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Confession #8

December 14, 2009

I am intentionally single.

For those of you who have been reading my confessions, this revelation may come as no surprise. But I want to talk about it today in the context of the movie Up in the Air (for which there will be no spoilers).

The movie is about many things, but one major theme is that this guy, played by George Clooney, travels almost constantly. He spends his life in airports and hotels. He owns very little, and although he maintains a tiny apartment, it’s empty.

The basic idea that Clooney talks about is that if you’re not moving, you’re not living. Which, strictly speaking, is true. If the cells that comprise your body stop gyrating to the music of time, you’re dead.

To attain a life where you’re constantly moving, Clooney eschews baggage. Little things, big things, property…and people. Family, friends, lovers. The only people Clooney really wants in his life are those that will stay by his side no longer than the length of a domestic flight.

Let’s focus on lovers. Until recently, I had been in relationships for essentially 5 years straight (2 relationships with a small gap between the two). I was happy–I’m generally a pretty happy person–but I only felt glimpses of satisfaction. What were these relationships adding to my life that I couldn’t have otherwise?

You can’t truly answer that question until you’re actually not in a relationship anymore. Soon after my latest breakup, I decided to be intentionally single for a while. My immediate instinct was to get into another relationship. I love the chase, and I have no idea how to call off the chase once it begins.

But I fought off that instinct, and in doing so, I declared to myself that I would remain single–at the very least–April 2010. Why April 2010? No good reason. It’s pretty much an arbitrary date.

I may go beyond that date. Because the thing is, I like being single. And not at all in the traditional sense–I’m not going to bars every other night (I think I may have been to one bar since I’ve been single); I’m not doing crazy stuff that a girlfriend wouldn’t have “allowed” me to do; I’m not going on spending sprees with the money I otherwise would have spent buying things for my girlfriend.

Simply put, I have more:

  1. Time
  2. Freedom
  3. Love

Time. I have a ton of passion for my writing, my entrepreneurial projects, and my friends. I have yet to learn how to balance those things with a romantic relationship, so for now, I’m loving the extra time for those passions.

Freedom. I love to flirt. It invigorates me. And sure, like most people, I’ve participated in some mild flirtation while I dated other people. But I like suggestive flirtation. I like the flirtation around possibilities. As I said, I like the chase.

Love. I feel like I have more love to go share now that I’m not in a relationship. When you’re in a relationship, so much love and energy are focused on one person. Imagine yourself at a party with your significant other. Even if they’re really social and independent, they’re still the number one person to you at that party. You can feel it across the room. Now imagine that person’s gone. You can spread your love throughout the room (stop it, you dirty minds). I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but I like the difference for now.

What have I missed about being in a relationship?

  1. An activity partner
  2. Affectionate intimacy

Activity Partner. To some extent, friends are great activity partners. But we all know there’s something special about going out to dinner (or making dinner) with a significant other, or going to a romantic movie with a girlfriend. I miss that.

Affectionate Intimacy. I’m not talking about sex stuff. I’m talking about cuddling, snuggling, holding hands in a movie theater, running my fingers through a woman’s hair while she falls asleep, getting a back scratch (okay, confession #9: I love back scratches), passionate kissing, even just a good hug now and then…the list goes on. I think I underestimate the value of physical contact. I miss that too.

Despite those two, I’m happy being single right now. It’s made me rethink what I value long-term. Watching Clooney tonight…in the movie, he’s not perfectly happy. But he has no baggage. He has an abundance of time, freedom, and love. Those seem like pretty good things to me.

Some of you may find this philosophy sad. And that’s okay–you’re entitled to your sadness. I’m just starting to learn about what it’s like to be single, to intentionally not be in or pursue a romantic relationship for a specific time period. It may be one of the healthiest choices I ever make.

If you’re up for the journey, I’ll keep you updated on how this goes over the next few months. I’ve played around with a few ideas for a longer book about being intentionally single (should I call it ‘Sup in the Air?). Or do things I could only do if I were single, like travel around the U.S. (or the world) and go on 20 first dates. What else can you do if you’re single? I suspect it would be one of those books where I end up unsuspectingly fall in love halfway through the process–that’s the big ironic twist. But maybe not. I’m open to love…I just don’t think I’m ready for it.

I’m posting this tonight because it’s fresh on my mind. If you like this confessions series, you can read my previous confession about the way I live when I live with a woman. I will continue with more Festivus grievances tomorrow.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Nika Dixon permalink
    December 14, 2009 11:22 pm

    I don’t find that sad at all. In fact it sounds rather refreshing. You can’t be part of a whole if you don’t know which part you’re supposed to be.

