I don’t go to the movies often, but when I do, it’s to see Fat Amy. (I guess her technical name is Fat Patricia Rebel Wilson.)

Last weekend, I saw the new chick flick How To Be Single, starring Fat Amy, Leslie Mann a.k.a Perpetual Sidekick and/or Hot Mom, the girl from Fifty Shades of Grey, and a brunette actress who kind of looks like Emmy Rossum (i.e. Christine from Phantom of the Opera).

[Update– 2/17, 10:19 a.m.: Apparently Alison Brie, the Emmy Rossum doppelganger, is way more famous than Emmy Rossum, which means I’m stuck in 2005. Is anyone surprised?]

how to be single cast

{Brief synopsis with no spoilers: Fifty Shades of Grey girl (Dakota Johnson, not to be confused with Dakota Fanning) breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and moves to NYC. She becomes BFFs with Fat Amy, and lives with her older sister, Leslie Mann. All of them are single. The Emmy Rossum lookalike doesn’t interact with them much at all, and her side story is pretty superfluous (tbh). Fat Amy teaches Dakota #2 how to embrace the single life, while Leslie Mann uses in-vetro to get pregnant without a man. Meanwhile, non-Emmy Rossum unapologetically tries to find a husband.}

Thrown in the mix are Coach from New Girl, that male midwife from The Mindy Project, and lots and lots of d-word puns. This movie is not recommended for children or anyone who can’t look past foul language. But if you’re 18+ and not easily offended, then definitely go see it.

I LOLd in a literal way a lot during the film, which was a bit inconvenient since I’ve been sick for two weeks, so laughing=coughing. I’m sure the people around me really appreciated that. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed all of Fat Amy’s one-liners and the ridiculous scenarios that were just unrealistic enough to be great movie material, but still completely relatable. Who hasn’t been swept away by a sexy black man who makes charming jokes about collegiate a cappella? No, really.

Beyond all of the truly funny moments, How To Be Single struck a chord with me on a deeper level. None of the storylines turn out how you would expect, so I left the theatre feeling surprisingly normal. My confusing, unpredictable, and at times exhilarating experiences as a single woman were apparently 100% typical. Life doesn’t go in the direction you think it will, nor does every ending feel entirely satisfying. This movie did a brilliant job conveying that message. Moreover, it reminded me of the beauty in being alone…not that I’d ever want to go back to that time in my life, but I was left with a deep appreciation for the lessons and memories I made during my years as a bachelorette.

When we’re single, we are often consumed with all the possible endings to our modern day fairy tales. What if I meet Mr. Right tonight? What if I already know him? Based on xy & z behavior, we will probably go on a second date. If he doesn’t send me a reminder text, does he not care? Is it possible that he cares, but just forgot? Will he introduce me as his girlfriend? Probably not, because guys these days are immature. If things go well, maybe we’ll date for a year or two before getting engaged. What if he drops me out of nowhere? Why am I even bothering? We bounce all over the board with assumptions, questions, and expectations. One minute, we’re clinging to any glimmer of hope surrounding our latest love interest. The next minute, we’re swearing off all men, convinced that all the decent ones are taken.

spinster gif

Singles deal with countless ups and downs. Countless surprises– both good and bad. Countless days of wondering, guessing, and feeling absolutely bewildered. You’re made to believe that particular patterns of interaction will predict a “successful” relationship outcome, when in reality, the most “right” scenarios often end up being very wrong. You wake up and realize you’re not actually attracted to your boyfriend, even though he’s wonderful. You have to let go of someone who makes your heart flutter. You’re forced to concede to another person’s unwillingness to give, even if you would go to the ends of the earth for them. So many plans take an unexpected turn. So many happy endings go awry.

Yet you get to experience the beauty of recovery. That overwhelming comfort when a new person holds your hand for the first time. That powerful feeling when you notice you haven’t cried over your ex in a week. The full weight of gratitude when you’re laughing hysterically with your girlfriends, completely aware of their “soulmate” status in that stage of life.

sex and the city soulmates

Aside from the relationship aspect, romantic detachment is the most affective channel for discovering profound and enlightening qualities about yourself and the world. How To Be Single ends with one of the characters overlooking an awe-inspiring cliff, all by herself, having just achieved a lifelong dream. Shivers spread from my head to my toes as I remembered that feeling of complete solitude. I immediately emailed my husband these words when I got home:

“The movie brought me back to the solo night on my dog sledding trip when I was completely by myself for 24 hours. There was something terrifying and breathtaking about it. But I’m also so, so happy I’ll never truly be alone ever again because you are part of me. No matter what, my heart isn’t single, and it’s so beautiful to get to have you with me forever, no matter where we are. I can’t be alone again even if I tried…and I like it!”

