I cleaned out my phone contacts over the weekend. Used-to-bes. Delete. Randomly-text-me-outta-nowhere-dudes. Delete. The guys who dropped off the edge of the planet, the low-level crushes and that one doofus who was hollering at me when he was engaged—and had the nerve to have a pic of himself proposing to his fiancee on the Facebook page I evidently didn't check soon enough—delete, delete, delete, all gone in a few brisk screen swipes. Most of them shoulda been gone, especially that last one.
It was an unorchestrated show of finality and it gave me a sense of renewal and accomplishment, like scrubbing your closet for the first time since the 90s and trashing stuff you wouldn’t be willing to wear to a skunk farm, much less out on the streets. If it doesn’t fit, doesn’t compliment you or doesn’t make you feel good and comfortable, I don’t see much reason to hold on to it. That now goes for clothing and men.
In stark contrast to the advisement of many relationship gurus—the ones who write books and sell out workshops and the ones who sit on folding chairs in front of the barber shop—I’ve nudged my standards up. If he texts like the wind but either can’t or won’t have a good phone conversation, he’s ushered into the friend zone. If he cancels plans often and he’s not 1) an ER doctor or 2) a Secret Service agent, he’s toast. And if we ultimately can’t pray together, we can’t be together.
Some suggest single gals of a certain age make a few compromises, bend a little here and there, but I always have. I’ve been an infamous patron of male potential. Barring deadbeat daddies, foamy-mouthed crazies and notorious playboys, I’ve given brothers a shot.
But Last Boyfriend spoiled me in certain ways and I decided that the takeaway from that relationship—because there’s something good in every one, even if they fail—would be the way he went above and beyond to treat me like a queen. That means different things to different women, but for me it was little kind gestures like opening my car door. Nobody had ever done it before him and I had never thought to even want it. With the pull of that handle, homeboy had upped the ante and his gentlemanliness brought to mind my granddaddy ditty bopping all the way around his big ol’ denim blue Monte Carlo to help my Nana out of the passenger seat. It’s a nicety, so I test to see if a man is going to do it on his own. So far, not so good.
“You’re crazy if you think I’m gonna come around and get your car door every time we go out,” one guy told me. He was laughing, but he was serious.
Me: Sitting quietly.
Him: “For real? That’s crazy,” he sulked. Minutes passed.
Me, thinking he has no idea what he’s up against. I’m a sister, which means I’m naturally determined, and I’m on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini, which means I’ve got military-strength stubbornness. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom and I had a pack of crackers in my purse, so as far as I was concerned, I was bunkered down for the long haul.
The amount of time he spent barking, he could’ve been opened and closed all four car doors, the trunk, sunroof, hood and gas tank. But we sat, him trying to outlast my strong will and me playing with the shadows the sun was casting on my thighs. After a stretch, he sucked up all the oxygen in the car in the huff heard around the parking lot and almost yanked the door off the hinges. I gingerly dismounted from my seat and thanked him politely. Needless to say, y’all, needless to say.
You have to be brave to be single. Not only do you run up against a whole heap of trials-and-errors, but you have to have the guts to adhere to the expectations you set for yourself, despite the mania that’s been built up to make us feel like we should clutch the ankles of any man who pays us mind or else run the risk of perpetual aloneness. And they’ll remind you that years are flying by and talk about how big the amniocentesis needle is and offer to introduce you to a nephew with a mile-long rap sheet and 14 baby mamas who just needs that one good woman in his corner.
When they do, I smile and remind them—and myself—that I’ve got standards. They’re not elaborate or unreasonable, but they will guarantee that I don’t waste any more time that I can’t afford to be wasted.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.