When people inquire about a single woman’s love life it’s rarely for the sake of inquiring. There's always a motive. The motive is usually to infer and then interfere. Not that they view it as interfering, they believe they’re staging a helpful intervention. And at the grand old age of 23 it seems I qualify for helpful interventions.
"Have you thought about marriage?"
“I think about shoes”
“When are you getting married?”
"Would you like me to set you up with someone?"
"Have you considered internet dating?”
“What do you want in a man?”
“A good soul who tolerates my love of red soles”
"Surely you want children at some point?”
"I do want children. Just not so many that my tits sag but not so few I lack a diversified retirement plan”
After about 5 minutes most will conclude I’m a lost cause and give up. The persistent ones decide that it’s their duty to give me advice. As my views on life and love are inchoate and the only way I’ll learn is if I’m open to new ideas, I tend to shut up and listen. No matter how didactic they are.
Problematically a lot of the advice centres on what I need to be for a man, rather than what I should seek in a man. Apparently to ‘find’ a long term partner I must be smart but never overly intelligent. Radiate sex appeal without sliding into slutty territory. Maintain high standards without seeming high maintenance. Be independent, make it clear I seek interdependence but never seem co-dependent.
My early twenties are proving confusing enough and I don’t think my prime focus should be constantly reconstructing who I am in order to attract a man. The problem with constant reconstruction is you transform so much your true identity becomes hidden from everyone, including yourself. Because of this fear I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I have a desire to learn, but I’m resistant towards teaching that focuses primarily on what I’m doing wrong. However a recent encounter with my beauty therapist caused a paradigm shift in my thinking.
Anyone that’s ever endured a wax knows the routine. There is minimal communication. The only words exchanged are instructions and a thank-you when you arise from the waxing bed in such excruciating pain you wonder why you pay for it. On that particular day I sent up prayer, asking God to send someone unscrupulous (and benevolent) enough to open a backstreet beauty parlour where women like myself could have epidurals before we got waxed.
My beauty therapist was in a talkative mood “You nice girl. You have boyfriend?”. “No”. “Why?” She seemed bewildered. I shrugged, still too traumatised to muster an answer that wasn’t monosyllabic. “Anyway you young, got lots of time” I gave her a smile and she responded with a knowing laugh. Then I think we had a moment. She started opening up about the issues she was having with her daughters. They were on the hunt for the perfect man and much to her chagrin they were rejecting men she approved of.
She lamented about the generational gap between women of her age and women like me. In her time it was expected that you’d approach relationships with a selfless mindset. Women understood things would be hard initially, but as you grew together things would get better. They’d get better because both the man and woman were willing to be patient, tenacious and work together for a better life. I told her I understood her thinking, because my mother comes from a similar school of thought. However that old school romanticism went out the window with old school values. Thing have changed and our generation are programmed differently. Women are taught to marry someone equally or more successful. The idea of marrying into a struggle (or someone with potential), and working towards success isn’t as popular.
In beauty parlours the rules that maintain conversations in the ‘real world’ are suspended. Private conversations between two people often evolve into group discussions. Interjections by strangers aren’t rude, they’re viewed as helpful. In many ways beauty parlours are akin to an Athenian democracy, every opinion is valid and every voice is heard. Soon all the women in the room started sharing their experiences. Some women spoke about men they wished they hadn’t overlooked because of superficial reasons. Other women spoke about being happy they sacrificed short-term comfort in order to be with someone with potential.
What intrigued me most about my beauty therapist is she didn’t advocate women adjusting their “checklist” or settling. If anything she was ardent they maintained their standards. She wanted her daughters to have the best, but believed instead of looking for the finished article they needed to seek a work in progress, a man with the potential to become what they needed.
“Sometimes you’ve got to help that man become the man he can be. Maybe he not have much money now or big job. But you can help him get there. You make dream man for yourself. Problem is you young girls want it all now”
Despite her broken English and distracting habit of simultaneously gesticulating and punctuating, what she said resonated with me. In fact it hit me like a brick. The idea I’m single because I’ve overlooked men with potential had never crossed my mind.
If I had to condense that conversation (which went on for over an hour) into a phrase it would be the follows;
“Look at what the man could be rather than what he is”
I came away challenged. Truly believing studying a man’s character and using that to gauge his potential, is far more conducive to long term happiness than using his present condition.
A few days later when I came across this quote "Silly women look at what a man drives, Wise women look at what drives the man" I took it as a sign. First a sign I would have to commit change and second that I'd have to blog on this topic.Despite being on the brink of suffering from advice fatigue, I’m grateful to my beauty therapist for taking out the time to share her advice. I do think it’s changed my life (hopefully). I am indebted to her, however not enough to be her customer forever. If any of you know of any beauty parlours that administer local anesthetics or epidurals before waxing, please do let me know.