Week 27: The dating divide

An interesting thing happens in your 20s in the landscape of your girlfriends. Friends start to get married, and a gap that has always been there becomes a chasm.

To me, it seems like this happened very quickly. In the past 20 months, I have been in, sang in, gone to or been invited to eight weddings. Now a good number of my friends are Mrs. They have husbands. This is a “duh” statement, I realize, but I can’t explain how strange it is to me.

Some of my friends are married. Some of my friends are engaged. Some of my friends live with their boyfriends. Some of my friends are in relationships. And then there are the single girls (that’s me!).

To be fair, there has always been a gap in the dating landscape. Throughout most of high school and college and the time after, I have been the steadily single girlfriend. Some of my friends have always been serial daters or in long-term relationships. I had friends who thought they were with their husbands in high school (they weren’t) and college (some were; some weren’t). Point being, it’s nothing new for a friend to be in a forever mindset while I’m looking for someone to catch my eye.

But it’s a totally different matter after certificates have been signed, rings put on fingers and last names changed. The contrast is stark: This girl is someone’s wife, and I am single. I am thinking about finding a guy I like, going on a first date, whether I want to see him again … and she is committed for life. I am at square one, while she is completely out of the game, finished with the looking and wondering and hoping.

We are in two different worlds. It changes the timbre of conversation and even the relationship itself.

My married friends would undoubtedly tell me this isn’t true — nothing is different in our friendships — but it’s a little weird to talk about new butterflies with someone who comes home to her husband every night. It feels trivial to tell the story of a date to someone with a shared bank account. I feel foolish brainstorming my maybe-someday-far-off-in-the-distance wedding to someone who already has photos from hers.

This isn’t a one-way street. Chances are, my married friends are dealing with things I can’t yet understand or relate to. I do not know what it’s like to be married, much as I would love to listen and try to commiserate.

A few disclaimers: 1. I know my friends care and want to hear my stories. That will not change. 2. I don’t mean to dismiss marriage. I realize it’s a beginning — not an end, and it includes dating and flirting and growing and learning. 3. I am not feeling sorry for myself. I do not wish I were married right now. I love and admire my friends’ happiness, and I look forward to finding mine someday, but I am enjoying being in my 20s, having my freedom, living with roommates, traveling on my own, going out with girlfriends, etc.

But the chasm is there, if only in the back of my mind. As much as I love my friends and will continue to tell them all my stories — my excitements and disappointments and prospects and doubts — and as much as I know they will listen and invest in my happenings, that weird new reality isn’t going away: She is finished with this, and I have the entire journey ahead of me.

Thank god no one has a baby yet. If single and married are two different worlds, babies are another solar system.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: Fire Bell in the Night by Geoffrey Edwards

Currently watching: Seinfeld, season 3

Song of the week: A Thousand Horses’ “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”

Plans for the week: Catching up with some friends during the week, celebrating a friend’s birthday, then heading to San Diego this weekend to visit a high school friend.

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