Have you ever had to sit and listen to someone while they explained to you that the person you have a crush on has been expressing interest in them? What about having to listen to your crush tell you they have interest in someone else?
These are simultaneously some of the most awkward and heart-crushing moments. You just sit there listening, unable to respond, barely able to breathe. I have had these experiences on more than one occasion. Potentially, the strangest of these situations, however, is when the person talking to you does not reciprocate interest in your crush. In fact, few things feel as strange as having to listen to someone tell you all the reasons why they would never view your crush as a viable option. He’s too short, he’s too quiet, he’s not the race they are attracted to… It’s hard to know what would be worse, hearing that they actually wanted to be with your crush and then seeing them together or knowing that the thing you long for is available to someone else and they don’t even want it.
Why do we like who we like and why do we not like who we don’t like? Why is it that we sometimes can’t seem to want those who so badly want us and we dream of being with those who will never want us? Is it all visceral or chemical? Can we tweak our desires with enough patience and dedication or will we be forever doomed to the reality that despite how perfect for us someone may seem, we just can’t make ourselves have romantic feelings when we don’t?
There was a season of my life when I knew a woman that all the men in the community seemed to be particularly attracted to. She and I could not have been more different and we were certainly never destined to be friends, but I had the chance to have conversations with her on a couple of occasions. During one of those occasions she was actually lamenting having men who didn’t even know her expressing interest. Sure, it was fun to be attractive, and sure, she was a nice enough person and had no intention of changing that, but she wished for the day when someone would truly get to know her before deciding they liked her. My stomach churned. A lot of people knew me well and had absolutely no interest. I used to think she was ungrateful (every guy I wanted, wanted her, and she didn’t want them), but now I see that despite our vastly different experiences (she was one of the pretty girls that I would never be), we ultimately both wanted the same thing.
So what is a single gal surrounded by tons of single people in the same predicament to do?
There is a piece of this that I do believe cannot be changed. No matter how much we may be (or try to be) exactly what somebody else claims they want, at the end of the day, sometimes seemingly without any explanation, the person we like just doesn’t like us back. These are the times when we have to rally and simply get over it. So… they don’t like you… take your (reasonable) time to grieve and move on. If you don’t want a relationship, you are missing out on quality time with yourself as a single person. If you still desire a relationship, there is absolutely no value in languishing in despondency and despair. Just because they don’t like you, doesn’t mean no one ever will. This is your 30s, not 3rd grade. As a wise friend once said to me about a heartache, “you do not have time to be sad about this for 6 months.” Half a year sad about a crush turning you down in your 30s is nothing more than half a year wasted.
But… There is another side to this I believe we have a lot more control over… I think we need to stop seeking out the most predictable people. All the guys lining up for the skinny blonde and all the girls lining up for the tall guy with muscles are only clogging the system. As if we weren’t superficial enough, this online dating society we now live in has us believing we have access to the (figurative) beauty queen and the prom king. At the risk of sounding far too pessimistic, we don’t. If I didn’t get the “it” guy in junior high OR high school OR college OR my twenties, I’m not practicing very good logic if I think I am going to get him now. There’s nothing wrong with not being attracted to someone or moving on when someone isn’t a good fit, but I do believe you are missing out when you overlook someone you could fall madly in love with if you only gave yourself the chance.
I know so many incredible single men and women who want to find love. They are funny and attractive. They are educated and have great jobs. They have kind hearts and love deeply. Ok, so he’s not as tall as you would like, but does he make you laugh? Sure, you imagined yourself with someone thinner, but does she make you feel loved and accepted? You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can’t be super picky, then wail “woe is me” that “no one” likes you. You can’t claim to be the girl (or guy) that everyone looks over, meanwhile looking over anyone and everyone who doesn’t match your ideal. I see it played out time and time again at church, at work, in the dance clubs, and I think it needs to stop. Ask yourselves and others the good, hard questions. Allow yourself to talk to and get to know someone other than the first person you are drawn to in the room. Go on that second date (if you enjoyed yourself) even if they’re not your type. Let yourself say no to dates if you find yourself only wanting to go for silly or superficial reasons.
So where does my story come into play in all of this? I simply cannot tell you how many men I have had feelings for that did not have feelings for me. Many (all?) of these men I have wasted far too much time on. Sometimes, I wonder how many opportunities I missed while I was throwing my own personal pity parties day after day. While it’s more comfortable for me to believe I am the one who is “always” overlooked, deep down, I know that “always” is a gross exaggeration. Despite flaws physical, emotional, or otherwise, people find love everyday and I know that I have access to that reality just as much as every perpetually desired, pretty girl out there does. There is enough love for me; there are opportunities out there for me if I am willing to explore them. Of course there are complications (as there are to some extent with everyone), but those complications don’t exclude me from the process AND if we are willing to humble ourselves and look outside the box, I don’t think they have to exclude anyone else either.