    Enjoy the freestyle! Have dinner for one. Flirt. Laugh. Enjoy yourself. 🙂

    – Nika

    • December 14, 2009 11:28 pm

      Thanks, Nika–I appreciate the encouragement. I guess I just didn’t want to come across as if I were saying, “Being in a relationship is bad.”

      And “refreshing” is the exact right word. This whole single experience has been SO refreshing.

      I think one thing I should point out is that this time for me isn’t really a “discovering myself” time. In some ways, sure, it is, but it’s not one of those Runaway Bride situations where I’m going to go cook a bunch of eggs to figure out what kind I like. (I like scrambled, in small doses.) I know myself pretty well. I just don’t think I’ve given myself time to explore the passions that I know I have, and maybe find some new ones too.

  2. Dionne permalink
    December 14, 2009 11:42 pm

    I love the fact that you are comfortable in saying what you need and why. Don’t be ashamed for doing what you need to do for you. No one is walking in your shoes at the very exact same moment that you are walking in them nor in the same size. Follow where your heart/soul leads you. Sit with it. Be with it. Own it. I’m sure you, and everyone else, will find that you will become more centered, more balanced, more happy because you stayed true to yourself and gave yourself what you needed in that moment. I don’t want to be cliche and throw in a Thoreau quote, but I think you get what I mean.

    I love that you love where you are at and love that you’re not sure where you’ll end up. That’s awesome.

  3. Bob permalink
    December 15, 2009 12:26 pm

    You and John Mayer: http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2009/12/15/john-mayer-im-taking-a-break-from-dating/

    Also, putting the April 2010 date in writing! Bold.

    And a question for you: What would you like to be different (mindset, habits, priorities, etc.) whenever you declare yourself “ready to date” again? How will you tell when that’s the case?

    • December 15, 2009 12:40 pm

      Yeah, John and I talked about this…we think it’s for the best.

      In writing. Yep. It’s official.

      That is a fantastic question. I don’t really know the answer, to be honest. I think I want to be able to balance my passions for writing, projects, and friends with my passion for a woman without feeling like I’m sacrificing. Currently I don’t even know how that’s possible.

      • Eric permalink
        December 15, 2009 4:03 pm

        Without getting into too much personal detail, did you find that this balance was more or less manageable when doing a long distance relationship? I feel like for what you are looking for and describing, that would be what you need since it would allow you so much time for writing/projects/friends while still providing you with a passion for a woman. I could very well be wrong though…

        • December 15, 2009 4:17 pm

          So you’re saying that a long-distance relationship would actually be ideal for me?

          Maybe in principle, but not in practice. Too many big chunks of time traveling. I like my big chunks for myself. And too many daily expectations for conversation.

      • Lorena permalink
        December 22, 2009 4:55 pm

        “I think I want to be able to balance my passions for writing, projects, and friends with my passion for a woman without feeling like I’m sacrificing. Currently I don’t even know how that’s possible.”

        April may be a little too soon. It sounds like you need to have your own routine set up first before you introduce someone into it. But you’re going to have to be introduced to her routine, too. I know you know this, but your post (when reread) sort of makes it sound like you don’t.

        • December 22, 2009 11:16 pm

          You have a fair point, that I’m going to have to be introduced (and learn to understand and fit into) her routine as well. That’s step 2. Step 1 is figuring out my own stuff. April may indeed be too soon. I’m in no rush. I’ll be virile for another 40 years, so I’ll take my time.

  4. December 15, 2009 1:07 pm

    Great post!

  5. Lorena permalink
    December 15, 2009 4:16 pm

    “I suspect it would be one of those books where I end up unsuspectingly fall[ing] in love halfway through the process–that’s the big ironic twist.”

    …or that’s the plotline of every Nancy Meyers screenplay, ever.

    I think that ‘Sup in the Air may be the best title I’ve heard in a while. It’s even got a STL flavor to it. Make sure to include a scene of you and date #7 (who you don’t realize is “the one” until much later on, obviously) at City Museum climbing through the giant playground outside. Otherwise, the whole essence of the book’s innocence and symbolism is lost.

    Optional title idea: The Humor of the Relevance
    Thoughts? 😉

    • December 15, 2009 4:20 pm

      Oh, I wasn’t thinking the dates would happen in St. Louis. That’s my insurance against any of the dates actually turning into a relationship.

