Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I'm wondering if you can discuss the issue of actively searching for "the one." I am single, and would very much like someday not to be. I've had people tell me that if I want someone to find me, I have to go out and meet people, which I know is true - especially for someone who tends towards introversion, sometimes to an extreme, and isn't typically very easy to get to know. So if I don't go out and meet people and continue going places where I can form and deepen friendships, I imagine it'll be hard for any guy to get to know me to a point where he'd want to ask me out. (Of course, at the same time there are those people who say "It happened as soon as I stopped looking!" But I'm not sure how to fit that into everything.)
It's exhausting, though, feeling like I have to go to any event where I might meet someone, and always feeling like I'm on the lookout. I know I don't have to go to everything, but there's that part of me that thinks, maybe he'll be at this talk or that conference or this dance, and if I don't go, I won't meet him!
I'm fairly certain this is more than a little bit ridiculous, but I do know that I can't just sit at home when I'm not at work or in class. But I've grown tired of going to things with that thought in my mind - even if it's not the main motivating factor, it's always at least a little bit there. And sometimes I'll go to things that I might not really want to go to, just to get out of my comfort zone a little, and maybe - who knows! - meet someone.
But typically when I do this, I end up having a less-than-spectacular time, especially since most of the guys around here are attached already, and I have a hard time striking up conversations with people I don't know. I guess what I'm wondering is, do you have any words of wisdom for someone who's sick of feeling like she has to push herself to anything where there might be an NCB or two, in case it's the only chance she'll get to meet "the one"?
How can I get out of the mindset of being on the lookout anywhere I go? (I guess that's the whole point of trying to be seraphic.) Especially since, even if I do happen to see someone I might be interested in, there doesn't seem to be much I can do to help things along (aside from the sage advice you've given us single ladies). It almost seems pointless to be looking.
I will admit to falling into the "20-something and no boyfriend" rut - though I'm trying hard not to - not to mention the fact that I'll be finishing graduate school soon and don't yet know what I'm doing with my life. It makes me feel a little frantic - like, if the person I'm supposed to meet is in the city where I'm currently studying, I'd better meet him soon! And I suppose wrapped up in all of this is the question of whether there's one better person for everyone, or several good choices. I'm not sure which one would make me feel better...
Do you have any thoughts/pearls of wisdom about any of this?
Tired of Looking
Dear Tired of Looking,
Looking at this in hindsight, I believe I was supposed to meet a man who had spent almost his entire life in Scotland when I was almost 38 and marry him in a lovely ceremony followed by sandwiches. And this is what I did. If I had gone out every single night between the ages of 26 and 37.5 solely in the hopes that my future spouse might be at this American party or that Canadian lecture, every single night would have been wasted. He wasn't there. He was in Scotland, still on his journey towards becoming the Perfect Man for Me, which he wasn't until two days after we met in person. I met him because I stayed at home, thousands of miles away, doing what I liked best, which was blogging.
When I became Seraphic Single (four years ago), I put myself through a thought experiment I call "What if he isn't coming?" Although this may sound depressing, it can be very liberating. In this experiment, you ask yourself what you would do and how you would live your life if you KNEW, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were never, ever getting married. In my case, I decided I would try to find out what was so great about being Single (after all, St. Paul thought it rocked) and blog on it every day. This led to many good things, about which I had no idea at the time.
What would you do? No husband--ever. The search is over. You can do what you want. There is one scary thing, however: no husband means that you are going to have to finish your degree, get a well-paying job and rely on yourself. Grad school is sometimes just a way of delaying the inevitable. It's funny--some girls escape school at 16 and practically run to their first job. Others of us are terrified of leaving school at 26 or even 36. And a husband can look like another way of avoiding (or cushioning) the boring/thrilling business of making one's own living at a less than glamorous job.
Meanwhile, whereas I think men should be actively looking, I think it is pointless for women to be actively looking, too. Although this is absolutely not true for other aspects in life, when it comes to courtship, men should do and women should be. St. Edith Stein wrote that it is up to the man to call out to a woman, and up to the woman to respond. I am all for the men rising up to a challenge and doing the heavy lifting of finding a spouse, and for women going only to those parties and events that look like fun in themselves.
Finally, I think it is best that women leave this up to God. If there is a "One" whom God has ordained for you from eternity (or maybe even a "Two" or a "Three" since, you know, widowhood happens) from among millions and millions of men, God and God alone knows who that is right now. God can do anything, so even if you lock yourself in your room and never come out, if God has a man for you, that man will find you. (If you lock yourself in, he will turn out to be the UPS man or a cop or someone like that.) Have faith in God's plan for you, and go where the job is.
The one part of your life you really can't control is when your future husband turns up (or if you have one at all). And therefore you must concentrate on controlling what you can control, which is your degree, your career search, your travel plans, and your amusements. Take responsibility for yourself and your future, and leave the man stuff to God.
I hereby free you from looking. Stop looking. Stay home with the televison when you want, and go to only those parties and events that you simply would never miss. And stop objectifying men. When you meet a man, think of him first as a potential friend and last as a potential husband. Ego te libero. Be free.
Grace and peace,
Friend 1: met future husband at daily Mass; he saw her and thought she was cute.
Friend 2: met future husband at friend's wedding; he received communion from her and thought she was cute.
Friend 3: met future husband while grading papers in a cafe; he saw her, asked if he could share her table and thought she was cute.
All three of these women were Single when I began my first Seraphic Singles blog four years ago. They were all in graduate school, two of them far from home. They most definitely fussed about when "he" was coming and they certainly prayed about it. But their future husbands did the pursuing; there was little need for the girls to do anything, except be prudent and patient and their own fun selves.
Update (November 6): An interesting comment was made in the combox about the "cute" issue. The stress in the clause "and thought she was cute" should fall on the word "thought" and not on the word "cute". If there is one thing I can say about men it is that they are way more broad-minded about female beauty than women are. My husband and assorted men (usually ones with a thing for big fuzzy red hair) think I am hot stuff, and not even my grandmother thought I was pretty.
The perhaps bad news is that men only fall in love with women they think are cute. The very good news is that men themselves, not Fifth Avenue, still determine what cute means to them. Men with red-headed ex-girlfriends go on to date more red-heads. My husband's Number One Fantasy Idol Pin-up Woman of all time is Dame Emma Kirkby. When I first saw a photo of Dame Emma Kirby (as a younger woman), I had the weirdest feeling that that funny Scottish blogger, Benedict Ambrose, might actually be into me.