are accomplished women, they are still not really accomplished because they don’t have a ring on their finger.

There was the pain that goes on when they go home. One woman saying that she has to give her bedroom up to her younger married sister- because she is married. That her parents refuse to buy another big bed, and that the other rooms in the house are ok for all the guest, including grandparents, but when her sister comes to the house she must get her room. She has tried talking to her parents and even to her sister and they don’t listen. They think she is over reacting. They think that it is a crazy idea to buy other big beds or to rotate space in the house. They think that only her sister and her husband need privacy, because why would a 32 year old single woman need any privacy.

We spoke about the pain of once again being in shul and praying that we would be able to get married. That we should be able to find happiness in ourselves but at the same time we also want someone else there. That we are tired of being treated as little kids, just because we don’t have a ring on our finger – and how even though we know we are not little kids, but we hear it enough, so maybe it is true, and maybe we fall into those pattern.

This past Friday night I was at my friend’s house. I was away for chag and for the most part it was great. Yes, I did not choose to go home for the holiday. A bit because three days with my parents would be hard. But a really large part is that I feel very uncomfortable in their shul – it is clear that I am the older single. That people don’t know how to interact with me. That most of the members are younger than me and are running after their children.

So there I was sitting on my friend’s couch talking about life, and the topic of singlehood came up. I tried to explain the great pain that it causes me. The pain of feeling unwanted. The pain of feeling that I am able to accomplish so many great things and unexpected things in my professional life, but when it comes to my personal life I can’t even get a date. The pain of desire that can’t be filled. The pain of wanting just to be held, not even marriage, but even that I can’t find. The pain that comes with the vulnerability to tell everyone I know that I am single and looking, and for people just to tell me ok or that I am special.

My friend was no helpful to me. She told me that I was exaggerating and that “it will all happen at the right time.” I am told on the one hand that I need to make sure to be in the place where there are lots of singles (I have been- and haven’t dated). And that I need to do what my heart tells me to do, and it will be there that I will find someone (also hasn’t happened yet). She told me that she knows what it is like to be single and “older”- she got married at 26- I told her that she doesn’t know what it is like to be single at 32. She tried to tell me that it can still happen – but she just doesn’t know guys (also something I hear often, ‘I just don’t know any good guys’).

And then tonight I sat with my friend as she cried because being home was fighting to be seen and heard. Because there are only so many times you can be asked if you are dating anyone and for the answer to have to be no. Because there are only so many people you can see with partner and children before you start to feel like that only one that is single, and so there must be something wrong with you.

I wish there was a real way to explain how painful being single is. I also wish that I was strong enough for it not to be painful- that I can take to heart that I don’t need a man to “complete me” or that I can find full happiness in myself or that I am able to stand up to social pressures and do the best I can do in the world even though I don’t have a partner…

But the pain is there not only because of social pressure. I do know that I am capable of great things and  I am not letting it stop me. The pain is there because it hurts. Because it feels lonely. Because people treat you poorly. Because it is something that I desire but feels unattainable.

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Posted in Dating, Life

Just Lying There Being Held

It has been about a year since I have been held. A year since someone wanted to be that close to me and just lay there. I know that I missed it, but I didn’t realize how much.

I am not someone who dates often, even though I want to. I’m not someone who gets asked out often. I’m not someone who notices being hit on or people checking me out.

When a friend approached me and asked if I would sleep with him- not have sex- to actually just sleep in a bed with him, at first I laughed. I thought he was being funny, both in the request and the fact that he asked me. His reasoning was that he was lonely and he missed touching people. I also secretly wished that I had the guts to say that was what I was missing, and to just go ask someone I was close with to fulfill that need.

Even though at first I laughed and said no, slowly we have begun just being there for one another. A few weeks ago we had a Shabbat meal that was just the two of us, and the next day he came to my house and spent the whole afternoon with me, in my bed. It was weird at first that he was there- but then in some ways even weirder when he left. The apartment was quiet again. I didn’t have someone holding me.

July 4th the two of us went to the East River to see the Fireworks. We walked all the way down to the river and stood there, close but not touching, watching the fireworks with thousands of other people. We didn’t talk or touch, but I knew that he was there.

And then there was this Shabbat, where he was at my house again all afternoon. Once again we were laying in my bed, this time instead of just laying side by side, he put his arm around me. Weirdly it was something I wanted to happen, and so I didn’t even squirm when it happened. I had been thinking about him for the past few weeks. I don’t think I am attracted to him, although I am very much not repulsed by him. We have both been clear that we don’t want to date each other, but neither of us have anything else going for us, and there is a level of trust. It weirdly felt normal.

