My Year Without Men

5 things I learned dating myself in 2020

Jeanie stands on the beach in a wet suit, holding a surf board.
Jeanie stands on the beach in a wet suit, holding a surf board.

1. I am fun.

Have you ever dated someone who sucked the fun out of you? It’s miserable. You forget who you are and what you’re capable of on your own: joy.

When I set out to date myself in 2020, I wanted to go on adventures I was hoping men would take me on, but never did. Why was I waiting for a man to live my life? Absurd patriarchal standards most likely. F*ck that.

My favorite date I took myself on was surfing. I’d always wanted to go, but I was afraid. Instead of taking to the sea by my lonesome and drowning, I booked a private lesson at a surf school in Manhattan Beach. My instructor, Colin, grew up surfing instead of taking gym class. How cool is that? It wasn’t until I rode my first wave that I realized I hadn’t actually expected to surf. There I was, paying for a private surf lesson and I didn’t believe I would be able to do it. I was having so much fun at one point, I shouted, “Wee!” I want a life filled with wee’s. You gotta make up for the oh shit’s.

2. I am enough.

My best friend said this to me one night, when I was complaining about some dude I don’t even remember at this point. “You are enough,” she said, repeating it. I knew what she meant intellectually, but I was so focused on finding someone, on falling in love, I was blind to the person right in front of me: me. I didn’t yet feel that I was enough on my own. I was flailing and I wanted to tether myself to a man. But stability isn’t hanging on to someone else for dear life. It’s standing on your own, through the discomfort. There’s that saying “two heads are better than one.” Well, not if one of those heads is an idiot. Not only am I enough on my own, I am better off.

3. I am loved.

2020 was the loneliest fucking year. I don’t need to explain this to anyone who has been following the rules of social distancing and making the difficult choice not to gather with loved ones. The biggest thing taken from me was spending time with my sister, who is non-verbal. Our communication happens in person, by holding hands, hugging or simply sitting next to each other. When I couldn’t visit her, I didn’t know what to do with myself. That’s when I thought of a plan to redo the patio at her group home, to give the residents and the caregivers a nice place to sit outside.

I was unemployed and needed help, so I asked for it. Donations from friends poured in for new patio umbrellas and tables and chairs. My friends have taught me people want to help and there is no shame in asking for it. That’s love.

4. I can take care of myself.

In May, my apartment became infested with fleas. I will spare you the pictures, but my dog and I were covered in bleeding, swollen bites. I had to contact the health department to finally get management to do something about it. They took their sweet ass time, so I moved. Not exactly what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to get the bubonic plague in a pandemic. I found an adorable Hollywood bungalow that was originally built by the studios for writers. I’ve been in LA for 10 years and I’ve never felt more at home. It’s cozy, warm and happy. I love it. My unruly dog does, too.

Gracie, my 13-year-old terrier mix enjoys the sofa.
Gracie, my 13-year-old terrier mix enjoys the sofa.

5. I am worthy.

There’s a dangerous narrative in our society that you have more worth if you have a partner. It is simply not true. It’s what keeps people in toxic relationships, more afraid to be alone than to be partnered and ultimately, unhappy. When I first started dating myself, I quickly learned dating me was exhausting. I expect a lot from myself, and in turn, others.

For the longest time, I used to say, “All I want is someone to take care of me.” What I needed was for me to take care of me. To meet my own expectations first and foremost. To realize maybe some of those expectations were unreasonable. Not every date needs to be surfing or aerial dance or horse back riding, for Christ sake.

I recently read a Tweet that said “Everyone needs a lot more than anyone can give right now.” It was specific to the pandemic, but it’s probably true always. I want to practice loving others with more grace and to meet myself with the same flexibility.

I say “practice” because of course I am not perfect. I am wildly stubborn. I’m quick to write off men at the first signs of imperfection, when I have areas that need improvement too. I am also enough. Recognizing this dichotomy has been a big lesson for me in 2020. I will always be a work in progress and that doesn’t mean I should settle for less than I deserve.

I thought that once the year was over, I would want to line up date after date for 2021. Instead, I am looking at my life for what it can be, separate from a partner. While I’d welcome a man with a good sense of humor, a kind heart and clean clothes to show up at my door with flowers, ready to whisk me away on a Covid-safe adventure that they’ve put some thought into, I am excited for my year ahead.

On Monday, I start a new job. In February, I begin teaching my first writing class. I’m looking at opportunities to teach in Italy over the summer. I love Italy. I’m so relaxed there, I even forget to wear pants.

I want to finish my book and take more surfing lessons and get that glorious vaccine so I can hug my sister and friends again.

There is so much more to life than endlessly scrolling through a sea of people on dating apps who are wondering what you’re up to on the weekend. Nothing, man. It’s a pandemic.

As I begin my 2021, I love myself more than I did at the beginning of 2020. What a gift.

Jeanie Bergen is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles, CA. Instagram: @ayearwithoutmen

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