Lonely hearts club solicitations arrive in my mailbox all the time; I'm mystified as to how they acquire my name: from now on, I'll try to leave the ubiquitous "single" or "married" boxes on forms and applications unchecked. So many lonely people looking for love and happiness have spawned an industry. Maybe some of these singles matching services succeed on happy occasion, but I daresay if one sincerely wants to find a mate, less costly and more practical alternatives exist.
For the record, I'm single; for many years I've considered myself "terminally single," for lack of a better term, and I'm too set in my ways to change now. For some time when I was younger, I used the easy but lame excuse that men were the problem; I suspect that became a self-fulfilling prophecy because the men in my life generally gave me the proof I sought. My last relationship was a long and miserable engagement, from which I freed myself only with great difficulty, bearing permanent battle scars. In self-preservation, I cast off my crushes and dreams of white picket fences, and retreated from the clashes of heated romance, devoting myself to enjoying fruitful solitude. I wear my solitary habit as routinely as nuns do, but I'm not a nun; thankfully my habit goes undetected on the street.
Ladies, beware of settling into habits when you're young that you'll come to regret later in life. Lots of great guys may be out there hoping to meet you; I've encountered a few of them, and I know those guys are the tip of the iceberg. You don't need to move to Silicon Valley or a tiny farming community in the Midwest to find them yourself; chances are you don't need to relocate at all. You don't need to stock up on expensive perfumes, wear layers of makeup or uncomfortable shoes, lease a fancier car, learn to belly dance, torture your hair and nails, or undergo plastic surgery to achieve a largely fictional male ideal to make a decent man happy.
There is one thing a woman can do to tap this vast market of intelligent, responsible, principled, available men: change her thinking. These guys may be all around you; they have a way of coming out of the woodwork when they want you to find them. Sure, they appreciate pretty young women; what human eye would not? We admire the Taj Mahal and the Kremlin, European castles, Islamic temples, Gothic cathedrals, sprawling estates; most people don't aspire to live in a tourist attraction, longing instead for a special place to call home. In relationships, like homes, comfort and tranquility offer greater long-term benefits and less stressful maintenance than showy exteriors or prestigious surroundings. Being too attractive can price a girl out of the right market, if she's the down-home sort. Remember that, guys - a girl may find prettiness a handicap; ask her to dance anyway.
As I read them (and guys, I *know* you'll correct me if I'm wrong) these fellows look for more in a relationship than a trophy wife or a flattering background for ego opportunities. They want sustainable relationships, honorable commitments, enduring affections; they have good reason to dread battles over custody of children, anticipate oppressive court judgments awarding spousal support, and fear spurious allegations of sexual misconduct. Understandably, they aren't about to take chances and gamble on disastrous relationships destined to end miserably with broken hearts, rifled wallets, and destroyed lives; instead, they opt out of the mating game with numbed hearts, chained wallets, and survival.
Guys, I wish I'd met one of you when I was younger, but surely you'll understand there are two sides to the opt-out equation. Women opt out for various reasons, just as men do; it's hard to envision being half of a happy couple, or bringing up children, in a culture that incessantly makes war on everything. Wars on drugs, poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, deviance, intolerance, terrorism; wars between sexes, wars between races and religions, wars to acquire peace, wars to vanquish hate or destroy evil. How about declaring peace on drugs, peace against terrorism, peace with illiteracy and intolerance, peace between sexes, races, and religions, peace despite partisanship, poverty, and deviance: Peace to demonstrate that war is counterproductive, peace to relinquish hate? What greater evil could exist than war itself? Why use the greatest evil to rid the world of lesser ones?
If I wanted to meet Mr. Right today, I'd do what I wish I'd done a long time ago, and let go of the deadbolt ideas on the door to my heart. The deadbolt ideas kept good men out and locked harmful ideologies in. Open your heart to the man who supports the right to bear arms and cares enough to defend his family: don't write him off because he likes guns; appreciate him for loving you enough to use one if your life ever depends on it. Love the man who treasures your unborn child enough to protest abortion, yet cherishes you enough to respect your personal needs; he'll be a good father and a forgiving spouse: don't abort a potential relationship because he loves your children; if he didn't, you'd have a much better reason. It's a two way street; he may have a few deadbolt ideas to lose too.
Lonely perches often provide panoramic views; from where I stand now, the world looks a lot different. The government I once believed necessary to keep peace does little but wage war against anything and everybody; the political process I depended on to protect human rights poses the only consistent discoverable threat to individual liberty; the laws I once looked to for justice serve to legalize theft and justify misbehavior; promised social welfare and security have deeply indebted future generations for the sake of sustaining contemporary folly. The ordinary men I once blamed for every ill visited on humanity have given me courage; with few exceptions, I've found them the most faithful, sage, and compassionate companions on the road to freedom. Ladies, you'll find good men when they want you to find them: there's no shortage of them; go forth and multiply if you will, but declare an end to divisiveness or learn to love war… nurse babies, but not grievances that may someday tear them from you, pitting parent against parent, nation against nation.
Raise free children, raise them in peace, raise them with pride, raise them lovingly; don't pass on to them the language of fear we're so fluent in, or immerse them in the politics of distrust and resentment we're so accustomed to. They don't deserve that, so help me God. Am I a hypocrite today for admitting that yesterday I was wrong? I'm sure that refusing to acknowledge my previous mistakes would make me a hypocrite, if I'm not one already. Forgive me, brother, for I have sinned…