We’re mushy.

To expand a little, my “solo night” while dog sledding (via Outward Bound) was an undeniable, visible display of total and utter aloneness– but not in a lonely sense. In a peaceful and magical sense. I was 22 years old, at least one mile from any other campers, and dozens of miles from civilization. I burrowed deep into my sleeping bag under the shelter I’d made from trees I sawed down all by myself, on a tarp I staked into the snow all by myself, and listened to the entrancing silence…all by myself. I knew that people somewhere out there under that giant sky loved me, but they were not part of me. I was distinctly singular.

That recognition made me feel strong, confident, and faithful. It also made me acutely aware of how responsible I am for my own wellbeing. I knew that my path in life was in God’s hands, but I had to be the one to make the moves. I couldn’t sit and wait around for happiness. I was in control of the kind of person I wanted to be. The ball was in my court.

solo night outward bound

My digs on the solo night of my dog sledding trip. Most of the trees I cut down turned into firewood, but that log creating the bend in the tarp was chopped by yours truly.

While single, I sometimes felt this same wave of self-awareness when I was squished between strangers on a crowded subway or when I drove on the highway with the windows down. At random moments, I’d re-discover the power in my internal solitude. Each time, a brick of strength was laid on the foundation of “who I am.” By the time I met Aaron, I was extremely well-defined as an individual. I didn’t want to be by myself by that point in my life, but at least knew what kind of person I was on my own, and had plenty of strong bricks comprising my personal foundation.

I didn’t fully appreciate all of those moments of Here I am, just Shannon until I got married. Even when I was dating Aaron, or boyfriends before him, I never stopped captaining a solo ship. Sometimes– okay, often times– I really wanted to merge ships, but I never felt completely united with the other person, despite strenuous efforts to make it happen. Even when things were perfect, like when Aaron and I were dating and engaged, I couldn’t shake the overarching notion that I was an idiosyncratic being.

Complete individuality is a great thing to some extent, but I wasn’t prepared for how fundamentally (and quickly!) that notion would change upon marriage. Obviously I’m still very much “me,” in control of my own perspectives, and aware of my tendencies and preferences. The foundation I built while single now allows me to maintain a much healthier balance of attachment with my husband, but I’m also no longer alone. Not even a little bit.

Aaron has been deployed for 7 weeks, and never once have I felt like I’m flying solo. That isn’t because he emails me every day, but instead comes from knowing that I’m officially united with another person. I finally waved goodbye to my days as that “idiosyncratic being.” This unbreakable togetherness wasn’t some big mental switch I turned on once we said “I do.” It just happened. I can’t feel completely individualistic even when I try. Don’t mistake this for no longer being “me,” or get concerned that I’ve lost sight of “who I am.” Rather, another person simply joined the party– and I joined his– and there’s no exit door. We’re permanently trapped in a room together, but neither of us want to get out, so it’s pretty ideal. I wish I could explain it better– to put marriage into words. But I can’t. All I can say is that I’ll never, ever be single again in any sense of the term. And that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay! It’s the greatest!

Watching How To Be Single left me a tad nostalgic for those days of total solitude– as much as I cursed them at the time. If I’m being honest, I probably definitely wished them away far more often than I felt those aforementioned waves of strength and magic. Like I told Aaron, I never want to rewind, but my time as a single adult was a beautiful chapter in retrospect. It was challenging, growth-filled, and doused in outrageous, embarrassing, and poignant moments. Sharing my life and soul with another person will be just as remarkable, but singlehood laid the foundation on which this new chapter will thrive. Everyone told me to embrace it, and while I did my best, I rarely gave it the praise it deserved.

Better late than never! So, thank you, Singlehood. Thanks for taking my breath away when I stood in awe of the world, soaking in that it was just me and the Big Man Upstairs. Thanks for teaching me how crazy I am when I haven’t eaten, how susceptible I am to being led by heightened emotions, and how dangerously fast I give my heart to other people. Thanks for showing me how to enjoy just one glass of wine, an entire box of cheesy bread, and even the act of occasionally going to the gym. Thank you for gifting me such fulfilling friendships, and the extraordinary experiences I shared with them. Thank you for solidifying the delight I feel in my family’s presence, the need for God in my soul, and the passions I want to pursue (like this blog!). Thank you for all you did to prepare me for this new chapter of life. You served your purpose well.

 

dancing on bars

In remembrance of my single days.