Other kinds of love and Happy Valentine’s Day

When I became a journalist, I realized that I was in love with wandering as much as the thrill of the chase. I craved monogamy — in love and in a city — but I was greedy, too. I wanted all of the sprawling urban wild of Houston and the quiet hospitality of East Texas and the seafood with a view of Mount Rainier from Seattle. I wanted San Francisco to be as black and beautiful as Oakland and for the whole Bay Area to offer housing as affordable as the South. For minutes at a time, I could stand tracing the lines of the New York subway system on a map like they were veins in a lover’s forearm.

The quote above is from My Valentine’s Day piece about breaking up with Austin, which I’ll always have a special fondness for. You can read the rest here: http://bit.ly/1mg0i3h

I wanted to put this piece here and thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown me by showing up whenever I have time to post. I realized the other day that it’s been a year since the publication of my book Single & Happy and that it all started with the community of single sweethearts and our allies that I met here. If you hate Valentine’s Day, like I used to, hang in there — it’s almost over. If you like it (and all the chocolate) 1) I recommend Chocolove’s Almond and Dark Chocolate bar with Sea Salt before the day is done and 2) Happy Valentine’s Day.

Either way, may you always get the love of your life and the love you deserve.


Fascinating stories about singles from 2013

I really meant to post this list a little earlier but I moved across country, celebrated that and the holidays with friends and family and as my birthday approaches, a big ‘ol snowstorm has arrived. You guys are my Internet-equivalent of a #winterboo, so I thought I’d say a merry/happy belated Goodbye-to-All-That, 2013 with this mini-list.

Anne Lamott on her year at Match.com: “You could say that my year on Match was not successful, since I’m still single, have been reduced to recycling my Starbucks companions, and am pleased with ‘pleasant.’ To have gone out so many times took almost everything I had, and then I didn’t even meet the right man. You start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Nah.”

One of the best reported and most illuminating stories was written by the founders of Onely.org at the Atlantic on the high costs of being single.

I just watched this wonderful video Op-Ed from The New York Times via Upworthy (h/t Natalie Tindall).

If you love videos, this sweet one I first saw at Love, InshAllah is great.

It’s also almost the anniversary of the publication of my ebook, Single & Happy. I had a feeling eventually someone would ask me about the white lady legs on the cover, but I thought I was just being neurotic and should let it go. Then, I wrote this.

And this commenter (as commenters sometimes will) wrote the question that I had been waiting a year for:

On the book cover the photographed legs look like those of a white woman? Why would you do that? Black woman are so beautiful!!

Yes. We are. We are so beautiful!

And whenever we write something that connects what happens to us to broader womanhood or humanity, it is categorized on the African American shelf or in the ethnic studies category. Nothing wrong with that. But I wanted to reach single people generally. Even so, I, too, winced a little when I got the design back and wondered who would ask me about the white lady legs (my brother said it just the way I thought it months ago.) I hoped that the main point of the book — which is only partly about race and a rhetorical, sustained assault on single black women from a particular era (that thankfully seems to have slowed) but mostly about fighting a stigma that impacts women of all races — wouldn’t get missed by picking a pair of legs that looked just like mine. It is my story, too, but it’s also the story of a lot of single men and women.

At least that’s what I was trying for. I might not have been successful. But 2014 is a new year. I’m working on some other books. I’ll keep you posted. Happy New Year!

Thoughts on desire

Spring is here. Until recently, I’ve had some ambivalence about the season.

Out come the flirty dresses and the pretty skirts. Because I’m out more, I tend to get more attention, not all of it welcome. For instance, I was propositioned by the lawn guy, who is an otherwise very nice SO MARRIED AND NOT REALLY MY TYPE! guy.

Even if he were single, my heart isn’t really in it.

I told one of my friends I think my fun button is broken.

My favorite of the marriage equality signs. Love is love.

Some of it is being busy. More of it has to do with the energy it takes to grow and change, to move in a new direction. I don’t ever admit this in public, but…I’m tired. Like, all the time.

It’s a great direction, one that I’ve worked hard for. But it’s still new. And I liked the old me, my old habits.

They were comfy security blankets.

There’s something really great about bad habits, even when you know they’re bad. I kind of enjoyed being blissfully ignorant, except that there’s nothing really great about ignorance when you know that’s what it is. Life does seem simpler when you don’t know what you don’t know.

On the matter of desire, especially.

When I simply wanted someone to show up for me the way I wanted them to, I could generally mask self-sabotage by telling myself that guys just “weren’t ready for this jelly” or some other Beyoncé lyric. The truth was harder for me to accept, that I was trying to be a hunter-gathering goddess on the love front —  “I’m goin’ huntin’!” — applying my work ethic to matters of the heart. I know, I know: men say they like it when women chase them. But I think there’s a coy way that men like this to happen that might be a gender rule I’m making up, but I almost never operated that way.

