I never thought I would be single with no children at 35. I was ready to marry my first boyfriend Mike when I was 15 and lost my virginity to him. As a Catholic, I convinced myself that as long as I married him, it was okay to have sex. That’s what we awkwardly tried to explain to my parents anyway.
By 16, I changed my mind and set a new goal: I would be married and have my first child by the age of 24. By the time I turned 24 however, I was so busy trying to “retire” by age 30, I worked 80 hours a week helping to build a company, leaving little to no room for dating, though dating I tried. But after hearing a number of men in the commitment-shy Los Angeles, “You’re the kind of girl I should marry, but I’m not ready to head down that path,” I decided I would be an international business tycoon who took lovers, not husbands.
That plan sounded far more glamorous than becoming an old maid by accident, or because I was, in my worst fears, actually “unlovable.” Deep down, I felt that if I declared I didn’t want to get married, it wouldn’t hurt as bad if no one ever picked me. But, I craved companionship like I crave chocolate when my monthly “friend” is about to visit, and that desire led me to compromise.
And compromise led me to the decade of Goldilocks Guys: men trying to find their perfect bed.
Markell was a rugged artist and the first man I learned how powerful pheromones really are, as I noticed his scent while at a party before I noticed his face. He said I wasn’t feminine enough, but then he also knew more about my monthly flow than even a male gyno would.
Gabe, a brilliant, albeit self-centered actor, named me the “Good Republican,” despite all my assurances I was most definitely not Republican, a fact reiterated by my mother’s strategically placed copy of “How to Talk To A Democrat.” In the end, I wasn’t enough like his ex Allison, whom he admitted to using me to get over. Despite trying to convince myself the intellectual artist type made the best lovers, they didn’t.
Chris and I took business meetings together, we brainstormed ideas and solutions, and over a short period of time, he did become my lover. I knew he didn’t want marriage and family. He was a former marine with arms tattooed up and down, and pierced nipples. He lived his life in a bubble of tech entrepreneurship and day trading, isolating himself in front of 3-4 computer screens every day with hardly any social life at all. We were perfect.
He was smokin’ hot, both nerdy and dangerous. We could talk about anything pre- or post-coital. I cared for him, but I knew he would never be my boyfriend, even though I secretly wanted to take him to my charity events, dinner meetings or the movies. But, then Chris took a security job in Iraq. My resolve for choosing a life without a husband was quickly unraveling, and I started to feel desperate, though I would never admit that to anyone.
On the periphery of my consciousness, I believed that if I could just be skinny enough, pretty enough, successful enough, fabulous enough and smart enough, I’d be lovable.
I threw myself into perfectionism, signing up for every self-help workshop I could find and reading every book ever written to become enough.
So, I started a new company. I bought my first house at my target goal of 30 years old and adopted two dogs. Deep down I still wanted a mate, but felt myself resigning to a life of “on my own.”
Then I met Doug. He was almost ten years older than me, a public speaker and, seemingly a self-help junkie, like me. After a tumultuous eight months together, he moved in with his two cats. It was supposed to be a temporary situation since his Christian values told him we shouldn’t live together. But, then I got cancer and his Christian values wouldn’t let him leave me. We ended things after he told me we didn’t have a future together when I politely asked for his sperm to preserve my fertility before chemo started. Apparently, I wasn’t Christian enough for him.
I met Steve and decided he was the one. He helped reawaken my sexuality post cancer treatment, even though I didn’t have nipples yet and felt about as sexy as a rock. But, like Doug, he drank more than I was comfortable with, so when I picked a fight over the phone, he broke up with me, saying I had too many expectations, and that was the end of that.
I met Frank just before he was leaving to work in Patagonia, Chile for six months. We agreed I would write him in a journal every day and mail him the completed books every eight weeks or so. I loved the idea of falling in love with a man over letter writing. I wrote about my friend when she was diagnosed with a stage 4 recurrence of breast cancer. I wrote about the beautiful spider that took up residence on my front porch to lay her eggs. I wrote about my desire to move to Boulder, Colorado. I wrote about how I missed him. I don’t know if he ever even read the book. Apparently, I was too romantic.
I did make that move to Boulder. I let go the idea of him and opened my heart to the idea that my mate was a down-to-earth, rugged man in Colorado without the feminine computer hands of so many men I dated in Los Angeles. I met Matteo when I answered his ad on Craigslist to purchase his humidifier.
On our second date he informed me he was about to have a baby from a one-night stand and wasn’t looking for anything serious.
I attended a fabulous conference on a cruise and met Mike the first night. We spent hours talking on the deck of the ship while our peers danced the night away on a deck just below. By our last night, we were discussing expectations upon returning home and I felt like I met my match. He was brilliant and successful, sexy but not pretty. He was athletic and competitive, a man’s man with a Catholic upbringing and a business partner who was his brother.
Three weeks later when he was in Boulder to train for an ultra-marathon, he said he thought I was too successful to be in a supportive role to him and that he no longer wanted to pursue me.
The second Doug I met charmed me for two months after meeting me at a charity event. He called, text messaged, instant messaged, emailed me Pandora stations he made and stories about his life; we made plans for camping trips and even agreed to establish a dating fund with me so we could make a game out of saving money for a future trip to Barcelona together. He met me for dinner on a Sunday night before I took a business trip, told me he would miss me and couldn’t wait to see me again. By Friday, he changed his mind and stopped speaking to me. When he did get in communication two weeks later, he told me I was moving too fast. I hung up on him before teaching him what projection means.
Mark and I met standing in the Southwest Airlines line in Sacramento. We bonded over his glass eye and my cancer story. I glanced at his left hand and noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band. Within five minutes on our first dinner date, he informed me his WIFE was dating women so he was also allowed to date women.
I turned 35 while in Stockholm for a conference. I met a fabulous Israeli man I could never have unless I converted and moved to Tel Aviv. I freely admit I feel desperate for love and marriage, but not enough to move to Israel. I went from being not enough in my twenties to too much in my thirties -– too intense, too driven, too successful, too independent.
Are these Guys or Goldilocks? Will I ever hear the words I’ve been longing to hear: “Alice, you are just right…Will you marry me?”
It’s been 20 years since I told Mike I wanted to marry him. It’s my 20-year anniversary of the only proposal I’ve ever had. And I don’t even have a diamond to prove it.
PREVIOUSLY BY ALICE:
—Survivor Sex: My First Time After a Double Mastectomy