So today at work, one of my co-workers saw a new employee walk by and exclaimed, “He’s really cute!” He was easily 10 years younger than either of us. And at a lower pay-grade. We know this because of our titles. This male employee has been with our company and our team for almost 6 months. While I’ve noticed him around, I haven’t taken notice of him.
For those just getting to know me, I am openly single. I don’t hide it or mask it, and I use it as an identifier only as a juxtaposition to the masses, especially in the FIRE community. Not only am I single, I’ve never been married nor have I been in a relationship. I’ve never really dated. I say never really instead of never because I did make an attempt in my late 20s (blogs 2 and 3, now deleted that chronicled my short stint in dating); it lasted less than 2 years. I was in graduate school and on the academic calendar, so I can’t be certain. As you can see, it held a lot of meaning…
Anyway, the furthest I got was a 2nd date with the same person. The journey changed along the way from dating with the end goal of a relationship to having as many dating experiences as possible, a bucket list of sorts, because I was starting to lose interest. I tried to go into the experience with an open mind. I hoped the experiment would disprove my original notion- that I was the only sane one and everyone else was crazy and had not seen the light. Think Myth of the Cave.
To put it youthfully, I believe most dating and romantic relationships are stupid. I don’t see the point. Most importantly, few modern day dating and romantic relationships in America benefit women. I believe that firmly and it’s evidenced when you get a woman alone and she speaks honestly about her marriage or relationship. I often ask if it’s what they expected. I used to mentally prepare myself to be convinced about how wonderful and fulfilling marriage was for these women. Over the span of my … yes short life, not one woman has tried to convince me. I’ve lived all over the US and asked women at different stages in life. I’m always surprised how easily they speak the truth. It’s as though they’ve been waiting for someone to ask them. If you don’t believe me, ask your spouse. I dare you.
The non-Facebook version of their life after marriage is easily proffered. When the catharsis ends, they soon get this look on their face as if they’ve realized they’ve said too much. The conversation ends then with a hidden sigh eclipsed by the ever practiced smile abridging the experience to the version they’ve led everyone else to believe. I just stopped asking. The last person I asked was my previous manager, a doctorate, who quit her prior job because her husband expressed concern that he was handling too much of the childcare.
In case the personal experiences of others were not enough, having tried it myself I knew I was right all along. Though after awhile you just start to feel crazy that everyone is still pursuing this ideal that doesn’t make them totally happy and is not quite what they expected.
In some ways, that’s what the workforce was for me. I was never one of those people that expected work to be fun or to love what I would be doing, but I thought it’d be more empowering. I thought I’d have a bigger impact on the world, make some sort of contribution. But work is just work. Full stop.
So back to my co-worker and me.
I realized after returning to my cubicle that to me looks have never been the most striking feature in a partner. I’m most attracted to power and prestige, affluence and influence. If a partner had to be in my life, I would expect the transaction to be worthwhile. I use transaction intentionally. Everyone that’s ever written or spoken about it seems willing to believe that marriage and relationships are hard work. Yet these days no one seems to expect it to return any tangible yield.
Historically, women were “married off” when they weren’t allowed to be educated; weren’t given a voice; and unable to inherit their families’ wealth. Now that we allegedly have a choice, why do women still settle for lesser positions in life? I don’t mean the dichotomy you might be thinking. I mean thoughtless marriages that do little to contribute to their financial standing or societal position.
If dating and relationships were to serve an actual purpose in my life, my ideal partner would need to be able to make my life significantly better either by pushing me along My Early Retirement Journey with actual dollars or move me to a better position in life with some ability to influence change. I haven’t found a way to do that by myself.