I’m a single, late 20-something woman who has often scoffed at marriage, specifically the societal expectations of when I should marry. I’ve been known to spout off the occasional lecture on the pressures we put on each other and ourselves to marry, have kids and settle down early in life, and how it’s not always right for everyone.
At weddings, I feel a general discomfort about the bouquet toss and can usually be found on the fringe of the group, with my cocktail in one hand because I’m just not one of those girls who will scuffle for the bouquet.
I hold on to my tough, independent, entrepreneurial, strong persona — and being single certainly plays into that. But, I have to tell you, sometimes, I wish I found love earlier on in my life.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I would fall in love with reckless abandon. I always saw great potential for the future and little flaws never seemed to bother me because they were just that — little flaws.
I was quick to give my heart away, handing it over with complete trust and understanding. There was a level of excitement and hope that is unparalleled to what I feel now when I first start to date someone.
Everything was a rush of hormones and excitement, and I wasn’t worried about the future. I never imagined what my monogrammed towels would look like or whether a guy would cheat on me like my ex did.
I was young and in love, and the moment was all that mattered. I remember those feelings often these days as I navigate first dates, blind dates and Tinder romances with caution, and I wish dating was as easy for me now as it was back then.
I’m jealous of those people who only know that type of falling in love — the kind that is effortless and simple.
Between when I first felt those butterflies in my stomach for a guy and now, I’ve learned the other side of love, the side that includes heartbreak and betrayal and rejection.
Instead of rushing into romance, I cautiously let myself fall slowly, which, of course, isn’t falling. When it comes to my heart, you must prove yourself before I hand it over.
I’ve become more hesitant to give my heart away now that I know how it feels to have it crushed and what’s it like to have to pick up the shattered pieces from the floor, dust them off and try to duct tape them back together.
After years of dating, I’ve noticed that I hold on to my heart a little closer than I did before because I know how hard it can be to fit the pieces back together.
My baggage has gotten heavier each time I let someone in, only to walk away. I tuck away the specific pain and anger I feel deep in my heart, ready to pull it out and use it as a weapon whenever I think I’m close to getting hurt again.
With each lost love, a new piece of pain or anger is added, and I feel like I’m just wandering around, carrying this huge bag full of crap.
I’m tired and still, holding out that the next one will be the one to make the load lighter, which, of course, will put an enormous amount of pressure on that next relationship and remove a lot of the fun of just getting to know someone.
What it all comes down to is that as you get older, the stakes get higher, which can take some of the fun out of falling in love. You’re not just spending time with the person who makes your heart beat faster. Instead, you are looking for The One.
Everyone becomes a walking combination of pros and cons that you have to measure out and deem worthy or unworthy, and you know people are performing the same analysis on you.
You can’t bring someone around for a few weeks without your friends and family members asking if you’re serious. Sometimes, you can’t even be with someone for a few weeks before one of you starts pushing to be serious.
What used to be fun has become a mess of timelines and expectations.
I know what you want to say to me; I know you are going to tell me that every path is different and our experiences shape us into who we are. That one day, someone will come along who will make all of this worth it. I believe that — at least, some days I do.
But, I just can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have avoided the angst that dating has become; to have fallen and stayed in love at 20 and never have to online date, blind date or second guess cryptic text messages.
Would it have been easier? Would I be happier?
Would I not understand "Sex and the City"? More than likely, it would just be a different road, one full of challenges of its own. I’ll never know, though, because I didn’t find love early on.
I still hold out hope. I hope that The One will walk into my life and I’ll throw out my bag of crap and just fall in love easily and peacefully. I hope it’s fun and exciting and feels full of possibility.
And, until then, I guess I’ll just keep playing on Tinder, going on crappy first dates and laughing about it with my girlfriends over margaritas because one day, these stories will be something to laugh about.