      • Lorena permalink
        December 15, 2009 4:32 pm

        Insurance… I wish I’d been so smart before signing up to date a guy who was moving back to Paris four months later. Where was my insurance? Can I file a claim for fraud? Cuz like that one girl said in your post about “what jamey wants”, he never told me that I was pretty.

        • December 15, 2009 4:59 pm

          Date insurance…this is brilliant! You can indeed file a claim for damages amounting to four months of your life.

          Just be warned that his countersuit may involve the explanation that he didn’t have his Outlook calendars set properly.

  6. December 15, 2009 4:30 pm

    Remind me to tell you about my fragmentation theory re: women when I was your age 🙂

  7. December 15, 2009 8:01 pm

    Jamey,
    I’ve been following your blog for a little while now. And given your intense focus, and time constraints, I think I’ve found just the woman for you. And just for you, she’s willing to keep her hopes and dreams deflated until April 2010.

    http://www.prankplace.com/product.aspx?d=Inflatable-Dolls.INFLATABLE-WIFE&p=1494&c=60

  8. Lisa permalink
    December 29, 2009 10:33 am

    I think this speaks to a larger topic of just “breaking dating patterns.” Any of them.

    I had a similar pattern to your love of the chase – I accepted too many dates (we’d be deadly together). I’m not sure why I did that, but my personality is naturally to do anything that doesn’t seem like a bad idea, whether or not it’s a specifically good idea. Combine that with a Clooney-like job (my opposite reaction to Clooney’s was to fill all my at home time with other people) and I was spending all of my home city time with someone else (friends, new dates, etc).

    Recently, I’ve also taken a similar dating hiatus, but really more of a “me time addition.” I started just spending time by myself, in my apartment or taking walks or doing things (not even specific hobbies, just being me). And it is the greatest thing ever. (I can see why I get asked out on dates – I’m awesome to hang out with!) Kidding. Well, half kidding – I’ve never had so much fun in my life. And, it has stopped me from, not only accepting dates unnecessarily, but I suspect also attracting certain types of dates.

    I wanted to make the most of my time at home, when I was at home. I’ve broken the patterns because I stopped filling that with other people and started filling it with me. Definitely for the better.

    • December 29, 2009 9:26 pm

      Lisa–thanks for your comment. This is very interesting to me (and obviously I relate to it, given my dating hiatus). Before you decided to make this change, did you find yourself yearning for time by yourself? Or is it something you didn’t know you wanted until you tried it? For me, I’ve always known that I need time to myself to work on my own projects, and I’ve sought that time despite other relationships. I need that time. I think it got to the point where I wanted that time more than I wanted to hang out with my girlfriend, so that was a sign to me that something was wrong.

      Regardless of how you came to that realization, it’s awesome that you did. I’m really encouraged by the people (like you) who comment on this blog to talk about their intentional singledom. I think it’s cool that the people who discuss it here aren’t bitter about the idea of relationships. They just want to live full, healthy lives, and they’re open to not dating for a little while to have those lives.

      It sounds like you have a pretty sweet situation with hordes of men asking you out all the time. You gotta love the chase. 🙂

      • Lisa permalink
        December 31, 2009 1:05 am

        A combination of your suggestions. This may sound strange, but the reason I did this was for a change, because I like to keep trying new things, different things, shaking things up. It wasn’t quite as respectable as setting a deadline (I really respect that, BTW), and I didn’t even tell anyone explicitly that I was going to do it. There was no bad breakup… no Sex and the City episode… no persuasive friend or intervention… not any catalyst really. It was a gradual realization over the course of a few weeks. I met some good guys who I knew weren’t a good fit for me, and decided to relatively spontaneously (respectfully, of course) not date them, when I would have given it a shot before… and I felt better about it. To be clear, I’ve turned down dates when they were a non-fit, but this… felt like I just wasn’t following my instinct well enough before. So it just kind of clicked. And it felt right (uncomfortable, but right). I kept doing it, and it took less than a week to realize how much I enjoy doing things by myself for myself that I don’t have to report back to anyone about. And I’ve learned more about myself (and the eventual freedom that I need to do “my thing” in a relationship) and am overall a better person for it. And improving continually.