And so,  I just laid there savoring the feeling of being touched.  Feeling the heat of another person. The pull that feels like someone wants you just where you are. The light touches that remind you that you have a body and someone else is also interested in it.

via Daily Prompt: Savor

Posted in Dating, Life

I Still have the Old Maid Card

I’m at an age and live in a community where most people are married and have kids. That leaves me to be in the position, that when I go to my friend’s houses I am not able to just hang out with my friend, but I am also there to hang out with their kids and/or spouses. It means that our conversations are going to be broken up by screaming children. It means that there are conversations that will have to wait till after dark when the kids are asleep, and hopefully we are not asleep either.

I have friends who love being in this role, or at least they talk about it as if they love it. They go to kids plays and school open days. They bring presents and come over just to hang out with the kids. They take the child out to dinner or plays or something fun. They are the go-to babysitters. The surrogate parents- helping with feeding and changing, and sometimes even discipline.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the past two weeks. Starting with one of my friends who when she is having a hard time, she wants to hold babies and hang out with small children. And then I was at my best friend’s house- where really, I do have a very close relationship with her 5 year old. And then over Shavuot I was at someone’s house with three other “older” single women, who are part of this woman’s house hold of caretakers.

And to be honest- it makes me really sad. I never thought that I would be the old-maid aunty. That I would be the one that still has no husband or children of my own. I have to say that holding my friend’s kids makes me sad, because I don’t have my own. I feel like I am in the pity party, that they feel like they have to be nice to me because I’m just not there yet. I find myself talking to babies asking if I will ever have the chance to have my own, or will I only ever experience holding other people’s kids.

Will I always be that single one sitting at a table of couples who all talk about their completeness, or schools or camps or birth stories- and I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation, because it is not part of my life? Will my parents hang out with other small kids at shul because I will never be able to give them grandchildren of their own? Will they get more birds because that is the best they will be able to get?

I would never change my relationship with my friend’s daughter- I really do love her and love hanging out with her. And will always laugh when she asks me if I would have different rules for her if I was her mom or when she jokes that she wants me to be her mom instead.

But at the same time, I am finding it harder and harder to be around kids and those with kids. It is the thing that hurts my heart. I don’t want to be the surrogate mom, I want to actually have kids. I don’t want to be the single aunt, who never has a date or a husband. I don’t want to be the old-maid that either has nothing to say in conversations or just makes things up to try and fit in.

Posted in Dating

Being a Significant Other

I just read an article called “Romantic Love is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We are Single?”

There were a lot of good points in this article, some that I have thought about (or maybe even have written about). Some were sad (some true in my life, some not so true in my life). It was the end that I really agreed with:

I don’t want to be loved. I want to be cared for and prioritized, and I want to build a world where romantic love is not a prerequisite for these investments—especially not under a current regime with such a limited potential for which bodies are lovable. Which bodies can be loved, cared for, and invested in.

It does not have to be this way. We can commit to keeping each other alive despite our sexual capital. We need to care for each other to keep each other alive. The myth of self-assurance is neoliberal victim-blaming in an attempt to obscure, neutralize and depoliticize our actions in the name of independent thoughts and actions and to skirt accountability.

Can we care for each other outside of love? Can we commit to keeping the unloved and unlovable alive? Is this a world that we have the potential to build?

And yes I agree! I want people to care for me, not only in the romantic way. I think that talking to my single friends, it is not only the romance that we want from a significant other. But rather it is the desire to feel significant in someone else’s life.

I know that I am lucky. That I do have certain friends who are there for me. But I need to reach out. I need to call them to tell them that I am sick or unwell. I need to call around to see if there is someone who wants to go out to do something or go to a show. I need to call around to see if people want to have a shabbat meal with me, so I will not be sitting along.

I wish there was someone just there. Someone to do things with. Someone to eat meals with. Someone that makes me feel significant and that I mean something.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since getting back to the US.  I feel the loneliness.

I have to live with my parents. Now, on the one hand it is wonderful. I have a warm house to be living in. And I am so thankful that my parents are happy to have me and are taking care of me. And I know that it is temporary. But at the same I am sad. Here I am 31 years old. No boy friend or husband. No children. Sleeping in my parent’s two bedroom apartment, having my parents take me places.

