I’m a sucker for makeover shows. I’m addicted to TLC’s What Not To Wear. In fact, I’d say it’s played a major part in why I’ve lost 30 lbs, and why I will continue to take another 35 or so off. It’s why I wear makeup religiously again, something I got out of the habit of when life turned to shit at age 25. It’s why I’ve gotten hip and cute and usually find myself winking or smiling at myself when I pass a mirror (a conscious thing).
Self-esteem was something I just never had. I never really liked myself and always considered myself an ugly duckling and uncool. I played the role of cool chick with cool attitude when I was out of high school and in early college, and always hung with the older, cooler crowd, but deep down inside, I felt I was a poseur.
There are days, still, when I’m left feeling like a poseur. I’m genuinely shocked when I get emails and comments from people praising my writing, for example. I can’t fathom what folks see in it – some days. And other days, I feel like I’m really all that. It’s a constant struggle, loving oneself, but it’s a fight worth fighting.
I get asked from time to time how one copes with being single. I’ll tell you, I’ve got experience in that. When my life went to hell in a handbasket at age 25, with the demise of a longtime relationship, the death of my mother, and other fun events, the last thing I was interested in was my image. The next last thing I cared about was a relationship. I knew myself well enough to know that getting into a relationship would be a death knell for me. It would, inevitably, go bad. (I mean, let’s face it – the average relationship is 90% likely to die within four years, and we all know relationships seldom go gently into thy good night.) And when it went bad, I would blame myself, hate myself, and go into a blind rage at He Who Caused It – and I knew it’d all be displaced anger I felt over all the other shit that was going on, and I knew it’d mean I wasn’t dealing with what needed to be dealt with.
So, I stayed single. For five years. I won’t even tell you what happened with sex – the occasional fling, which didn’t do much to help the self-esteem issue and instead left me hating myself even more. I learned that having sex for fun is one thing, but having sex to fill emotional needs that aren’t really being met, that’s just destructive. So I stopped getting laid, too, and got my shit together first.
I had a serious car accident and was lucky – the insurance company paid for me to have a personal trainer. Her name was Christine and wherever she is now, she played a major role in teaching me to learn to love myself and appreciate my health. I was fat, I was depressed, I was angry, and I had little to be thankful for, I thought, but I pushed myself despite the world of physical pain I was living in. She was incredible, she encouraged me so much and told me I was kicking ASS on her healthy, normal clients. And I remembered something about myself – I was a determined, strong person. I can do this, I thought.
And I did. I lost about 50 lbs over the next year or so, and have sort of stagnated for awhile, but never really gained anything back. Now, I’m losing weight again and plan to drop more – without depriving myself of those things I love, like red wine and chocolate and all those delectable good things that add richness to my life. I’d rather bust my ass physically than lose the good things, y’know? (Remember, I’m a big proponent of the all-sex diet. I’m not adverse to a good workout, and hey… I’m determined. ;)
But it wasn’t just the working out that helped me change. It was realizing that I would eventually spend the rest of my life with someone, but here, now, I was alone, and the more I talked to those who were “spending their life” with the person they loved, the more I heard “I wish I could be single again, just for awhile. I’d do it differently…”
And I vowed to live my single life better. I could dine out alone with a good book and love the experience. I’d occasionally hop on my bike, kill myself for a hardcore ride around the city, stop at a seaside café, and enjoy the moment. On Saturday nights stuck home alone, I’d have a long, lingering, oily bath and some nice red wine and make myself an incredible grilled steak meal with all the fixings. I’d enjoy the silence. And sometimes I’d write about myself and all the things from my past and present that limited my enjoyment of life until then, and the dreams I had for my future.
Slowly, surely – and this process is ongoing, so don’t kid yourself about it being an overnight process because it takes years – I have come to love myself. Most of the time. Like I say, there are times I don’t feel right. Times I feel like a poseur with writing. Times I feel out of my league. But I plow through. I try to find something positive to hang onto on those days and that’s all I know I can do.
In the last couple years, I’ve had one “sort of” relationship that detonated because the guy had more baggage than a Samsonite shop, but I’ve been on an endless parade of dates with an endless assortment of men. And none of them have been worth my time beyond that first date. No matter what I’ve learned about what I want from love, I know I love myself too much to bother getting involved with someone who’s not going to be all the things I need him to be.
I’m having a rare, rare second date tomorrow night, and I’m optimistic, but I’ll keep my mouth shut about that beyond saying this, he’s a nice guy and he’s different from most of the guys I’ve been seeing ‘cos there’s an intellectual connection that just works. (So, possibly proof here that nice guys don’t always finish last. Take note.)
But if it doesn’t work out, you know what? Not the end of the world. That’s just the way life goes. In the end, I’ve got myself, and that’s a pretty good consolation prize.
So, here’s the deal. If you’re stuck at home alone, sans relationship, with that “Why can’t I find anyone?” woe-is-me mindset this weekend, stop it. Have a quality drink, a nice meal, wear whatever the hell you want, close the blinds, and have some nice time alone. Take a latenight walk with your iPOD, have a long hot bath, call someone you’ve not spoken to in ages, write a bit in your journal. But stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Being single is the freedom to be who you want to be, any time you want. And don’t forget it. Relationships, when they’re good, they’re great. When they’re not, well, honey, you don’t need that shit. You got you. Enjoy it.