        That is the (long-winded) response to your question. To reiterate, I am interested in having a healthy and happy relationship when it comes along, and I’m not “not looking.” I’m just happier being who I am right now, and my alone time is more fun when I appreciate it. I read a book a few years ago that comes to mind, called Urban Tribes, about (in short) how our generation is generally marrying older as they form “city families” instead. One section that stuck with me was about how most single people are worried they won’t find someone, but almost everyone does. I wish I remembered the statistics now. Anyway, of people who marry later in life, I don’t know anyone who says “I only wish I had gotten married younger.” I have, however, heard people who wish they had appreciated their time single. Just trying to take the advice of my wise elders 🙂

        • Dionne permalink
          December 31, 2009 10:14 am

          That sounds like an awesome book. I’ll have to check it out (btw, I am one of those people who are afraid of never marrying. I’m already 32).

          • Lisa permalink
            December 31, 2009 11:54 am

            It’s a great book for gaining not only perspective but statistics to “fend off” societal pressures. I can’t find the stats I was referring to above at the moment, but even his website has some great information (and a blog!):

            http://www.urbantribes.net/

            For me the lesson learned (corny as it sounds is easy to forget) was just to enjoy wherever you are in life the most you can. I know a lot of my married-early friends who, whether happily or unhappily married, sort of wish they had had a few years to do or try some things (the grass is always greener…). The point made in the book was that if someone gave us a guarantee that we would eventually find that “someone,” many of us would act differently & enjoy ourselves more… when in fact, statistically, that is the case for almost everyone.

            • Dionne permalink
              December 31, 2009 2:33 pm

              Some days are better than others (Fortunately more good days than bad) when it comes to being content with where I am at in life. I’ve accomplished so much as a single woman and I am very proud of those achievements. Sadly I always wished I could have a S.O. in which to share in that joy with. Mostly the joy of motherhood is what I am longing for more than a relationship, but my plan is to have the latter before the former. I have come a long way in terms of contentment with single-hood now that I’m in my 30’s, but I am far from having “arrived”. I know it is always a journey and it will never end. Looking back I was more of an emotional mess in my 20’s and thank God I never had a serious, long term relationship back then because I’m sure I would be married and miserable by now and probably on my way to a divorce.

              I do have someone waiting in the “wings” for me, so to speak, but I’m on a wait-and-see plan right now. He and I won’t be living in the same city until around May of 2010 so I’m reserving all feelings until we are, at least, in the same place so I can explore how I really feel about him (we have known each other since I was 16 and he was 20 and I just found out he’s been holding a torch for me all these years). What I don’t want to do is over-analyze the situation and try to rush any feelings I might have for him. Staying patient and being content while in the moment is a welcomed challenge.

        • December 31, 2009 12:22 pm

          Have you thought about setting a deadline? I’ve found it very freeing. My hope is that it helped a few women who were interested not take my decision personally.

          That’s cool that your realization was more gradual than sudden (I like the comparison to Sex in the City–real life can’t be wrapped up into tidy 30-minute episodes!)

          Despite my deadline, I’m on the same page as you when it comes to an eventual happy and healthy relationship. I’m just in no rush. I do feel myself growing older–I’ll soon be 29, and more and more gray hairs are starting to invade my otherwise brown locks–but I don’t feel like I’m on a tight schedule.

          Last, I think you make a great point (backed up by empirical evidence) that we will find that special someone. I like to think that learning how to be happily single will be the best present in the world for our future spouse (and for ourselves).

          You write well on this topic, Lisa–do you also keep a blog? I know that I’d read it, as would many of my readers.

          • Lisa permalink
            January 3, 2010 7:23 pm

            Dionne – Thanks for sharing your details… your introspective path to self-improvement sounds like a great place to be. Good luck on your ongoing journey 🙂

            Jamey – I would say I have the opposite problem… deadlines make things too “easy” for me, as creating solid rules are my natural way to avoid ambiguity. I’m doing well by exploring my ambiguity in a way contrary to my personality; you and I are on similar, but slightly different tracks right now. I will certainly keep it in mind and continually reevaluate as I go.

            As to blogging – thank you for the compliment. Respectfully, blogging about this is not for me right now, I’m more of a reader and responder than a writer. But I’ll be sure to post here if I have any thoughts on your topics, and if I ever get one up & running I’ll let you know. And good luck to you & your journey as well!

            • January 3, 2010 8:13 pm

              Well, I like reading what you have to write about this topic. I’m doing a Mars vs. Venus entry on friendship/dating tomorrow–I’m sure you’ll have something interesting and insightful to share :).

              Good luck to you on your journey as well!

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