My brother and sister-in-law are about to have a baby (please God any day now). And I am very excited. But at the same time, I am sad. I feel like I am a failure. That I should be married by now. I should be the one with at least one kid by now. And what does that mean that he is the first in this milestone, that in the orthodox world makes you a “real” adult”.

And maybe the thing that was the cherry on the sundae, was A asking me advice on how to sleep with his current girlfriend. I really don’t think it was so much the question, as the idea that she is in NY, while he is still in Israel. What is wrong with me that he did not want to even try with me being away? He and I never even discussed having sex, at least not in practical terms. And even more so, he wants to see me next week, and I have nothing to show for myself, other than my work. I went on two dates with two different guys…he has had multiple relationships. What if my pattern continues and I don’t date another person for another year and a half? What if no one wants me ever?

And so I sit in NY/NJ alone. Away from my friends. Away from the people who were there to take care of me when I was sick and not doing well (even though I would have to call first). And all I can think about is how backwards I have gone, which then makes me feel small and isolated, and a great failure.

I ask the same questions as the author:  Can we care for each other outside of love? Can we commit to keeping the unloved and unlovable alive? Is this a world that we have the potential to build? And I’ll add one more, when will I become significant to one other person?

 

Posted in Dating, Rabbinical School

On Being Single & Almost a Rabbi

I got a really difficult email the other day from a good friend of mine. She too is studying to be a rabbi. She is 35 and not yet married (old in our world). She is studying to be a reform rabbi, but she too feels the pressure to be married by the time she is ordained, which for her is only in a couple of weeks. She is currently seeing someone, that she really like, and makes her happy- the problem is that he is VERY secular, to the point of being anti- religious  – even reform is too much. She wrote to me because she doesn’t know what to do. She wants to be with him, but at the same time she feels like she can’t fully be herself. She is debating about changing what she would say at her ordination, so as not to frighten him. She is worried that her dreams will make her never find someone, and feels like she doesn’t know who she is any more.

The job openings have started to arrive. But so far, the two that I have seen are in small communities, that are very family oriented. Even though one of them, I think I would apply to, part of me doesn’t want to apply because if I am single I would be alone. I think about my job her in Australia. Professionally, I am very happy. I am doing everything that I want to be doing. The community is really sweet and war. I have opportunities not only to be in the shul, but also to go to embassies and national events. Really it is great.

But then I am alone. Shabbat comes, and I have to try to find people who want to come to my house- because if I don’t have any guests, it is just me. I do have desire to be with another person, but there isn’t another person to be with. There is not a single person to even consider dating, which means that I am just alone.

In some ways there is something really open about being single and not knowing what happens next. I can go anywhere. I don’t need to worry about someone else being able to find a job or work. I don’t need to worry about how crazy relocation can be for another person, who might be relocated just for me. The world is my oyster.

But mostly, I think that this is really hard. It is something we don’t talk about very often, because well, it goes against part of the feminist ideal. There are so many articles telling women that it is ok to be single, you don’t need a partner in your life.3d8c28bc418840ed198b661d82cc9849 You can be and should be independent. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you want to do. If you look up quotes on being single, it is all about how you don’t need a person.

But let’s face it – it is something that might stop me from doing what I want to do, because as much as I want to do this, I also want to have a partner. Yes, I am strong enough to do things on my own, I have been doing that all my life. But I WANT someone else there. I want to have someone there – both emotionally and physically.  My marital status makes me (and I know also jobs I apply to) think twice- is it a place that I can meet someone? Is it a place that is only families so I am just going to always feel like an outsider and even more alone?

My friend mentioned that becoming a rabbi is something that she has always dreamed of and she is so close (like two weeks away), and now she is potentially considering putting it aside so she can have a partner. Yes, in some ways I want to tell her, if he really is “the right one” he will accept her for who she is. But let’s be honest, that isn’t true. When you are a woman studying to be a rabbi, at a certain point there is a feeling that you have to take what you can get. If every other aspect of him is great, then maybe I do need to change a bit of who I am.

I know that some of this is rambling, but it has been sitting in my head for two days. I did answer her, but it made me think of myself. In only 4 weeks I will be moving back to the US (for real this time). I am starting to apply for jobs for after June, and I have no clue where I will be. But I do know that my being alone will be something that affects my decision.

