5. What do I never have to do again?
There are some perks to being a grownup. You don’t have to do everything for love...or even just for dating. You don’t have to go to lunch if you can’t stand long, lingering meals in the middle of the day that take you away from your hugely demanding, fast-paced job. You don’t have to go on blind dates with men who send you an email to arrange the time and date addressed to Kimmy when your name is Carol. You don’t have to go to yet another Oscar-night party at your sister’s house, where you and one guy are the only single people there and subject to all the other couples’ suggestions that the two of you set up the cheese platter the kitchen...alone.

To meet somebody, you may have to do some stuff you don’t want to. But you don’t have to do those one or two things (note: one or two) things you loathe. You don’t have to feel guilty or defensive about not doing them, either. Taking part in dinners and activities you do like makes it, well, all the more likely that you’ll have a good time in your pursuit of romance—and nothing is more attractive than happiness.

6. What heartbreaks have I saved myself from?
As time goes on, it gets tempting to just settle down with the guy who’d make a good father. Or the guy who will never leave you. Or the guy who all your friends like. Or the loyal, wise adorable guy with the big, fat heroin habit. Should you decide to go this route, it’s true that you won’t eat dinner alone. But being in a relationship with somebody you don’t love is like dipping your loneliness in chocolate. Once you get past the candy coating, it’s still there, only magnified, because you’re going to sleep next to somebody who doesn’t know the real you, because you can’t ever show him, because you can’t ever love him, which is the loneliest feeling in the world.

You may console yourself every day that at least you’ve got kids or the joint account. But you may also get divorced. Or you may go on, despair turning into seething silent rage and depression.

My point is: When every clumsy friend or family member offers help in the form of wildly misguided criticism (e.g., you have impossible standards, you don't really want to be in a relationship, blah, blah, bleck), please try to take a minute and congratulate yourself for not willingly being the cause of your own unhappiness. You have insisted and trusted in your own ability to find your own damn joy, to live a life based on the things you want, and you may just get it one day—due to your refusal of those you don’t.

More Life Lessons from Leigh Newman


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