Settling is kind of an ugly word, but everyone knows what it is, as well as someone who has done it. Even one of Austen’s characters settled. When Elizabeth Bennet refused Mr. Collins, Charlotte Lucas stepped up to pick up her scraps. Sure. He was a less-than-desirable spousal candidate, but he provided Charlotte with a good home and name, which was all she ever wanted, and at her age, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to find such an offer.
I don’t blame Charlotte for settling. No one wants to burden their parents, and back in a time when women didn’t have many options, a girl has to take what she can get without a guarantee of happiness. But Charlotte settled for Mr. Collins, because the reality of being alone was more terrifying than sharing a bed with a man like Collins.
Charlotte Lucas is admittedly unromantic; she’s practical. I know a lot of practical girls, but I hate to see them waste their time with someone who is less than worthy of their attention/affection. Off the top of my head, I have three close friends who can do better than their current boyfriends. The problem is that I don’t know how to tell my friends that they’re settling for something lesser than what they could have. And it’s even harder to convince someone to end a real-life OK relationship for the possibility of finding something better down the road, someday, maybe. Uncertainty is not a friend when it comes to planning a future.
That’s why settling is so common. We’re afraid that we’re never going to find the best, or something that’s better, so we find something that’s good enough. I don’t know about you, but “good enough” is OK when I’m frosting cupcakes or deciding to wear yoga pants instead of jeans, but it should never be the measuring stick for a romantic relationship. I don’t want “good enough.” I want to wake up in the morning with a ridiculous smile plastered on my face, like I slept with a hanger in my mouth.
I want to feel special, and loved, and proud of whoever it is I’m in a relationship with. Hell, I want my friends to be jealous of whoever he is.
But I understand that it’s hard to give up an actual person for a person who may or may not exist. Being single isn’t easy. (That’s the understatement of the century.) That’s why I love Sex and the City. Though it’s very unrealistic that a columnist would be able to afford her own apartment in addition to her extensive collection of Manolo Blahnik shoes (in what world?), Carrie’s dating life isn’t entirely unfathomable. It has its ups and downs. There’s jealousy, cheating, and lying involved. But the thing I admire so much about Carrie (other than her fashion sense) is the fact that she never settled. She knew something was off with Aidan, though they could’ve lived happily-enough ever after. She knew there was something Bigger in her future.
That’s what I want to tell my friends who are significantly more awesome than their boyfriends. It’s OK not to be in a relationship. I think as my friends and I have gotten older, towards the age where our parents got married, we start to feel pressure to find a man and settle down. But if you’re in a relationship that is lacking something, the most important thing is to not force it to work. Relationships are certainly work, but if it feels like you’re fighting against a current to stay together, maybe ending it is better that struggling to salvage something broken.
I have another friend who is absolutely amazing, 32 and still single. It’s not that she’s too picky or that she’s not out there trying to meet her Darcy. She is single because she refuses to settle for someone unworthy of her time and energy. But she’s always the one giving unworthy guys second chances and trying to initiate dates.
It can be difficult to keep your standards and reserve your time for a special person when your friends are all in serious relationships. I’m back in Nebraska for the summer, and yesterday I realized that I’m the last single girl here; I’m not exaggerating, either.
One just moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, another just bought a house with hers, and another just had a baby and is planning her wedding. With all this romantic energy in the air, I’ve been feeling pressure as the last one that’s single.
To be frank, I’m tired of the pity “you’re going to find someone great, and we’re going to be so jealous.” I mean, I think I’ll find someone down the road, but sometimes my friends seem to be more confident about my future relationship status than I am. The fact of my singleness is this: I’m only 20 years old, just like my commitment-bound friends are. The difference between us is that I want to see what else is out there. Who can say that at the age of 20 they knew exactly who they were and what they wanted? Am I so wrong to want something extraordinary rather than ordinary?
“I’ve always been a little bit in awe of Alan because he’s always been incredibly solicitous of me. I wasn’t long out of drama school when I first met him. I was quite green and unsure of myself. He seemed to have an instinct for people who were in need of guidance of some kind. I’m in my mid-50s now — our age difference isn’t that vast — but I always saw him not as an older person but as someone who took me under his wing. There are some people you didn’t know how much they meant to you until you miss them, and I think Alan is one of those people. He wasn’t a person I expected to see on a daily basis, but I didn’t realize how important it was to me to have Alan there until we got the news."