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It’s me. Hi. I’m the Problem. Nearly Forty and Single.

Karen is from Connecticut. She has a degree in education. She loves game shows, animals, the beach, and her family.

It’s me. Hi. I’m the Problem.

It’s me. Hi. I’m the Problem.

There is, and always has been, a universal fascination with love that’s part of the human experience; think Cleopatra and Mark Anthony or Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. It’s intense and passionate. It’s on the cover of People magazine. Love songs, love stories, poems, romance novels, and romantic comedies dominate our culture . And for the most part, they are devoured by the masses. They represent an inherent part of what it means to be human, part of the essential quest of life. What’s left for someone who remains single, or someone who's in a relationship, but they aren’t exactly killing it with that intensity?

Little girls are exposed to the idea of princesses, princess dresses and the charming prince, but there are also the love stories for the grown sect too. There on the big screen or steaming up the pages of a romance novel. Reality depicts a different picture though. We are living in a time when people are getting married later in life. They are waiting to have their careers in order and maybe their first home purchased. They are not falling for puppy love and marrying in their early twenties as much. The dating game has changed too. Forty percent of heterosexual couples are meeting online. And these encounters rarely represent the meet-cutes that saturate sitcoms and dramas.

I feel naive in saying this, but I am almost forty, and I have ever been in love. I don’t think so at least. I hope I would know it if and when it happens, but then again maybe I’m waiting to feel overwhelmed with oxytocin and lightheaded when this will not be the case at all. Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment if we are searching for sparks and fireworks on a dating website being run by algorithms, a profile picture, and a swipe?

I’m a bit concerned that there’s a lot of women waiting for Taylor Swift lyric kind of love. The highs and lows of this kind of love affair overshadow everything else. There’s a meeting like Julia Roberts would have in a movie. It’s love at first sight and the universe revolves around this relationship. With this in mind, how could they ever be satisfied with anything less?

Conversely, for men, I’m afraid they are expecting a relationship from a porno movie. It is a click away on the internet and it’s permeating their subconscious. It is easily accessible, and it is getting more graphic. Young men inraptured by this content in their teens and twenties form unrealistic expectations. And for the most part, they stand to be gravely disappointed by the young ladies in their peer groups. Porn that objectifies women sets these men up to do the same. It is damaging for men and women.

So, love songs, romantic comedies, and porn are setting people up to dissatisfied in their relationships, while the majority of singles are on dating websites marketing themselves like a product in search of love, sex, commitment, an affair, all of the above, or just catfishing. I did the sane thing for me, and I have taken my product off the market. It has been shelved till the wrinkles are ironed out, and my expectations are clear to me. It’s safer that way. I’m hesitant about being part of a couple. I have my own stuff and my own space. When I’m angry it’s mainly due to a situation I caused. In a relationship I’d be too vulnerable. I don’t like the idea of having my happiness, or sadness, rely on someone else and their behavior. The idea of waiting for a text or a call back, waiting for loaded words and conversations is exhausting. “I love you.” “I need a break.” It makes my skin crawl.

Similarly, I see couples interacting in real life, and I’m not certain if that’s for me. While love songs and Romeo and Juliet stories bring tears to my eyes, I’m unimpressed by the reality. Mostly I see couples bickering about money and childcare. Date nights are squeezed in between work schedules and in-law visits. Noone seems to be locked in a loving gaze or passionately fighting about the future of the relationship. Their last passionate fight was about what restaurant for dinner.

Growing up our ideas about love and romantic relationships are largely based on the example our parents set. My parents met as teenangers. My mother had dated maybe one and half other men, actually boys, before she met my father, whom she would vow to spend the rest of her life with. They were married at twenty years old, and had already been dating for five years. My dad was encouraged by family to lock it down while it was barely legal. You have to imagine they have changed a lot since then. How has it withstood the test of time? Do they wonder what else could have been? I imagine their courtship had its amorous moments, but now it’s mostly folding his underwear or ignoring her farts. They have someone to fall asleep with and wake up next to, but they also fight about what to watch on television and my father’s driving.

My tale is all together different from that of my parents. I didn’t have my first boyfriend till college. Wearing glasses, having frizzy hair, and being plus-sized and short, was largely the reason for this. There was no one knocking down the door. Despite this, I managed to boy crazy. Boys I rarely even spoke to grew to take up way too much space in my mind. I think a lot of that had to do with love and sex being so pervasive. While I admit to being boy crazy, I’ll add that I most certainly would have had no idea what to do if one of these crushes reciprocated any feelings. I had no sense of my body sexually or self confidence. I would have probably run, cried, or laughed at the sight of a naked man. Now I’m just surprised and skeptical when feelings are reciprocated, and I mostly stifle my urge to run.

Part of me feels jaded that I didn’t find that love earlier. It was practically promised to me. “Look to your left. Look to your right. You most likely are sitting in the same room as the person you will marry,” one of the chancellors speaking to our freshmen told us. I had just turned eighteen. This assertion seemed premature, but exciting. I didn’t want to become a spinster, female and unwed by thirty-five.

Of course I did not meet my future spouse at eighteen. It wasn’t that easy. I still haven’t. When I have too much time on my hands I play Monday Morning Quarterback with my previous relationships. And in retrospect, I’m fairly certain I was not in love with my first boyfriend; the pudgy porn addict who dumped me to join a frat. Similarly, I wasn’t destined to be with my boyfriend from the end of college; a verbally abusive alcoholic I supported financially and emotionally for half a decade. Hindsight is 20/20. I was more attached to the idea of being wanted and having companionship than I was to them as individuals and what they had to offer. I think it’s a trap that a lot of us fall into again. I’d rather not do it again.

We live and we learn. What you are looking for in a partner adapts and changes as you get older. A fulfilling career and a healthy relationship with his family starts to mean more than superficial things, like a consistent hook-up for recreational drugs and good hair. Your needs and wants change and develop. Being single for a long time gives you time to really decide what you are looking for, and probably makes you a little more rigid and inflexible. Sadly, being part of a couple requires compromising. When you are used to having things your way, it is more difficult to make room for others. I’m speaking from experience.

In my younger years I experienced kisses that left me feeling like I was walking on air. The high was mostly superficial and short lived. Feelings mostly fizzled quicker than an opened soda can. In my dreamy daze I managed to act on some stupidity, but not nearly enough to write lyrics for Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift never drove to Jersey in the middle of the night for a cute Peter-Panish bartender who had too much to drink.

Am I still waiting for my great love? Not to the point where I’d hold my breath. And what percentage of married people feel as though they found their one and only true love? Is there an equal number of people who settled in their relationships? Did they start off with butterflies and starry eyes, only to end up disagreeing about chores and what not shortly thereafter? I expected to be more of a Katherine Heigl character in my love story, a young blonde desirable powerhouse, but I may have to settle for a Diane Keaton, gray hairs and over-sized cardigans. Hell, I may end up being a Mother Teresa type, sporting a habit and promised to the lord. It isn’t over till it’s over though. I don’t feel like settling is in my future, but I do hope I can manage one or two minor compromises in the name of love.


© 2022 Karen Michelle C