What happens after 36?

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I’ve recently been re-watching Sex and the City from the beginning. Why? Well I seriously suck at adulting and still don’t have internet at my home (feel free to judge me), so I’ve just been entertaining myself with my ancient, relatively unused DVD collection.

I was obsessed with this show in my 20s. Before I met the man who would be my ex-husband, while I was living alone, broke and poor in a shitty little apartment in Carrolton, I watched this show for the first time after renting the DVD’s from a Hollywood Video store. Yes, yes I said DVD’s twice … I’m old.

I remember falling in love with these women and their friendships … and I remember falling in love with New York. I looked at them and their fabulous lives and was in sheer awe. I was 22 and had never even dated and at the time, my only friend and I had just had our first falling out and weren’t talking (spoiler alert: we made up and became best friends and co-authors of thetruthandthechaos.com). These women were in their 30s and single but living it right. They were best friends whose connection kept them afloat amidst every dating woe they faced.

It was something I absolutely loved but couldn’t really relate to at the time.

Re-watching these shows now at 36, the series has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I’ve lived in New York, been married, been divorced, dated half of Dallas and I’m still single. It’s weird … there are so many episodes that I remember watching for the first time, naively thinking ‘No way, there’s no way there are men like that.’ ’Absolutely no! I’d never fall for those tricks.’

And now, at 36, I’m like ooooohhhh … ok I get it. Insert face-palm here.

It’s crazy to me how many weird similarities I’m starting to see between myself and … all the girls, really. Charlotte is a hopeless romantic who gets married to the ‘right guy on paper’ only to have a marriage dissolve. Been there. Samantha has sexed nearly all of the men (and a few of the women) in New York. Done that. Miranda eats a cake out of her trash one night and feels judged by her chinese delivery food place. BEEN. THERE. DONE THAT (LAST FRIDAY NIGHT).

But Carrie is the one I relate to the most. We both have our ‘Mr. Big’s’. Mine was quite literally a GIANT of a man (6’9”). Andy. And he was magic to me and romance … and also the one who broke my heart the hardest and I had to go to therapy to try and work through (much like Carrie). We both have our Aidan’s. Mine was the man I met right after my marriage broke apart. He was sweet, loving, honestly quite wonderful. But our timing was all wrong. He was the hardest relationship to end, because there was nothing wrong with him or us really. I simply wasn’t able to give him what he needed, when he needed it. I needed time.

Last night, I watched the episode in season 5 where the girls go to Atlantic City to celebrate Charlotte’s faux birthday. Charlotte is panicked at the thought of being 36 and single and therefore is sticking to age 35. #Relatable. Carrie and Aidan broke up at the end of season 4 and she is going through a drought in her dating life and quite frankly? She is really just over men it seems. #RelatableAF.

Post the man who I was head over heels for and who broke my heart TWICE (my Big) and post the man who was honestly quite perfect but not the right timing (my Aidan) … and post the million dates that have been fun and exciting but oh-so-exhausting, I am like the Carrie of that episode. 36, single and completely happy to have my friends and my home and my travels and my writing and not really ready to gamble on anything more.

In the episode, she asks this very relevant question. If we know so many relationships don’t work out and end in heartbreak and we know the ‘house’ always seems to win, ‘why gamble at all?’

I think that’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the past 8 months. In fact it wasn’t so long ago that I resolved ok, this whole love and a relationship thing might not be in the cards for me. And maybe I’m ok with that. I’m 36. I have a great job I love and I have a life filled with fun and friendship. I don’t exactly have my Miranda/Charlotte/Samantha crew but I have a best friend who keeps me grounded as well as a variety of other great women who influence and inspire me to be my best and who love me at my worst.

My life is very full. Except for this one little, pesky thing … being single.

Carrie is onto something with that question. Why do we as single women (or men for that matter) beat ourselves up and stress about not being in a relationship? After as many failed relationships as we’ve likely gone through, after witnessing our friends suffer the same fate, why do we still believe singledom is worse than being in a relationship?

I mean … really.

Most of the time we see relationships from the outside, from the instagram posts, from a very safe and very visually appealing distance. If you get up close, so many of them aren’t what they appear to be. A lot of them are honestly just BS … two people living together because of a fear of facing life alone. Maybe they can’t breakup because one has become too dependent on the other or because finances are too hard or maybe they fear being single again so late in life. There are examples of GOOD relationships, healthy ones. But lets be real. The good ones … well it is a LOT of intense work. It’s a lot of deep soul searching and working through when that person hurts you or when you hurt them. It’s dealing with your demons and baggage and past hangups on a daily basis. It’s couples counseling and nights in trying to cultivate a deep connection. It’s certainly not all walks in the parks and filtered selfies.

It. Is. WORK. And even still, even with all the work and the effort, it STILL might not … work out.

So … why gamble on a relationship that takes so much effort, so much risk and still might not be that lifelong payoff we’re hoping for? Why gamble on something that has the power to break you if it ends (and most do) if we know single life, while not perfect either, can be fulfilling in it’s own imperfect way?

Near the end of the episode, Carrie sees an adorable old couple on the boardwalk chatting. The man makes a joke about going skinny dipping in the ocean even though you can tell it’s quite cold out. The woman says ‘There ain’t nothing skinny about either of us’ and they both laugh. She asks if they should head back and he says in a minute because the sun is about to set. She says, ‘You and your pink skies.’ And he smiles and wraps his arms tightly around her.

So .. there it is. There’s no way to guarantee you’ll ever have a moment like that couple shared, years together watching sunsets. There’s no way to know if you’ll find that person at all. Or if you do, there’s no way to know that he/she won’t hurt you, leave you, break your heart. There’s no way to know your gamble will pay off. But … a life shared with someone who knows and loves you and is willing to walk through life with you … well, maybe that’s worth the risk. Maybe that’s worth gambling on.

Carrie heads back to the casino with this thought in her head: in order to hit the jackpot with your future self, maybe you have to bet it all on where you are right now.

She takes a $1,000 chip she received from a male gambler earlier in the show and walks up to a roulette table. She notices the numbers only go up to 36 and she asks the dealer, “What happens after 36?”

He replies, “I don’t know. You fall off the table?” Well … that’s comforting.

She places the chip on the red 36 and watches the wheel spin. “29!” the dealer calls out. “29 wins it all.”

Her face looks shocked and upset at first. Then turns to one of acceptance. Fitting eh? The 20s still take it all.

But even though she doesn’t win and even though there are no positive promises as to what might happen after 36 …. maybe there will be no jackpot in my future either … I think the more important message is to keep being open, keep playing. To be willing to open my heart and gamble when someone shows up. (Or shit, maybe I just need to gamble and re-download Hinge. Smh.)

36 and single and content and even successful is nice. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. I’m good.

And maybe like roulette I’ll just fall off the table at 37, who knows? Sure my past relationship bets haven’t worked out, but I will say, they were all worth the gamble. But the point is I’m still playing the game. Still betting on the me I am right now and the me I know I can be in the future.

And when the dating door opens again, I think I’ll be willing to take that gamble.


Note: Originally posted on thetruthandthechaos.com

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