A/S/L?

Almost everyone who is single is single for the same reason

“Write about the search,” he said. “That’s what’s fucking killing everyone.”

“The search?” Did he mean finding a new rent-controlled apartment that wasn’t possessed by fruit flies? Or perhaps a new startup job that boasted an extra one-zillionth percent of equity? In San Francisco we were all searching for so many things at once.

“No, no. I mean the search for love. For ‘the one.’”

I was perplexed. I had always assumed the male contingent of San Francisco skipped freely through much cleaner streets than us females, lavishing affection on Teslas, burning man installations, and an endless supply of younger women.

However a week later, another man confided in me. A bright yellow bowtie adorned his neck as if to mask his internal pain.

“I just got dumped! Apparently she didn’t think I was ready to have her hypothetical love child. We’ve only been going out 2 months! As women get older they expect too much too soon. All fun ‘get to know you’ banter is drowned out by the incessant ticking of their biological clock.

Perhaps the problem with 30–40-something dating isn’t an altered supply of available men. Perhaps the problem is altered women’s expectations.

Claiming research, I went to a 30+ socialite singles mixer in a well-decorated penthouse in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. I assumed I would meet new people, but upon arrival I saw familiar faces—the ghosts from San Francisco Past.

“Hi Beth”

“Hi Vickie…”

“Hi….Ricardo..is that you?”

It was the same cauldron of singles I had gone to parties with in my 20s, now regurgitated up with fine lines adorning their eye creases. What were they doing here? I assumed they had either gotten married, moved to Bali, or died of alcohol poisoning years ago. Was I now one of them, regurgitated up from a domino collision of fiery, yet non-viable relationships? Instead of leaping out the window in despair, I forced myself to stay put. I needed to know if we all were cursed with bad luck, or if something was broken.

I sat down by a buxom brunette in a turquoise dress. Her lips were so glossy I wanted to swim in them. Surely, she had no issues with ‘the search.’ Her exotic eyes looked me up and down before she asked, “So what are you looking for?”

The only thing I was looking for was the cheese platter.

“Chèvre,” I said. “Um, so what are you looking for?“

“Well,” she drew in a deep breath and exhaled, her airy breath cushioning a long list of desirable qualities. She spoke at rapid speed, as if it were her last chance to ask the universe for love.

“I’m finally ready to meet my soulmate. He should be over six feet tall, preferably with dark wavy hair, financially stable, own a home, like Paulo Coelho, practice yoga, know how to cook, like the ocean, be emotionally deep, have lived abroad and oh, and be ready to have kids next year.”

She was going to have better luck finding a baked brie that met more of her qualifications than a living man. I wondered if I should escort her to the cheese platter.

“What about the men here, the ones right in front of you?”

“I don’t think they meet all of my ideals.”

Hm. Isn’t the bird in the hand better than the mythological men in the bushes?

She was beautiful, and she was ready, but that didn’t entitle her to receive a perfect mate on-demand like an Uber, did it? Of course if she had listed her ideals in less materialistic proportions (spirituality, affection, humor) it would still be too many bars of expectation to place on a mere mortal. She isn’t alone.

I know men and women alike that chase imaginary beings while shutting themselves off from real people, wrapping themselves up in a narcissistic dream of what should be, as opposed to what is.

I, of course, seem to have the opposite problem and posses a unique ability to fall in love with the foam on my cappuccino within 2 minutes of meeting it. My friends urge me to expand my standards beyond a mutual appreciation for high quality dairy. However, I am unable to make a ‘plan’ and randomly fall for other people’s eyes, emotions, and ability to see me without my mask on. When a young latino surfer saw me naked without wincing at my scars from past lives, I didn’t care about his bank account, age, or long term viability. I like to think that I am open-minded, but since I was at the same damn party, I clearly hadn’t nailed it either. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread…and let’s face it, I’m no angel.

I found my bow tie friend by the cheese, munching on paleo-seeded crackers.

“Hey there. How is it going post breakup?” I asked.

“Funny you should ask. We went out a few nights ago to talk. Apparently it wasn’t her urgent need to have children that broke us off. She felt I was too obsessed with her weight and gave looks of concern when she ordered high-fat items. Let’s face it. I like skinny girls. Perhaps I also have too many expectations.”

I grabbed the barren cracker out of his hand, smothered it in triple cream and jammed it in my mouth. Men that cherish you for your waistline will forget you have a mind. This was one man I would not be falling in love with.

How should we balance our expectations? Perhaps my repetitious path of falling for the emotional yet unviable isn’t a worthy endeavor, yet I don’t think searching for “the one” is either.

Hunting for a single person to be your “one”—the ballerina, the poet, the bank account, and the parentis all too much pressure for someone you don’t know yet. The “one” is created over time by slowly undressing who they are, not what they should be.

The influx of dating apps have given a mirage of endless options, an illusion of ‘trading up” for some ideal you hold in your mind. We fall in love with empty promises of iOS applications and forget to look up and notice real people walking by.

Perhaps instead of doggedly searching or aimlessly falling, we just get to better know the people around us. A neighbor, a Cal train buddy, the guy/girl in your SoulCycle class? I think by focusing on people we already know, we have a better chance of seeing them for who they are, not everything we aspire them to be.

Plus, if we stop searching for what we should get in a relationship, maybe we’ll start to pay attention to what we can give. Once we release our potential partner from expectation, we will both be much happier.

Does this mean your list of standards have to go out the window into the San Francisco fog? Of course not. But perhaps we whittle it down a bit. Instead of a perfect life partner, what about a humorous, kind soul for the next few months and go from there?

“No one would have guessed that the jagged pieces of our soul fit the puzzle in this box. We were considered the left over remnants that had no place, except the picture we wanted to create together.” ― Shannon L. Alder

You can follow Heidi Isern on Twitter at @hisern. This post originally appeared on Medium.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search