I generally try to keep Naked City focused more on gender and sexuality than matters of the heart, but I can't help wanting to comment on the cover story published today by my esteemed colleague Jen Doll, Dear Single Women of NYC: It's Not Them, It's You
. The thesis is right there in the title. It's a great, well-written article, and certainly worth reading, but I take issue with many of its assertions. As someone who's spent six of her seven-and-a-half years in NYC as a single woman actively seeking a relationship, I've come to believe that most of the time, it's not your fault at all if you haven't found what you want yet. Finding romantic love, the kind that we're now all spoiled enough to hold as a prerequisite to marriage, is really, really difficult. Unless you're unbelievably lucky, it doesn't happen overnight. And that's okay.
Jen posits that it's our constant desire for something different, our abundance of choices, our passion for our careers, and our internal uncertainty that create the circumstances under which we say we want to find love, but are frustrated because we cannot (and maybe don't really want to). This might be true of some women, but not everyone has this bizarre kind of false consciousness. If an adult woman is smart enough to excel in a difficult career, shouldn't she be smart enough to correctly identify her own desires? In this, a city in which it's perfectly acceptable to be single, child free, slutty, poly, transgender, or whatever else you are, am I to believe that the women of New York are lying, even to themselves, when they say they want to find stable relationships? What motivation could they possibly have to do this? The onerous, traditional, family-values-focused attitude of New York City society? Poppycock!
Personally, I've known for several years what I want: a good relationship with a hot, funny, smart, nice, biological male. I'm not just saying that because of some societal mandate that I'm too stupid to realize I've internalized; it's just what I want at this phase in my life. Being open-minded, I've tried out other things to see if I liked them ("friends with benefits," polyamory, a paradoxical commitment to one night stands) and realized they're not for me (at least not right now).
Once I knew what I wanted, I began looking for it. There was a lot of shittiness, some of which I couldn't possibly have predicted, the rest of which I probably could've, had I been wiser then, but none of which I put up with for any length of time. I'd rather be alone than settle for someone who doesn't treat me well, doesn't make me want to fuck constantly, doesn't kiss me when we do it, etc. Eventually, I met a fellow who was remarkably compatible with me and now we are bf/gf, assuming typing these words doesn't enact some arcane Internet curse that causes him to get hit by a bus on his way to work today. (If you're reading this, boyfriend, please be careful.) Did I finally come to some magical inner revelation that allowed me to find him? Hells no; I just got lucky. Assuming you're a healthy and sane individual who actively leaves the house and meets people, this shit is mostly luck.
Finding a good man wasn't easy. But you know what made it even harder? Being constantly talked down to by friends, magazines, and even my own mother about how I was "being too picky" or "just not ready," or "didn't know what I wanted" or "should make myself be physically attracted to different types of men" (how does one even do that?), and a plethora of other internal reasons why I was single even though I didn't want to be. You know what, well-meaning saboteurs? Fuck you! I know myself well enough to know what I want, and "what I want" now includes for you to stop trying to give me bullshit advice about love.
Even worse was when something bad would happen to me, the kind of thing I had no fucking way of predicting (Jen provides several examples of this type of thing in her article), and people would try to twist it around into some weird sort of "you were asking for it" karmic explanation. "He dumped you out of nowhere because you put up with it." "He turned out to be a lying sociopath because you put up with it." "He chopped off your arm during dinner because you let him." Excuse me? Wouldn't I have to have known about these things in the first place in order to actively tolerate them?
I don't know if it's a New York thing or an everywhere thing, since I've lived here for my whole adult life, but finding a good relationship is hard. A lot of men are just not very nice (a lot of people in general aren't, for that matter). Of the nice ones, not all of them are going to make your pussy wet, and even fewer will have any sort of long-term compatibility with you, be grown-ups, know what they want, etc. Unless you are crazy lucky, the time between when you decide you want a monogamous relationship and when you are in one will be significant. But when you find it, doesn't that make you appreciate it all the more? Your awesome husband wouldn't be so special if he were interchangeable with thousands of other men, would he? That should be some consolation.
I'm also sort of mad about the assertion
that "hooking up too early" can cause a man to lose interest in a woman. Really? It's 2011. You cannot claim that just as many men want relationships as women, and then turn around and say that women create crimes of opportunity by opening their legs too soon. Granted, this quote is in the mouth of a dude, but Doll lets it stand un-refuted.
In conclusion: you do you. If you want to be single, be single. If you want a relationship, don't be afraid to admit it! And if you find you are indeed conflicted, neurotic, and lying to yourself, as Doll claims the majority of women in NYC are, you should probably seek professional help. Maybe it's my personal bias talking, but I just don't think there are as many of you as she says there are. Chin up, kid. It's not easy out there, but you'll do fine.