It was Saturday night and I was putting my kids to bed when I got a text from my friend Christine.
“Are you awake? Justin and I just picked up someone for you. I showed him your picture!”
I was laying down in Tommy’s bed, aimlessly scrolling through the New York Times. I sat up. Did Christine really just write that she and her husband had hit on someone for me?
“OMG. Are you out?” I texted back.
“We are at a bar. Want his number? Should I give him yours?” she asked. Then she sent a string of ideas about how I should start texting him, but I demurred – wouldn’t that be a bit weird? “Okay,” she wrote, and then sent a text to me and this guy (who I’ll call Jake) that started with, “I think you two should meet….”
I actually ended up texting with Jake for a while. And eventually – if you can believe this – we made a date to go out in real life.
I laughed a lot about this with Christine later. “How in the world did you think to do this?”
It was a long answer. Christine has spent this fall listening to me bemoan my love life, and she has remained encouraging throughout my frustration. I’ve pointed out many times that she may not remember how hard it can be to get back out in the dating world, and while she hasn’t been dismissive of my concerns, she has remained convinced that I will find a man I like, at least someday.
She’s certainly more confident in my prospects than I am. Let me just say this: now that I’m finally ready to really date, I’m finding what happens in the dating world a bit….disappointing. I think the week prior to this crazy string of texts, I had told Christine that I was done with dating.
Because in some ways, I am So. Over. It. I mean, in my regular life, people make me feel pretty awesome. My kids make me feel awesome. My friends make me feel awesome. My family makes me feel awesome. My students make me feel awesome.
And then there’s dating. It makes me feel….not awesome.
I’m not sure dating was ever something that I liked, but the difference is that back then – in the 90s – everyone was single. We were all suffering through it together.
Now, in my group of friends, I’m the only one who is single.
This makes it hard for me and hard for my friends. They want to support me but they really can’t remember what it was like to talk to a man all night in a bar, only to have him leave without getting your number. They want to be encouraging, but they never tried online dating and are a bit nervous about who might show up “on the apps.” They want me to find someone new but….they don’t know any single men.
A little over a year ago, when I first told Christine I was ready to date, she cried. “I don’t know why I’m crying!” she said over and over. At the time, I remember thinking that she was crying because she had loved Shawn so much.
But she did not simply cry. More than any of my friends, she encouraged my love life. She created my online dating profile this spring, and then spent hours trying to pick out men for me. She has set me up more than once with men she knows, even if she doesn’t know them that well. She’s terrible at replying to my texts about what I should bring to a potluck, but if I send her a text like, “I hate men. I give up!” she responds in under a minute with something like, “listen, I get it. Dating is hard. But you are awesome and I know you are going to have some great dates too!”
And apparently, she’s now hitting on strangers for me when she goes out.
“We were sitting at the bar next to this guy,” she told me later, “and I started talking to him and realized he was single and cute. So I decided that you should meet him!”
Listen, I don’t necessarily recommend doing this for a single friend. But regardless of the outcome of this setup, this gesture was meaningful to me in a way I can’t fully articulate in words.
Before he died, Shawn made sure our friends knew that they should surround me with love. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always smooth. Christine and Justin were two of Shawn’s best friends. They helped me plan the funeral and carried his casket and told stories that kept Shawn alive for my children. Watching me decide to start dating must not have been easy for either of them.
But they have supported me through it all. And Christine, in particular, has made it her mission to try and improve my love life.
“Shawn is so proud of you and Justin right now,” I texted her that night, after I’d made a date to go out with Jake. “You’re really looking out for his wife!”
I was kidding, a bit. This whole thing felt odd and funny and I was trying to make a joke.
“Yes, he is proud of us!” she texted back. “Hi Shawn! We’ve got Marjorie’s back.”
That night, I fell asleep really happy. Not because I had a date, but because I was reminded how much my friends love me.
Yes, Christine cried when I told her I wanted to start dating. It was not easy for her – or for anyone, myself included – to think about me ever being with someone other than Shawn. But when I told her I wanted to start dating, I think part of why she cried wasn’t because she was sad.
I think it was because she was happy for me.
Christine has encouraged that happiness at every single point. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. It’s exactly what Shawn would want for me – friends who love me so much that they put aside their own grief and prioritize my happiness.
Maybe I’ll never find love again. Maybe I’ll remain single for the rest of my life. But that night – the one when Christine and Justin hit on a random man for me – that night showed me one thing:
I am loved.
And that’s all Shawn ever wanted for me.