Fellow single women, we've grown tired of hearing the same things, over and over again:
"Why don't you have a boyfriend?"
"You're too pretty to be single." "So, you're single... what's wrong with you?"
For the years I've remained single, I've repeatedly fired back with one simple answer: "I'm not in love with anyone."
They say that when you fall in love with someone, you feel euphoria and weak in the knees. Supposedly, "you just know." It's something over which you have no control.
But, other people tell me that to love someone is a "choice," something you can and do control. I've come to realize that people are not telling me about the same force, but rather, about two completely different forces: being in love and loving.
The biggest difference? One can exist without the other, while one of them cannot.
To love is to choose to love. We love our parents because they go to the ends of the earth for us. We love our friends because we can confide everything in them.
We love our boyfriends because they are there for us. But, how do we know if we were in love with our boyfriends?
Last year, I broke up with my now-ex-boyfriend. One morning, I woke up and realized something: I wasn't in love with the man next to me.
When I tried to explain to him what I meant, I was unable to find the right words to say. I couldn't express myself articulately because I could barely understand why I felt what I was feeling.
All I could definitively say was I felt unsatisfied. When I tried to rationalize, I concluded that I cared for him deeply. I respected him; I trusted him; I even loved him — but I was not in love with him.
To love a man is to support his passions; to be in love with a man is not only to back his passions, but also to admire them to the point that his hunger for them motivates you to be just as hungry for yours.
To love a man is to share all of your thoughts with him; to be in love with a man is to share all of your thoughts with him, and when you're not with him, to see him in every place you go, think of him with every person you meet and feel him in every scent you smell.
To love a man is to feel warmer in his embrace; to be in love with a man is to feel warmer in his embrace and subsequently desire to please him any chance you get because you have just as much a fervor to physically express yourself with him as you do emotionally.
You can be in love with a man, and loving him will automatically come with the package, but you don't have to necessarily be in love with a man in order to love him.
Time and time again, I question whether I should have taken up one of my male friends on his offer to be my boyfriend. I declined them all, and I'm still single.
But, in my heart, I know it's for the best. If it should have happened, then it would have. It would have felt right because it should have felt indescribable.
I will always love them, and for some, simply loving can be enough. But, for others, falling and staying in love, without choice and without reason, is the only way to experience love.
To pair with a man I believe I can learn to love, in hopes of falling in love with him later on, is a leap of faith I won't take.
It is my belief that we, as humans, each have unique thresholds for what we believe being "in love" means. We should abide by our personal thresholds and put faith in them.
This threshold varies from person to person based on how much more intensely one is able to fall for someone, above how intensely another can fall for someone else.
We cannot judge one couple's love over another's. We cannot judge the way one person loves against the way another does.
We cannot judge a single woman for staying single because she hasn't been able to satiate her, thus far, insatiable appetite because we all feel things differently.
And, perhaps, it's the extremity of falling in love, in and of itself, that separates the logical from the dreamers.