Yup, it's tough alright...
I sometimes watch some really bad television. Not as much as I once did, but still. Some of these shows are unbelievably ridiculous. Some are downright outrageous.
Case in point: "Tough Love," which recently wrapped up its second season. I'll let VH1 describe its show for you:
"Handsome, cocky and smart, Steven Ward is America's maestro of love. His brutally honest approach to matchmaking is what has made him and his mother Joann Ward one of the most successful matchmaking teams in the country. Steven has the balls to tell women not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear to find love.
The series revolves around "VH1 Tough Love Boot Camp," where Steven works with a group of eight single, attractive women living together in a house for eight weeks to change their dating ways. Steven guarantees that if they follow his rules then by the end of the eight weeks they will be ready for love. But there's a method to Steven's madness. Steven's methodology consists of his rules of dating. Steven's rules are bold, insightful, and often hilarious. But most of all they offer an unapologetic glance into the male mind. The core of the series is Steven revealing the truth about what men really think when it comes to dating and women.
The women in this boot camp are desperate and single, but can't figure out why."
Desperate and single.
Because if you're a single woman, you must by definition be desperate, right?
Where do I begin? I'll start with what prompted this post. On an episode in season two, Steve had the desperate, single women meet with some older, desperate, single (some widowed) women to get a glimpse of what their futures would be like if they didn't settle down with a man soon. They were filled with regrets over some of their choices, and about the paths their lives had taken. Here is what the ballsy, cocky matchmaker said:
"I didn't want the girls to be afraid of growing old, but I do want them to be afraid of growing old alone." (Emphasis mine)
I actually gasped at that and had to watch that episode again to make sure I'd heard him correctly. Really? REALLY? This is the message women are supposed to take to heart? I mean, yeah, he's a matchmaker, and its in his best financial interests to keep perpetuating this notion. But what a horribly damaging thing to say, even on a cheesy cable dating show.
A few years ago, after several rounds of lame dates, it dawned on me that I might never find the partner I seek. And unlike what Steve, our cocky matchmaker suggests about most single women, I don't think that what I'm seeking is that outrageous. In fact, I think I have a pretty open mind about potential partners.
But I also realized that it was up to me, and me alone, to create a life that I find fulfilling even if I don't find the right guy. I'd been putting some things off - like traveling more - in large part because I didn't have anyone to travel with. That had to end, and I'm pleased that it has.
Here's what's amazing to me: the life I have now actually largely resembles the life I'd envisioned for myself when I was an adolescent, dreaming about what I wanted my life to be once I escaped the blah suburbs of SoCal. No one is more surprised by that than I, especially considering how unhappy I once was.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating - how horrifying would it be to get to the end of your life and feel like there was something fundamental missing? That you hadn't done the things you wanted to? I don't want that. And I really don't want to be in a relationship just because I'm supposed to be afraid to be alone. I will not settle for anything less than real, true love...and yes, I know what that feels like. There's nothing else like it.
I've been lonely alone, and lonely together (that was what much of my marriage was like) and believe me, the latter is far worse. There's nothing lonelier than being in a relationship that's dying a slow, painful death. And I may be single now, but I'm rarely lonely. One thing I've learned in the years since my divorce is that I have many amazing people in my life upon whom I can call when I need them. I'm really lucky. And I've also found that I enjoy my own company, and like doing some things on my own, even though I'm also quite a social animal (the two sides of my Gemini-ness, I suppose!).
So is my life any less valid than that of someone who's married and has kids? Seems like it, in our couples-centric culture. And don't even get me started on the idea that Valentine's Day was supposed to send me into this deep spiral of bitterness and regret because I'm single. Sorry, folks... it didn't. I love love. I love celebrating love.
And I'm blessed with a great deal of love in my life. It just doesn't look like what our culture seems to think it's suppposed to look like.
(Here's another single woman's take on singlehood. It's awesome.)