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I’m a single 20-something.
That wouldn’t be such a weird thing if I had experienced a serious relationship before, since that’s evidently what is hoped for and expected of me. I can think of only one relationship that might have been classified as a “real” one, except I’m not entirely sure because I was young and unaware and naïve and detached. It only lasted a few months before he left for college, and those months consisted of some conversation, but mostly physical escapades of our teenaged curiosity.
I will never forget how thrilled my parents were that I was “seeing” someone—a boy who was destined to become a great man, no doubt. A boy who was going to become a doctor. A boy who held doors for me and kissed me in front of his family a few times and took me out to nice places and knew all the right moments to slip his hand into mine.
A boy who had his sh*t together. A boy worth marrying someday.
And despite all the blatant hints my mother would drop about it, I never saw our relationship in that way. It felt so sweetly temporary, and not once did I feel that I depended on him. So away he went to college while I tackled my senior year of high school. Nothing happened between us to officially break things off, but then again, we were never officially established anyway.
Regardless, we never really spoke again; our “thing” ended as ambiguously as it began, and I truly don’t think either of us felt any certain way about it.
That was six years ago. (From what I know, he’s doing really well for himself and has a beautiful girlfriend. And as someone who did love him, even if only for a short time, I am sincerely happy to know that.)
I suppose it’s normal for family and friends to question why I’m still alone, why I don’t try to put myself out there, why it appears I’m not actively pursuing my love life in the way most twenty-somethings do. But of all the questions they ask and all the statements they make on the matter, there’s one that has irked me more than others:
I can’t imagine you would struggle to find someone who’s attracted to you. Your looks alone would make any guy interested, you know?
My looks alone? Any guy? Hm.
I shouldn’t struggle to find a man to love.
I shouldn’t have a problem attracting him and sparking his interest enough to want to be with me. I shouldn’t have any issues securing a relationship. None of this should pose any difficulty. Why?
Because apparently I am beautiful enough—and apparently that’s important.
(Please know that I am expressing this as a conclusion I’ve drawn based on what others have said to me when offering their [unsolicited] thoughts on my singleness. You will see as you read on that these statements are not intended to shamelessly tell you how good looking I am, because even if that were true, that’s not at all the point; rather, these statements are just the means of delving into the points I wish to make.)
Apparently all the answers to finding love and being in love and maintaining relationships and living happily ever after come down to the simple possession of beauty. Apparently it’s a bewildering concept that although I may have a beautiful face and body based on some trivial ideals, I am still single.
No man has come around to snatch me up, to make me his, to kiss me good night, to be the first “good morning,” to share with me both the earth-shattering and the mundane details of life—even though apparently, I am beautiful enough.
Apparently I could have that.
Then why don’t I?
One reason could relate to the fact that for the months I was “seeing” the boy any girl would want to marry, it hardly occurred to me that we weren’t just a couple of kids messing around. Another could have something to do with my tendencies toward solitude and detachment. Yet another could be my habit of deeply contemplating that which I find difficult to swallow as it holds me hostage until I digest and express the thought that sparked the isolation in the first place.
And still—perhaps most notably—I’ve never fully understood the concept of letting myself be loved; for reasons rooted in the throes of childhood and early adolescence, I got the message that showing all of me—specifically the darker parts—would only hurt the unfortunate soul who would have to see that display. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, so I learned to keep the world at an arm’s distance: close enough that I could love others, but far enough that they could never know me completely.
And no matter how beautiful I am by some oddly mapped standard of quintessential desirability, all those shortcomings can make a person almost unloveable.
The point is that no one is beautiful enough to be loved—and yet everyone is.
No one is beautiful enough to be loved for the reasons we think we should be loved. No one is beautiful enough to be loved despite the faults and the dark parts that overshadow something as fleeting as our appearances. No one can escape that scale. No one can truly love or be loved without receiving or giving entirely, far surpassing our external features.
So when I am told in one way or another that I am “beautiful enough” to find love, I wonder why it’s so widely accepted that being “beautiful enough” in this way is all it takes.
No one is beautiful enough. There’s always another side to that which sparks desire, and perhaps it outweighs that which could otherwise be loved without condition. Then again, perhaps it doesn’t.
Perhaps that’s why even though no one is beautiful enough, everyone is.
Perhaps life is just an exploration of what it means to love and be loved and to be beautiful enough to love and be loved.
And perhaps we’re all still figuring out what that means.
Author: Sara Rodriguez
Editor: Renée Picard