I’ve dated a lot these past three years. Well, at least what I’d consider a lot, especially since I spent the majority of my twenties in a relationship with one guy. Most of these relationships have been casual, some serious, and others somewhere in between. Some of these relationships have made me smile, others have made me cry, but regardless, one thing is for sure – none of them have ever defined me or my worth. But that assurance is something I’ve had to constantly remind myself; especially considering the amount of questions and interest my Latino family has had in my love life.
I didn’t realize it until recently, but a part of me had begun to dread family get-togethers. With all the exciting things I have going on in my professional and personal life, it was frustrating that the only thing anyone ever cared to ask about was whether or not I had a boyfriend and when I did – how things were going.
Because most of my recent relationships have been casual, I didn’t always feel the need to tell my relatives I was dating. It was the kind of topic I preferred to reserve for my girlfriends. But after weeks and then months of being asked, “So when are finally going to bring home a new boyfriend?” I felt forced to share. But boy what a big mistake that was.
“The right guy will come,” they’d say or “Don’t worry your future husband is in my prayers.” I can’t even tell you how many congrats I received when I made my last relationship official.
Even though I knew that everyone meant well, I also recognized the damage this was slowly doing to me. It got to a point where I had to call my mom one day and ask her to warn our family in advance to please not ask me about my dating life when I visited that weekend. I was so fed up, I even vented about it with my good friend and life coach, Kamari Chelsea.
“Love – including romantic love – should be celebrated the way we celebrate birthdays,” she told me. “Life is hard and every year that we reach a new milestone of living should be celebrated, as it is a testament to our growth and commitment to an ultimate journey. Yet, when we create a narrative that love is to be celebrated as an achievement instead of a journey, we begin to suggest that love is material, when [actually] love is innate – it’s a right. We all have the ability and the birthright to love and to be loved.”
I was beginning to feel like my family didn’t believe me whenever I said I was happily single – but I really was – I am! Chelsea Handler said it best: “Being single is delightfully more than it’s cracked up to be.” But yet society is convinced it’s not okay to be by yourself – especially if you’re a woman.
“We’re taught that love is something you must go out and get – earn it. And if you find it and earn it, you have won. If you do not, you have lost – especially if you’re a woman,” says Kamari. “Thus, we have a society of women walking around trying to buy the trinkets, tools, tips, books, prayers, and materials to entice an ultimate ‘win’ – a marriage, a wedding, a relationship – some type of receipt to show that we’ve won love, the commodity.”
We single shame women all the time but rarely do it to men. We say things like, ‘She’s so pretty though. How is she single?’ As if being “pretty” was the secret to finding happy, healthy, long-lasting love. But when a handsome man is single (even in his late 30s or 40s), we automatically excuse him for “still playing the field,” implying that love and relationships are all just one big game. Go figure.
I realized it was time to start changing the conversations I was having around love with my family. The same way I demand respect in my everyday life, I was now going to demand that my family respect that my single status is not something to be concerned over. I don’t need to be pitied when I’m alone and I don’t need to be praised or congratulated when I’m in a relationship.
Family time instantly became much more enjoyable once my dating life was no longer up for discussion. It was like I was finally being seen for the first time.
Like Kamari says, “love is a journey.” It’s something we are all born with, meaning its part of us regardless of whether or not we’re in a romantic relationship. Being single doesn’t make me any less lovable. I am, always have, and always will be loved.