Maybe I just needed face paint and that would’ve helped more? (From Petersenshunting.com)

I think this is why it’s easier for folks to play games.If you’re just playing around, if it doesn’t work out, you can just pretend to shrug it off and save face. Because you weren’t serious, allegedly.

There are still things that I’m passionate about, but dating is not one of them, for this very reason.

Except, the weird thing about desire is that sometimes when you stop chasing the thing you want the most in the world, it starts chasing you.

This has come up a couple of times, but most recently I noticed it when I went into a store where I crushed very hard years ago on a local dude I’ll call Steve.

Steve was kind of a jerk, because I used to really like jerks (it was a way of being mean to myself, enduring the company of guys who made Kanye West seem congenial.)

And he liked me. I think.

At the very least, he gave me free food, and his sister thought we should get together and he even sometimes took long walks with me to get coffee when I was in the neighborhood. So, I gave him my number.

He never called. I let it go.

Years have passed since I’ve been a frequent customer. Because, you know. Pride.

Only funny because it’s true! In my case, more like ambivalence.

Well, I dropped by the other day, just because I was hungry and it was on my way home and he was there. I thought he was going to jump out of his skin. He was super…melodramatic. “Where have you been?!”

“Writing. Around. Living,” I said. I wasn’t trying to be dispassionate. I was just confused by this enthusiasm.

“It’s so good to see you. Don’t be a stranger.”

Huh. The difference four years makes? Maybe. Also, everybody says that to everybody. Don’t be a stranger. It doesn’t mean “I’ll call you soon for a date.”

I suck my teeth when people talk about how women shouldn’t be afraid to approach men, because sometimes men are terrified of us. If I had a dollar for every time I asked the wrong a guy out, I’d be rich. I know that guys hear all this stuff about independent women, and how they think those of us who are feminists don’t “need” them — but none of that matters. Who cares about necessity when what you really want is for someone to want you the way you want them?

I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, in which she writes about vulnerability. I love me some Brené Brown in general, but also because reading her work has led me to a really important conclusion about my own vulnerability. I realized reading this book that sharing my love and heart with people irrespective of their capacity for intimacy has been a habit for a long time. All the scars that come with dating the wrong people come from this assumption that there is something more that I could do or become or achieve that would make the difference when really, at the end of the day, we just weren’t compatible.

I used to be bound to a twisted, limited notion of love and desire, one that considered love/affection a response to a deep need for validation, a thirst for healing and rescue, an unnecessary burden I never had to carry but decided to anyway. I’m not sorry that I have compromised my heart and my dignity through despair and on my way to healing, but I wish I’d figured this out a little sooner.

It would mean that I’d get to see jerks like the shopkeeper without averting my eyes in shame or irritation that he couldn’t see what I gift I was then, though he sees it now. What spring offers me this year, like every year, is a gift. Yes, the pretty skirts and the nice dresses, but also the promise of a fresh start. A new way of thinking about what desire really means, what it feels like with a heart that’s more open and not so bogged down with immature notions.

Top posts in January: Single life is expensive, Jodie Foster might still be single and some tough things about being single

I spent most of the month working on the  book party on Valentine’s Day/ Singles Appreciation Day. The great thing is that a number of my single and coupled friends are coming! The not-so-great-thing is that February is a bit of a hectic month, so posting may be erratic.

Here were the most popular posts last month:

The costs of being single vs. married. I had always suspected that being single was more expensive than getting hitched, but I didn’t know just how expensive. Now I’m working on my taxes and I can’t even think about this anymore without getting sad.

Jodie Foster’s single, y’all. I know, everyone only cares about if she came out or didn’t, and why she rambled. But y’all missed the whole point!

Good answer on Quora question: What is the hardest thing about being single?

The comments have some zingers, too. What a relief to know that I’m not the only single woman in America who has these things happen to her. Yes, our married friends are hanging out without us.

The Atlantic: Everlasting Love is a Myth*

On Barbara Fredrickson’s Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become and whether you can love a friend as deeply (or even more deeply) than a romantic partner.

Thought Catalog on five steps to embracing your single self

A friend of mine kept sharing well-written blogs from Thought Catalog last year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I noticed this list in January and it made me smile. I hope it’s useful for you, too:

..Single means you have no significant other, and by significant, I mean someone not genetically related to you for whom you’d walk on newborn babies or hot coals or dissolving wads of cash to save him/her from even an ounce of pain. The person you sleep with, even regularly, does not count. He or she does not cuddle under blankets with you pre-midnight and put up with your ice cold, winter-crusted feet to watch bad reality television. Your 3 A.M. “hangout” buddy doesn’t feed your cat when you’re out of town, or buy fabric softener in your favorite scent so you smell heaven when you’re dreaming. Single means you’re alone at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively speaking. But it’s ok. Here’s how to enjoy it.

1. Continue to sleep with your special friend
That is, however, only if he/she doesn’t make you feel like crap. But if you enjoy the company of a late-night someone providing you pleasure on a platter like a midnight gourmet cheese tray, stick with it. Enjoy it. Recognize it for what it is, and don’t try to turn that person into your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you two (or three…kinky!) have never left the bedroom, you probably never will. If you can’t accept this, then stop fooling yourself, or stop seeing this person.


