By Andrea Bartz, photography by rawpixel.com/Unsplash
“Please don’t assume you know what my standards are simply because I am single and you are not.”
The other night, during catch-up drinks with a few close friends, they (unsurprisingly) asked about my dating life. I mentioned I’d recently had two first dates—two guys who seemed perfectly fine as humans, but whom I just didn’t feel like seeing again, even though both followed up.
“I always had a three-date rule,” one friend said to me, knowingly. “It can take that long to get to know someone.”
“If I hadn’t given Eric another chance, we definitely wouldn’t have ended up together,” added another, who met her now-husband in college and was friends with him for years—a situation sliiightly different from 30-something me going out to dinner with men I’ve messaged on dating sites.
A few weeks before that, I went out with a different partnered friend, and we gossiped a bit about one of our mutual, single amigas. “I know you don’t do this, but I just think she’s too picky,” my boyfriend-having bud announced. “It’s like no one’s good enough for her.”
I know she meant well, but my friends’ words stung. I constantly hear variations on the idea of “being too picky” directed at myself and other single women, although the language tends to be softer: It took me a while to fall in love with my husband, you should give the guy a fair chance since he really seems to like you. Hey, it’s not everyday you meet a smart, cute, successful guy like him.
Some people are less subtle, like my grandparents asserting I won’t always be young and pretty and it’s my responsibility to lock down a man now. (Yes, really.) I know everyone’s intentions are good, that they just want to see me happily partnered, but the message drives me (and every uncoupled woman!) crazy. Here, three big reasons everybody needs to cool it with declaring my standards are too high:
1. YOU’RE TELLING ME NOT TO TRUST MY GUT.
Giving someone a chance is one thing, but I know what I want—and how I want to feel. You’re telling me I should force myself to spend more time with someone I don’t feel comfortable with. Yeah, I don’t think so. In fact, when I ignored all my instincts and tried that recently, the man wound up morphing into an entitled, scary lunatic (true story). Maybe, just maybe, there’s a very real reason I don’t want to go out with certain dudes again. And whether that’s because I’m getting creepy vibes or he reminds me of my ex or I’m just plain not feeling any sparks, I’m allowed to listen to and honour that.
Oh, also, I eventually want kids, so wasting time on someone I’m not into is…questionable advice.
2. IT IMPLIES I’M NOT DESERVING OF EPIC LOVE.
I love watching friends fall in love. I love the surprised, excited text from the bathroom (“Guys, I’m on a super-good date!!!”), I love the big blushing smiles every time his name is mentioned, and I even love that cocoon period where your friend is constantly holed up with her new beau, emerging every once in awhile with sparkly eyes and sex-mussed hair. Falling in love is the best! And when it’s happened with friends my age, so often the fall is instant and forever. They’re engaged within a year, they’re confident and glowy instead of hesitant and stressed-out over every date, detail, and text. Not that it’s totally smooth sailing from day one, of course, but there’s a beautiful smoothness when a grown-ass woman finds her person. And just being around that buzz is enough to give me a giddy contact high.
Here’s what I’m getting at: When you tell me I’m too picky and to give whatever bro another chance, what you’re saying is this: You got to fall head over heels, but I have to settle for someone who seems more or less acceptable. Now please, explain how that’s fair.
3. IT SUGGESTS I DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WOULD-BE-NICE AND NON-NEGOTIABLES.
If you have a four-page-long checklist of super-specific qualities you’re looking for in a mate (plays guitar, banks six figures a year, has a close but not too-close relationship with his mom…), and you’ll pass on anyone who doesn’t tick every box, maybe you are pushing extreme picky-ness. But single women—especially ones in their thirties who, like me, have plenty of dating and relationship experience—are generally looking for more broad qualities that make for a healthy relationship: chemistry, communication skills, physical attraction, compatible senses of humour, and an easy rapport. If I’m ending things with someone, it’s not because he’s not capital-P perfect—it’s because one or more of those crucial elements is missing. Please don’t assume you know what my standards are simply because I am single and you are not.
On a recent trip to Uganda, I met a fellow 30-something travel writer who had a boyfriend back home—he popped up in stories every now and then—but she had such a rich, interesting life, I didn’t even learn her man’s name until toward the end of the trip. She shared stories of kayaking with dolphins in New Zealand and hiking through the Amazon. One afternoon, toward the end of our trip, we sat next to each other on a Jeep bound for an indigenous African village. I brought up the topic of dating, and she revealed that, when she’d reached her late thirties and was still single, everyone seemed concerned about her boyfriendless status, except her. “People kept telling me I was being too picky,” she said, gazing out over the rolling hills and jade-coloured shrubs of Uganda’s Kidepo Valley. “But then I met Rich, and honestly, I’m soooo glad I waited.”
You’d expect this essay to have a cute wrap-up: Surprise, I held out until I met my new guy, and boy am I relieved I didn’t settle. Well, I’m still holding out, and I feel good about that. I’m meeting cool men, giving them a real chance, and keeping my radar out for a true connection. Maybe I am picky, but for me, it sure beats the hell out of being unhappy.
Wondering how to deepen your relationship with your partner? Here’s 11 surprisingly easy steps to Chrissy-And-John level closeness, plus these 5 conversations will rekindle the flame with your partner.
This article was originally featured on www.womenshealthmag.com