“It happens when you least expect it”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I’d be dressed in lululemon from head-to-toe. More specifically, every time I’ve heard that phrase come from a happily coupled person. Once, my friend Cullen and I even found the phrase on the inside lid of a snack-sized raisin box. It seems even grapes have advice for single people.
I know those couply people and grapes mean well. They simply want to give us single people hope that one day, when we’re busy going about the business of living our lives and not looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, we’ll stumble across he or she and the rest will be history. The problem with this notion is that if you are single long enough and of a certain age, it becomes almost impossible to stop looking – to stop expecting.
Throughout each stage of life there are expectations that we have for ourselves and that others have of us. We expect, and are expected, to graduate from high school, go to college, choose a major, graduate from college, and start a successful career. We expect, and are expected, to date a little, fall in love, get married, and have children. We expect, and are expected, to raise well-rounded, intelligent, smart, “perfect” children, stay in love with the same person forever, and live a happy life. On top of it, we expect, and are expected, to do all those things in order, and on a certain timeline. College graduate by 23, married homeowner by 30, parent by 32, grandparent by 62.
In short, we expect, and are expected, a lot.
Where do these expectations come from? Some, like marriage and starting a family, are long ingrained in society. Others, like the role the woman in the household, are changing with generations. And still others come entirely from within. These expectations are reinforced by our environment – every movie, every book, every song, every TV show shapes our expectations. At some point, these external examples become the mantra for our own lives – what our lives “should” look like.
It’s no wonder that all of these expectations might leave us feeling less than adequate at times. What if, god forbid, you don’t meet them? When everyone and everything around you appear to be meeting expectations, it’s hard not to feel vulnerable. This brings to mind a particular Sex and the City episode in which Miranda and Carrie attend a party where they find themselves “the only single people in the room”. When asked about her dating life, Miranda laughs it off rather than admit that what she really fears is that “maybe there isn’t someone out there for everyone”.
Now I know that Sex and the City is not real life, but it comes darn close to it. I, for one, have had many experiences in which I feel like the only single person in the room, the weight of the expectation to find “the one” weighing heavily on my shoulders. Some might say that expectation is mostly from within – that I put more pressure on myself than others do. And that might be true. But how can I not have that expectation for myself, when everyone and everything around me tells me to expect it? Every song I listen to, every book I read, every TV show I watch tells me to expect love. Heck, even my manicurist asked me if I had a boyfriend, and when I told her no, she said, “well you’ve had other boyfriends, right?” – just to make sure I wasn’t too weird.
It’s worth noting that I know these expectations aren’t limited to us single folk. There are expectations to get engaged, expectations to set a wedding date, expectations to have children. There are expectations to buy a nice house in a nice neighborhood, to send your kids to the best school, enroll them in the right activities. Expectations aren’t limited to one stage of life – they are a recurring evil.
Part of the reason I started O-HI-30 was to take some of the focus off these major life expectations. I’m learning to worry less about the future and what is “missing” from life in favor of focusing on the present and all that I do have. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have expectations. Do I expect to meet Mr. Right tomorrow? No – but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to, or trying to.
And you know what? It might happen just when I’m expecting it. And if it does, you better believe I’ll be setting the record straight!