I met Jim in a bookstore in Rivonia. Five minutes later, we went into the night to start our Insta-romance. We had a magical dinner and then went up to his hotel room to stare at the starlight. I spent the rest of the week in that room thinking I’d won the True Love Lottery, and when I went up to see him the following Tuesday, there was no Jim, just an empty suite and a sympathetic desk clerk.
Beyond the nightmare of long-term relationship breakups, that was probably the worst ending of my casual dating years, but there were many more. Back then, being in relationships was my default. I fell for the first sexy face I saw, which left no room for discernment. If there was an attraction, then we could always fill in the cracks and repair the chips later.
Back to back flings are the crack cocaine of cupid’s universe—chaotic, wild, and distracting. Every passing man left me feeling more and more degraded. I got tired of being treated like a body without a heart, so a decade ago, I changed my default setting to “single.” In that time, I’ve had three short relationships. That’s it. That’s the sum total of my dating life, and lord, have I loved being single.
It’s made me far pickier, too. Stand me up? Let’s just be friends. Lie to me? Let’s not. Make me feel like a liability? I’ll pass. I’m worthy of more, and I’ll stay on the shelf for as long as it takes to find a man who adores me and treats me ethically.
An odd thing happens when you don’t latch onto every crappy partner you find: The white noise dies down, and in the silence, you begin to notice the true gems of the male sex. They tend to arrive a little more quietly than the Jims of this world because their egos don’t shout quite so loudly.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t become a flawless judge of character yet, so don’t come to me for your man selection advice. I have found the good men, though, and the more time passes, the more I learn about the kind of person I really want to be with. I could never have said that 15 years ago. Sure, I’d have rattled through a list of generic traits, but I had no real clarity.
Passing on most of the men I meet is shaping me in ways I never imagined, the most important of which is that there’s nobody around to mistreat me. In the silence, I’m surrounded by people who love me. Their voices become louder and louder every day.