This originally appeared on Mamamia. Republished here with permission.
I’ll cut to the chase. Last week I behaved like an asshole.
I was out at a book store event with my splendid, 40-something friend Zoe when I took it upon myself to insult her. More on that in a sec.
Let me tell you about Zoe. Zoe is one of those people whose life is brimming with interesting. She works in the music industry and studies international business at night and joins cool clubs and plants herbs at her community garden and takes fabulous holidays and embarks on country drives and speaks French. So she’s the opposite of, well, me. (I go to bed at 8:30pm and spend much of my time folding laundry and clicking on stories on the net that feature the words “Ricky Martin” or … nope that’s pretty much it.)
She also happens to be single, which is a bugger because I happen to know Zoe would dearly love to be married with a baby on her hip.
So naturally when Zoe and I sat down for a coffee post-bookstore event, I decide to tell Zoe what she’s doing WRONG.
That’s right, I started—uninvited—dishing out advice on what Zoe needs to do to meet the right man.
It gets worse.
My low point is the moment I actually hear myself saying (while shoving marshmallows in my mouth), “I just think you’re closed. I don’t think you come across as open.”
It’s entirely possible I then trotted out something about “self-sabotage.” And then attempted to bully her into trying Internet dating.
In other words: “It’s your fault you’re single, Zoe. Try harder, why don’t you?”
I know, I hate me too.
Of course at the time, I thought I was being helpful as all smug married people think when they are explaining to other people exactly how to FIX THEIR LIVES and have what they have (a life of laundry and Ricky Martin cyber-stalking). But when I got home I realized with horror that I’d possibly left Zoe feeling like she’d just been pecked to death. Or worse: made to feel like the fact that she’s single—and doesn’t want to be—is because she is living her life, you know, ALL WRONG.
Thank you, Rebecca “Dr. Phil” Sparrow. No, really.
Saying to a single person that they should “Be more open” (or worse that “love will come when you stop looking for it”) is akin to saying to someone dealing with a serious illness that they “Just need to be more positive.” Or like saying to an anorexic person “Just eat this burger, why don’t you?”
Could I have been more patronizing?
Sure, you may have a single friend who perpetually hones in on married men. Or cheaters. Or abusers. And maybe some thoughtful advice in those instances could be helpful if it’s requested. (After I complained to a good friend that the last few boyfriends I’d had were charmers and emotionally abusive, she said to me “Next time you meet a guy and think ‘He’s not my type,’ date him. Because your ‘type’ hasn’t been working for you.” That piece of advice helped me find my now-husband Brad.)
But Zoe is not one of those people.
And maybe the reason she hasn’t met the right person is—wait for it—because she simply hasn’t met the right person. Hold the phone, maybe it’s nobody’s fault. Maybe that’s just how life is right now. Maybe she’ll meet some great love of her life tomorrow. Or next week. Or in five years. Maybe she’ll get pregnant at 44. Maybe she’ll meet someone with three beautiful little boys who could do with a splendid step-mom.
Maybe she won’t have a child but will continue to be an incredible aunty and godmother to the tribe of kids already in her life and at some point she’ll meet a great man who makes her go weak in the knees and they will be entirely happy and fulfilled and speak French to each other on weekend drives through the country…while I fold the laundry and mutter swear words about them in French.
“If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at any time in your life,” said that famous philosopher, er, Cher.
Amen to that.
But this isn’t even about whether or not Zoe finds love. It’s about the fact that she is enough. Right now, today, she is enough. Splendidly single. And people like me need to stop treating all single people like they’re broken and need fixing.
Love is not a paint-by-numbers game. You can’t strategize your way into it. It happens when it happens. (Well, any fool can be hooked up with a jerk—I’m talking about finding a terrific relationship). And as for me? Next time I feel tempted to give a single friend some unsolicited, unqualified advice, I’ll try shoving a marshmallow in my mouth instead.
Rebecca Sparrow is a contributing editor at Mamamia.com.au. She is also the author of four books including The Girl Most Likely (which is in development as a feature film) and Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school). You can read more about Bec on her website which you can find here, or follow her on twitter here and Facebook here.