My comfort zone isn’t very comfortable

Being a thirty-something and single is not something I ever expected.  Not that I was ever in a rush to run down the aisle, but I just kinda figured it would happen and by this point in my life I’d have a couple of kids and a house somewhere not too far out in the burbs (shudder).  Funny how life works out (or doesn’t, in this case).  But you know, I think I’m okay with my singleness.  The only real time it bugs me is when I get asked about it… usually by family (translation: parents, aunts, uncles) who sort of take the tone that something is wrong with me because I’m not married.  Family weddings are the worst (particularly when the folks getting married are 10+ years younger than I am).  But even talking to my mom can be enough to make me want to jump off a bridge. 

 I wish people would stop asking me (or really any of their single friends who are over 35) if I’m seeing anyone.  When I am, if he’s/it’s worth mentioning, I will let you know.  Please don’t feel sorry for me that I’m single.  Please don’t offer me advice about dating websites or whatever.  Please don’t tell me that more and more women my age are having children without waiting to get married.  And, for the love of God, I’m not moving back to Dayton, Ohio to meet a nice boy and settle down.  For fuck’s sake!  I’m not sick or diseased.  I’m a single female.  It’s not the end of the frickin world, people.  Sometimes, it’s even kind of fun.  I don’t hate my life.  I don’t cry myself to sleep every night.  Honest.  I’m okay.    

Now, full disclosure time, I’m not immune to self doubt and I do go through periods of feeling sorry for myself … you know the “what’s wrong with me;” “I’m so unlovable;” “I’m going to die alone and no one will even notice I’m gone” kind of ridiculousness.  It doesn’t help that most of my friends are married and on round 2 of the kid cycle if they haven’t already popped out a couple.  Because their kids’ schedules now rule (and the 4 year olds I know have more active social lives than I do), I rarely see them and I’m faced with having to try to re-establish a social circle at nearly forty.  How do forty year olds make new friends?  Seriously… how?

 I don’t even know where to begin. 

 Of course all the crap I read says to start with myself… love myself and be confident and people will be drawn to me (particularly men… men love confident women.  Apparently men also hate short hair so even with all the confidence in the world, I guess I’m screwed).  Easier said than done.  I’ve always had body image issues, but I will say that I’m getting better.  Honest!  I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I know how to camouflage dress with the best of them.  And, damn, for 38.5, I look pretty frickin good and am pretty darn strong.  I think a huge problem with my ever present body image issues is that my hobbies include wearing spandex and hanging out with ridiculously fit people with little to no body fat (who are also wearing spandex).  Oh, and most of these folks are 5-10 years my junior and have likely never heard of cellulite or stretch marks let alone experienced them.  I highly doubt any of them were the chubby kids in the class or picked last at any game in gym class. 

So my focus now is on thinking positive, happy thoughts and smiling.  Yes, it’s that simple according to the books and magazines I’ve read.  Walk down the street with my chin up and a pleasant expression on my face.  If someone looks me in the eye, smile.  Hmm… that’s not hard, at least not for me as I’m a fairly direct and outgoing person.  You know what I’ve noticed doing this – black people, men imparticular, notice and respond.  I’ve never known a white man to tell a random stranger walking by on the street that she looks good.  Black men have no qualms whatsoever about doing this and it’s kinda nice to be complimented.  I’ve gotten comments from “you’ve got a great smile” to “damn, you look good.”  Once, I was looking at my phone and a guy said “he’s a lucky man.”  Apparently he figured I was receiving a text from my date… I wish.  I digress, the whole feeling confident and smiling thing is a good and easy thing to do.  It’s not making me new friends but it is boosting the ego.  That’s a start.

Some other dating and self-help advice I read often is that if I do what I love to do and join clubs or go to classes, etc., I will naturally meet people with like interests and there’s a good chance sparks will fly.  It makes sense, yes.  A few years ago I did make a conscious effort to go out and join a running group (after test-running several) and a triathlon club – which was terrifying… arriving alone at a group function where everyone knows everyone else and I just sort of stand there feeling ridiculously out of place.  I did it, though.  I met a lot of great people and have made some new friends (and even dated a man for a year and a half).  But I’m still with a very open dance card more often than not.  So now what? 

I know I don’t need a boyfriend to be happy.  That’s not what this is about.  Do I want to have a significant other?  Of course.  But I’m in no hurry because I’m picky.  And I don’t think being picky is a bad thing.  I’m not going to settle for Mr. Maybe because it’s better than being alone.  I’m content to wait.  My happiness means that much to me.  I’m not going to settle.  What I want is to have a full life with friends and laughter and love. 

I’m a self-admitted solo-phobe.  I’ve never been to a movie alone.  I’ve never traveled (on a vacation) alone.  I don’t like to do that.  I hate to go to parties alone… but if I know enough people who will be there I’ll go alone.  But, to be honest, I like to have a date or at least someone to arrive with so I don’t feel like I stick out.  I know deep down that no one even notices that I’m at a function alone.  Or if they do notice I’m sure no one cares or thinks less of me.  In my mind, however, I stick out like a sore thumb and everyone there is whispering about me and feeling sorry for me.  As if they don’t have better things to do that think about me… but that’s what goes on in my head.     

This is my biggest hurdle.  I’m lacking a solid social network right now.  I go from my four walls at work to the four walls of my home.  If I don’t actually go out and do something I’m never going to make new friends but I don’t like to go out unless I’m with friends.  Quite a conundrum.  I’m working on it.  I’m stepping out of my comfort zone… slowly.  We’ll see if it pays off.

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