What It’s Really Like to Be Single in Your 30s
As previously seen on Wit & Delight
Being single in your 30s is so many things – it is such a different animal than your 20s. I came up with the idea for this article and I am now about a month and half past my due date because I couldn’t find a way to wholly describe the experience.
Contrary to a lot of articles I have read on this topic lately, it’s a heck of a lot more than not being judged for simultaneously watching The Carrie Diaries and Spencer Pratt’s Instagram story on a Friday night. But, I guess, to be honest – I haven’t quite figured it out – I haven’t mastered anything. After a year and a half, I am still throwing new tricks at situations on a daily basis and realizing, Welp, that didn’t work.
For example, last night I broke up with someone before we actually started dating because we liked each other too much.
So, as I’m pouting at my dining room table in last night’s outfit, here’s what I do know.
Most people know what they want in their 30s. Most people have had some shit in their life at this point that they will carry with them in one way or another for the rest of their life. And, based off of what I have encountered, if someone has gotten this far and has always been “okay,” they’re not living with the kind of passion that I am looking for.
This guy was the first person that I had “it” with, in a year and a half. It was a month-long thing, to be clear – it was short but big. I just couldn’t help but be me with him – everything was easy. I thought I knew what I was looking for, my friends forced me to make lists and I believed what was on the lists was best for me – and then I met him and I thought, What was I thinking? THIS is what I’m looking for. It was one of those whirlwind times in life where every part of my world sped up – emotionally, professionally, and socially – and it was so overwhelming but I didn’t care because it was the best. I was calm. I know you know the feeling – like when you can’t sleep but you somehow feel more awake and alive than normal. You get it.
So, we were basically the same person… professionally as well as with our past lives. His fascinating stories didn’t scare me and mine didn’t scare him – he could keep up with me. We were honest with each other to a fault. We were both in over our heads – I know because I’m me, and every time we were together he would tell me that he wasn’t ready for what we were doing. F’ing honesty. But, I got it, I couldn’t fault him. The feeling he was describing was my reality every day for the last year and a half… until I met him. So, he would say this to me, and then apologize and come back the next instant or the next day with an explanation that fixed it for us.
After three weeks of events, long looks and laughter it came to a screeching halt. He said it one last time and it hit me – he is genuinely not ready for this. Start listening to him, Jenny. I got up off the couch and told him that what was happening wasn’t right for me either and ever so eloquently said that when I walked out the door I was going to “evaporate” from his life. I know, way too dramatic – definitely retiring that saying as of last Saturday.
Sure enough, the texts started coming in the next day and he talked me into seeing him one last time to “talk.”
Here was his explanation: he told me that this last year he had purposely not dated and only focused on himself and he had so much success that he didn’t want it to end. He said when we met (irl – not on an app) he thought he could be ready, but now, he knew that if we kept doing what we were doing, he would start only thinking of me and he would give me all of his time and he wouldn’t have enough left over for himself. My sharp tongue replied with, “Well, that’s your own thing – I would never expect and don’t want all of your time and thoughts. I want my own thing and I would want someone to have their own thing too.” He just looked at me.
I then asked him what he wanted from me – what would his perfect situation be for us?
He replied, “I would want nothing to change, I want to watch movies with you and cuddle with you and sleep with you, but I wouldn’t want to have to think about you at all when you’re not with me.”
Hey dream guy, f you.
I put my face in my hands and forced the tears of shock and disgust into retreat. I lifted my head and looked at him with a feeling that I can only describe as complete worthlessness. Do I throw my old-fashioned in his face? Do I pity him? Is he even worth the breath it would take to have such a discussion? I was shocked into silence.
What I came up with was, “Do you actually think you could do that with me?” Without going into all the details, the consensus was that he could not.
We for some reason ordered yet another old-fashioned after this and talked for another hour.
What’s wrong with me?
We finally left and as we were silently walking down the alley past the garbage and away from bright lights, he, like any dream guy would do, took his hands out of his pockets, turned toward me and grabbed my face with both of his hands and kissed me and kissed me and kissed me until I fell all over again. I couldn’t help it and I didn’t want to help it. I eventually took my hands out of my pockets and kissed him back. He whispered to me, “This can’t end, I don’t want this to end. Don’t let this end. Please come home with me.” And while my face is still in both of his hands, I whispered back, “No.” I put my hands back in my pockets, had one last long look into his eyes and walked away.
I left him standing in the alley. I didn’t turn around. It was awful. It was so awful.
This is dating in your 30s.
I got home, took off my boots, picked up my dog, carried him up the stairs, which clearly took all of my energy because I then got into bed in my black suede skinny jeans and Oscar de la Renta sweater and didn’t wake up until my business partner called me the next morning to chat about what we were going to say on our conference calls we had in a few minutes. One of these calls was with Midwest Living Magazine. They are including our company in an article about making brave and bold design choices. So, the last question they asked us in the interview was for each of us to define what the word brave meant to us. My business partner’s response was, “Being brave is knowing what you want in your life and doing whatever it takes to make that life happen for yourself.”
So perfectly put. And that is what dream guy and I did last night. He was honest about what was best for him in his world right now and I was honest about what I wanted as well.
And just to be clear, this guy is an impressive, kind human being. Somehow, I still think really highly of him. I truly hope that he becomes “okay” with all of this romance stuff and finds what he is looking for. He deserves it. And, I do too.
So, this is the most honest account and description that I can come up with for you about being single in your 30s. All of my other drafts were about attending dinner parties alone and having all of your friends go on couples trips that you would have been on but are no longer invited to.
But, really, it’s about finding your identity and owning your independence and most importantly, taking care of yourself, first – owning your island. It’s about absorbing all of the “supportive” comments and making something of them. Life in your 30s is real and it’s about respecting not only yourself, but what others need at this point in their life too – it’s pretty cool. I’m writing this and realizing that every stage in life shares this trait, and I am willing to own the fact that I’m privileged to be having this realization right now. Being single in your 30s entails all sorts of being happy for others when you are jealous, and in equal parts, digging deep and believing that the life that you are working hard to create for yourself, and are proud of, is still acceptable when your closest friends look at you like you’re an alien.
Life is hard and great at every stage, I’m not going to act like I’m lucky because I only have to do one person’s laundry or that no one eats my leftovers – that’s just silly. I, just like everyone, am lucky at this stage in my life because it’s mine and I get to do what I want with it. Although we can’t always control what happens in our lives, I hope we can all feel brave and empowered enough to know what we truly want and make a promise to ourselves that we’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. Even if the first step toward that is just being honest with ourselves.
Jennifer Jorgensen is an Interior Architect, Designer, and Co-Founder of She She, a wallpaper company. In her spare time, she focuses on the local art scene and frequently heads to the Walker Art Center to give tours. She’s also helping to launch a new contemporary art space, Platform Mpls. All additional time is spent watching New Girl re-runs with her miniature Pekingese, the King of Kingfield, Gremlin Jorgensen.