Why am I doing this?

“Why aren’t you married yet?” People would ask.

At first I blamed myself.

Why wasn’t I married? How had I managed to get to my thirties and not have found a dude who maybe, kinda, sorta wanted to spend the rest of his life with me? Was I too shy? Was I too confident? Was I saying the wrong things? Was I bad in bed? Was I not spontaneous enough? Was I boring? Was I defective in some way?

Maybe I just didn’t take social cues very well. Maybe I was missing something that other girls knew and I had just never figured out. Maybe I was bad at flirting. Maybe I was too intense too quickly. Maybe I needed to hold my cards closer to my chest, be more of an ice queen, hold back. Maybe I was expecting too much.

Then in what was probably my darkest moment, I thought, maybe nobody really gets the fairytale. Maybe the fairytale really is just that. Maybe Prince Charming is just an idea. Maybe true love doesn’t exist. Maybe there is no happy ending. Maybe I have just spent my life not satisfied with art imitating life. Perhaps I want art to be life. I have never really cared for ‘normal’. I’ve always wanted whimsy and magic and romance.

“Maybe you’re too hard on men,” people would suggest. “Maybe you need to dumb yourself down a bit.” “Maybe you’re too funny and it’s intimidating.” “Maybe you should try online dating! I would never do it personally, but you might like it!”

Thanks, friend. That doesn’t make me feel like a desperate loser, at all.

“I’m just trying to help!” They would object, defensively, while quietly looking at me like a horse with a broken leg. In their eyes, there was really only one thing left to do…take me out the back and shoot me. I was done. My life was over. There was no fixing me. If I wasn’t going to pretend to be someone else, or just pick one that liked me and try to love him, it was a one-way ticket to Old Maidsville for me.

At first I took it to heart, what was wrong with me? But then I realised that most of these suggestions were coming from people who had been in a total of one relationship their entire lives. These were people who had married their high school sweethearts, people who had only dated a couple of dudes before getting married, people who were born married, people who basically had zero understanding of how dating works and how hard it can be, especially in 2019.

My extreme single-ness would argue that I don’t understand how it works either… BUT, I also realised another thing. These coupled-up people were not more attractive than me, they weren’t smarter than me, they weren’t funnier than me, they weren’t fitter than me, they didn’t know something that I didn’t, they didn’t have access to some big secret, they were simply ‘luckier’ than me. They were just lucky enough to have met someone they kinda, sorta want to spend the rest of their life with.

So before I cancelled my gym membership, bought fifteen cats, and settled into the twilight of my own personal Grey Gardens, I made a decision. I decided I wasn’t going to be cynical about dating and I decided I wasn’t going to give up. But I also decided I wasn’t going to settle either. This is a decision that I must continue to make, every day. When I get an abusive comment from a guy, when I go on a terrible date, when I think it’s going really well with a guy and he suddenly pulls a Casper on me… I have to quietly remind myself, “Don’t give up.”

So here I am, 38 and single, wondering if people eventually just settle for what they can get. But at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I WANT THE FAIRYTALE! I’m not interested in just taking what I can get. I am looking for the real thing. Skin humming, heart skipping, stomach fluttering, can’t wait to see them, can’t think about anyone else LOVE. I don’t want to think, “He’ll do, I guess.” I don’t want to think “it’s just easier if I stay with this one.” And I wouldn’t want anyone to think that about me either. I am looking for a soulmate (I say a soulmate because I believe we have more than one), I am looking for someone who I can honestly say that I love with all of my heart and who makes me love myself more every day. Someone who encourages me to be the best version of myself and for whom I can do the same. A partner. A companion. Someone I can be completely honest and completely myself with. To me, that’s true intimacy.

But people don’t really meet IRL anymore, so I am looking for the love o’ my life in an online landscape that is rapidly evolving. I haven’t found him yet. But what I have found is that I am not alone in my search nor am I alone in my experience of this very weird and wonderful online landscape that with each new experience has me realising exactly why I’m not married yet.

From dick pics to catfishing to abuse and harassment, ghosts and hauntings, I have experienced it all. I hope by sharing my experiences here, I can provide a little ray of hope for those still looking for the proverbial ‘one’ and perhaps a little bit of guidance for those, who like me, are saying “What the actual f***?” every time they open a dating app.