I hope for myself, my friend, and well anyone else out there that is in a similar boat (I don’t think this applies only to rabbis, I would say anyone with a communal job, but others too), please let us not have to lose ourselves just to find partnership.

Posted in Dating

Married at First Sight

I have found some interesting TV shows here in Australia, some are good some are less than.

One show that I don’t think is very good, but is very intriguing is “Married at First Sight”. The idea is that a couple meets at the altar and then gets married. So far it is just the wedding reception and a bit after that has been shown (apparently next week we see the honeymoons where things good badly….)

This show has me thinking. Now it could be because it is almost my birthday, or because I am just feeling lonely in a new city, or I just miss being in a relationship with someone who cares about me…but I think that I would want to do such a thing. I mean, I don’t want to be on reality TV because I think that in general they ruin good things to make it more entertaining for the audience. But I wonder, would it work out if I worked with professionals, and then just got to the chuppah and got married to the person under there (ok, so halachically it wouldn’t really be able to work…so at the bedekin….)

Part of me thinks that it is crazy. That I want the dream of finding someone and falling in love and realizing that I can spend the rest of my life with them. But the other part of me is the realist. It hasn’t happened yet, I’m not getting younger, I find it really hard to meet people, arranged marriages worked for years and year- so why not.

I do feel a lot of pressure to get married, and I do feel like I am lacking something because I am not yet married. I know I can do things on my own and in some ways it is easier to take these adventures on my own- but at the same time it is lonely. If I have nothing planned, as I am just meeting people, I am sitting at home alone watching TV. I feel younger than people around me who are married and with a kid- even though I know that being married and having kids is not what makes you older, and I am an accomplished person.

I want to have that security. I want to have someone with me and not always be the single one. I want to sit at a table and have a partner instead of being the only one without one. I want to have someone to hold me. I want to be seen in my community as an adult. I want to have kids. I want to not feel like a social failure.

When I told a friend about the show, he asked me if I would do it. My answer is that it would most likely be my best bet, but I won’t go on it yet. I am not yet that desperate, and I still have a bit of hope that I will find someone who I want to be with and he wants to be with me. Maybe in year 31….

Posted in Daily Prompt, Dating

Companion

I think that it is fitting, at least for my life, that companion is the word of the day.

For some reason all I can think about today is A. Everything reminded me of him, and I started to miss him, which made me realize that we really did break up. It is clear that we actually broke up. Even though he tells me that he thinks that he made a mistake, he hasn’t tried to get back together with me.

He asked me the other day if I thought he was an idiot for breaking up with me and not trying to do a long distance relationship. Before that he said something about us still talking throughout the year, and just getting back together when I get back- but I brought up the idea of if we are not together than we both need to be ok with the other person dating other people. I told him that I am not going to wait around and I don’t expect him to do so either.  If he wants to be in a relationship, and is ok with just waiting around, then we should just have a long distance relationship, even though it is not ideal.

So, I didn’t give him an answer about if he is an idiot or not. I didn’t think that I could answer that. But thinking about it today (which could be why I am sad) I do think that he is. I think that he talks about wanting to be married, wanting to be in a relationship, wanting true compainionship- saying that he feels all those things for me, but because I am far away he isn’t going to follow through. That even though he thinks that he made a mistake, he won’t try something because of a previous bad relationship- that he constantly tells me this is nothing like. That what we had he hasn’t felt in a very long time…Why would you give up on something that makes you feel good and is exactly what you say you want?!

Part of me still desires him. I miss talking to him. I miss hanging out with him. I miss touching/being touched by him. I miss having someone who just was there because he wanted to be…

But I am now just getting annoyed with him. I am annoyed that he didn’t think that I was worth trying for. I am annoyed that he still talks to me to tell me he thinks he made a mistake, but won’t do anything about it. Even though a week ago I would have said yes if he asked me out again, now I kinda want to say no. Why would I want to go out with someone who doesn’t really want to be with me, even if he says he does? Why would I want to be with someone who at times it feels like he is playing me like a yo-yo (which wasn’t the case when we were dating..)?

Now I can’t tell if I actually feel these things or if I am making myself feel them because the separation hurts….

I’ve been wanting to have a partner,to have compainionship…I had it, and lost it…and I miss it…

Now I need to figure out what to do to have it again. I know I just need to put myself out there again, but the idea makes me even sadder. I really can’t imagine going on a date or meeting someone who would make me feel the way he made me feel.

I guess I just need to hope that it will…if it happened once, it could happen again?