It’s not often that I find myself longing for a romantic partner. I’ve been happily single for nearly six years, and I’ve spent far more time enjoying my independence than pining for a boyfriend. But now that my kids are getting older, and taking up less of my time, I’ve found myself wishing for a companion. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that I should start dating again, I’m not looking for love. All I want is a friend to share my life with.
I have friends, of course. Friends I hang out with at playdates with our kids, or friends who keep in touch throughout the day by text. My friends know everything about my life, from my credit score to my past relationships. But they’re busy people. They have their own families and careers, and none of them have time to hang out together, late at night in our pajamas watching Netflix.
The obvious solution to my problem would be to date again. I’ve considered it, but I have no interest in romance. A new partner would expect some degree of romance, perhaps to live together or get married down the line. But I like being single, and the last thing I need is someone touching me at the end of a long day. For single moms like me, it’s hard enough to find the energy to deal with the demands of work and home without adding in a partner, too. Yet that doesn’t mean we don’t still need the type of companionship a partner can provide.
The problem isn’t limited to single moms, however. I’ve heard my married friends complain about the same thing, and often they look to their friends to really listen and offer emotional support. So if even my happily married friends aren’t feeling fulfilled, it makes dating even less appealing to me. In the past, perhaps women met their emotional needs with the company of other women, but in today’s hectic world there’s only time to do so much — work and family have to come first. My friends and I joke about creating mom compounds, where all of us live together and our kids could grow up in the village we all crave, but no one is picking up to move to the same block or apartment complex. None of us have found our way to the type of companionship we want.
I’ve joined clubs and activities, even a gym, but none of them have led to meaningful connections that progressed much beyond adding each other on social media. As soon as we begin scheduling meet-ups, someone’s child gets sick or work gets hectic, and the relationship fizzles out before it begins. My closest friends are scattered across the country, and texting or messaging on Facebook is no substitute for the type of companionship I crave.
I live in Seattle, home to technology companies and software geeks. My own phone feels like another limb to me. But in the name of friendship, I’ve made a commitment to putting it away. So far, all that’s accomplished is giving me more time to watch other people using their phones. Everywhere I go, all I see are people on their phones, and often they have headphones on and a clear “leave me alone” vibe. No matter how hard I try, it seems almost impossible to connect with someone on a deeper level when it’s hard enough to say hello.
And really, that’s the rub. I’m pushing 40, and I’m not interested in forming big groups of superficial friends. I’m looking for a deeper friendship that provides true companionship — soul mates if you will — and that’s always been in short supply. Finding someone who has the time and emotional space to spend real time together at my age feels as elusive as a unicorn. People my age are busy, and there’s no time to spare on friendships.
As much as I like to think I’ll find my ideal friend, as time goes on, it feels less likely. Maybe when my kids are older, and more people my age have empty nests, we’ll find the time to connect with each other. I like to imagine myself meeting my friends for brunch on Sundays and dinner on Tuesdays, a geriatric version of the “Sex and the City” crew, and maybe the idea isn’t so far-fetched. There’s no denying that all of us will have more time when our kids are grown and our careers feel less pressing.
But for now, I’m still looking. Not for a hook-up, a date, a boyfriend or even a husband. But for just the right friend who won’t mind when I answer the door in my pajamas, or who can’t wait to meet to rehash last night’s episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I like to think they’ll be worth the wait.