2. Be all that you can be
No seriously, this is not just the Army’s vague mantra. We all know that when you’re in a relationship, you get round and happy from all the eating and midnight sex games involving whipped cream and chocolate and the love-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin-emphasis-on-thick and the comfort and security of lurrrrve. So if you’ve always wanted to run a marathon or speak a new language or learn how to cook or sew or grow plants or dance the damn jig, now is the time to acquire new skills. Once you have a significant other, they suck the life out of your life in every area except love. (Just kidding! Kind of).


You can read the rest of it here. When is the world supposed to end this year? May? I might need to get on this list, then. Joking! Sorta.

Reads for the Weekend: Tips for being happy when you’re single, Valentine’s Day & International Quirkyalone Day

I’m going to follow The Oatmeal’s advice here. Less complaining. More sexy rumpus. I got you.

Laurel House, known as QuickieChick, on surviving Valentine’s Day as a single lady.

Agapi Stassinopoulos talks to The Happiness Project about what makes her feel good when she’s blue. Fluffy pillows and reading whatever she wants are involved. It made me happy just to read it.

Yes, it’s true, you can tell by the fact that no one can make any reservations at their favorite restaurants for a party of one that the mega-holiday of marketing love genius celebration is approaching. I love you Valentine’s Day! It’s also International Quirkyalone Day, started by the phenomenal Sasha Cagen. If you wanted to have a party of other self-loving, non-coupled folks, here’s a party pack to get you started. If you don’t know if you classify as a quirkyalone — it doesn’t matter if you do or not, we’re all very accepting and totally non-judgmental — take this quiz. Or, just follow the advice below. & have a great weekend.

Salvation & Friendship

Support, salvation, transformation, life: this is what women give to one another when they are true friends, soul friends, what the Irish call anam cara. It’s what the Wrinklies did for one another, what the French resistance fighters in Auschwitz did for one another, what women do for one another in real relationships with real consequences in real time, every day, what my friends do for me. We help one another other live and sometimes, we watch – and help – one another die. It happens in movies, sure, but it also happens every day, in real life – now, tomorrow, yesterday. It is transformative and transcendent. It is real. It is love.

~ Emily Rapp, “Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship.”

My mother died on January 6. My father killed himself in 2010.

I am an orphan who never quite had parents in a traditional sense, anyway. I thought the day when I would write those words would be far into a future I can’t imagine. The days, the news, the grief came instead, back to back.

Maybe if I stayed busy, I figured, I could find myself back to words. Funny, sharp ones. Beautiful ones worthy of my single mother, with all her flaws & mischief & vivacious laughter. But then people would talk to me & I could not hear them, or something that would have once moved me to tears left a throbbing knot behind my heart.

The one person who called me her best friend in the whole world was gone now. She would not be calling again. I would have to talk to her by looking at the stars, wiping her presence from the tears on my cheeks while I meditated. I would have to listen for her in the wind.

I am deeply terrified by sadness & its weight. I love happiness, the shape of it, the generosity of it. This is mom’s fault. She had a relentless optimism & zest that sometimes wore me out. But when her death became real to me, it somehow solidified my father’s suicide, too. I suddenly needed retreat from a world that was spinning forward without me.

Books. Water. Tea. Dirt. Plants. Sleep.

Maybe if I had found love, like my mother wanted so desperately for me, maybe this winter would have been less cold. This was my first thought. I was only kind of alone before but now…

I do not want for love. My sister is a superhero of grace, strength & humor. From East and West, Canada to Florida, the condolences swept in via social media & angels in the form of new friends. They coaxed tears from my numb spirit. They reminded me of what love really means. These women, locally & nationally, made me spaghetti & fed me red wine. They bought me flowers & poems & thoughts & hugs that I wrapped around me like a cover for whatever sadness will rise and fall, like these Austin temperatures.

So, when I read Emily Rapp’s essay about the power of female friendship, I thought of them, their faces & gestures flashing in my mind like a slideshow. Too many to name, so many to thank. She reminded me, like the flowers that arrived on my doorstep from two dear friends, that some people think if you are single, you are alienated & cranky and missing out:

The Wrinklies weren’t spinsters or old maids and they were not “failures” in any way. They were free. It was I who failed to see them, until later, for who they really were: educated, hugely intelligent, fascinating, financially independent. Women who led rich lives full of meaningful work, deep and lasting friendship, sex when they wanted it, time with the beloved children of their family and friends, conversations about politics and art and literature, culture, travel to remarkable destinations where they did not journey as unconscious tourists but as guests in people’s homes and hearts. Despite these full lives they owned their own time, they owned their days. I did not. I was too busy trying to find someone who would spend the days with me, as if this would validate my presence in the world.

I recommend the whole piece. It’s quite beautiful & it was right on time for me.

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