You're never going to love yourself 100%.
I’m 33 and I’m sowing my wild oats.
I know that because I’m a woman and not full of sperm that what I’m doing at this stage of my life isn’t exactly pollinating, but I am powering through a bunch of intense, sex-filled relationships at a rapid clip.
I make no bones about it, I’m making up for lost time.
I was not in a serious relationship until I hit my 30s. I was single, but I was very much not mingling.
People used to tell me that having sex with someone was easy. “It’s like falling off a log”, they'd say.
When it comes to the physical act of sex they aren’t wrong (minus the detritus one normally thinks of when they think of logs) meeting someone, falling in love with them, and getting down to get down seemed to be impossible.
I wasn’t entirely unlike Steve Carrell in the 40 Year Old Virgin.
A combination of circumstance and awkward encounters left me so far behind that I started believing that being in a relationship just wasn’t in the cards for me.
Now, I’m catching up.
My friends are marrying and having children and buying important shit like Volvos and dogs, and I'm the wacky single friend, exploring my sexuality, dying my hair strange colors and doing the walk of shame so often it’s just a regular old walk at this point.
I’m catching up, but I’ve got ways to go.
It’s bullshit that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else. I’m actual proof that loving yourself doesn’t make a damn difference.
But being single for a decade did teach me something pretty important about self-love: It’s a process, and you have to commit to that process.
You're never going to be 100% okay with yourself ever.
You'll have moments where you think you rock, but you'll also have moments where you will feel crippled by despair in the face of your inadequacy.
I'm never ever going to think I'm beautiful 100% of the time, but on the days that I am feeling an ancient wad of chewed gum stuck under a desk and covered with dog hair, I know it won't last.
That's a gift being single gave me.
And maybe even more importantly, I can comfort myself during those moments. I can build myself. I can do it because I have had to.
I never need to worry about constantly seeking validation from men because for a fucking decade the most validation dudes gave me was the odd boob glance and a clear understanding that I was not their desired sexual partner.
A man will never be able to tear me down because, for so many years, I was the one doing the tearing.
I am responsible for my own architecture. I can be an ivory tower, cold icy academic and unreachable, or I can be a convention center, sprawling vast, and open to new experiences.
Who others want me to be is not something I factor in when I draw up the blueprints for my design. Being single for a decade taught me a lot about my body. It kind of had to, right? Humans being are naturally sexual and I was definitely coming into my sexuality in my early 20s.
I played with sex toys. I bought self-heating lube.I watched a vast and disturbing array of pornography.
I got comfortable with my body as a sexual object and I did it alone because, sadly, there was no seasoned salt and pepper Frenchman named Jean-Claude to usher me into womanhood.
I only ever understood that orgasms weren't easy for everyone because I read that this was so.
Because I was the one at the helm of my body I didn't feel the pressure some women feel to perform. There was no performance, there was harmony, patience, and kindness towards myself.
There was never any end game, just the process of reminding myself what did and did not feel good. Being single for a decade taught me the difference between being alone and being lonely.
I would much rather be all by myself, staring at the changing falls leaves without a person to share with it than spend even twenty minutes in the company of a person who makes my soul feeling achingly misunderstood.
Sure, in a lot of respects I'm behind the learning curve. But in a lot of other ways — ways that matter — I'm light years ahead.
Being single for a decade forced me to form a functioning, healthy relationship with myself, and there are people who go lifetimes without doing that.