Smells Like Teen Spirit


He let me wear his coat during class that day.

It was brown corduroy lined with cream shearling. It was too big even for him but such was fashion in the 90s. Swaths of fabric pooled around my body. I pushed the thick sleeves back whenever I needed to take notes.

Tim* sat in front of me, stoic without his armor. The coat smelled like CK1 and cigarettes. I didn't know for sure he smoked until then. I breathed in his scent, knowing this might be my only chance.

Our school's heating system heated indiscriminately and this wing of the building ran cold. There wasn't always time to grab my winter coat from my locker before class. I couldn't believe he'd offered it to me when he could have offered it to Stacey instead. I could never compete with one of the most popular girls in school. But no, he'd overheard us talking about how cold we were and settled his coat on my shoulders before I even understood what he said. My shoulders. Not hers. 

What was this life?

I barely had a chance to thank him before class began and we took our seats.

Doc Wilder started the lesson as I stared at the back of Tim's head wondering what had just happened. It didn't make any more sense to me but a lick of hope curled through me. Maybe this meant something. Maybe this crush would not end unrequited.

I looked at the way his hair fell and the shape of his ears. I took in his posture and how he always seemed at home in his body, something I appreciate more now as an adult. He was funny and irreverent and smart. He embodied the grunge look so well and God help me but I wanted to be Courtney Love to his Kurt Cobain- if they'd had a healthy relationship. Like a much, much healthier version.

The day he gave me his coat was not the first time we'd talked but it was the first time I wondered if he was paying better attention to our pre-class conversations than I thought. He saw me and nothing makes me fall harder for someone than that. 

Class ended and it was time for lunch. I peeled off his coat and gave it back to him, immediately chilled. We strolled through the hallway, chatting as usual, and then headed in different directions. He gave me his usual smile and my stomach flipped in return. I wondered if anything had changed. If anything would change.

Nothing changed.

A week later, desperation clawed through me. What had his kind gesture meant? I needed a sign.

"Can I borrow your coat again?" The question slipped out as I looked up into his clear blue eyes. I immediately wished I could lasso the words back. My face turned red and electricity snapped through me. I was a live wire of vulnerability. I was asking for his coat but I was asking for so much more.

Annoyance swept over his face. After all, it was freezing. Whatever had motivated his gentlemanly behavior before was no longer in play. But he still shrugged it off and let me borrow it once more. I knew better than to ask again. I tamped my feelings back down. When class ended, I shrugged off the coat and put my crush back on the shelf.

And that was that. 

A year later he started dating one of my friends, a bubbly Pollyanna type. I was mystified how this bad boy could see something in her he didn't see in me. He was a perpetual question mark.

Why had he given me his coat that day? Did he ever think I was attractive? What could I have done differently to call him mine?

Not too long ago I caught a whiff of cK1 and I was transported back to the classroom, his face smiling at me, and the heft of that coat pooled around me. I felt the ache of wanting him. More than 20 years have passed but I still wonder. 


*Names have been changed because you may feel like writing about your high school crush but that doesn't mean you want your crush to Google himself and find out about it.

Hosting A Holiday Meal? Add Another Chair To The Table

Hosting A Holiday Meal? Add Another Chair To The Table via

If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this week, can I please ask you a favor?

Consider adding another chair or two to the table.

Extend an invitation to someone who is single or the married couple down the street or the family living far from their extended family. Think about your neighbor or your co-worker. Think about the people who are estranged from their families or who no longer have any family. Remember the orphan and the widow.

If you're not sure if someone has plans, ask them what they're doing and then invite them to stop by your house.

Since I moved out of state 6+ years ago, I've only made it back home for Thanksgiving once. Every year friends (single and married alike) have asked me to join their gathering and it has meant the world. Last year I went to Friendsgiving and it was possibly the best Thanksgiving I've ever been to. (Sorry, family.)

It is neat to see other people's holiday traditions and staples and I always bring something to share. I rarely notice the state of someone's home because I'm too busy having fun, catching up with friends and getting to know their friends, spouses, and/or extended family. I've been to every kind of holiday gathering, whether 4th of July or Thanksgiving, and all that ever matters is someone wanted me to be there.

Maybe you'll invite them and they'll say no. Not everyone wants to have holiday plans but I suspect most people do. 

So please. Think about someone who might need to feel like they belong somewhere and invite them into your home. You won't regret it.


This was originally published on my Facebook page and has been lightly edited for clarity.

An Ideal Single Life

An Ideal Single Life via


"I need to...make plans for a solo future. What do I want the rest of my life to look like? And how soon do I start shaping that future?"  -journal entry December 25, 2015

Throughout January and February of this year, I began dreaming about what my ideal single life would look like. Taking a future husband out of the equation entirely: what would a happy, whole life look like for me? What would need to be in place for me to feel I'm living my best life?

While I've gone hard after the life I want, I've never framed my singleness with any particular intentionality either, probably because I thought at some point I'd get married. In more recent years, I've looked for mentors and I've pondered what a good single life would look like but that's as far as it's gone.

And yet the years keep passing by and I'm as single as ever and now I'm firmly in my mid-30s and swiftly approaching my late 30s. So I've been dreaming and taking the time to live some of this out, to see how it felt, to see how it might shape my decisions and my future.

I came up with 5 pillars of my ideal single life. The first two came to mind immediately and by the end of April the other three had locked into place. There could be more but almost every other idea fit into the original five pillars.

I'm curious about what other people would choose for their own pillars. How many similarities would there be and how they might uniquely reflect the person who created them. Is there much variation between men and women? Is there value in encouraging "younger" singles to do this? 

It has been incredibly helpful to use these pillars as a filter and a gauge. In fact, it's been freeing. Part of me wishes I'd had them in place a decade ago. I don't think it would have changed any of my big decisions but it might have made the process of deciding easier. Either way, I'm glad they're in place now and I'm excited to see how they continue shaping my life in the coming months and years.


5 Pillars of My Ideal Single Life: 

1. Meaningful Career

I want to find work that challenges me and is meaningful. I want room to grow on a career trajectory. I want to feel excited when I arrive at work each day. (Or at least most days.)

I've never been a workaholic but I do love the feeling of accomplishment and knowing I've done my best and made a difference in peoples' lives. Wherever I work, I want to know I'm making a contribution to my team and the organization/company. I've been supporting myself since college and I'm a big fan of a decent paycheck but that's not what motivates me. At the same time, I want to make enough money to support my interests and eventual retirement.

When I started working as a social worker, I figured I'd do it until I got married and had children. Instead, Mr. Right neglected to come calling and I burned out on my chosen profession. It's important for me to have a good work-life balance, no matter what I'm doing. This was a big part of why I retired from social work- the balance was no longer there, no matter what I tried.

It's taken me some time post-social work to figure out the next right career path but I finally have direction and I'm really excited about the possibilities. When I picture myself in this field, I can't help but smile.


2. Committed Diverse Community

It's important to have a strong circle of local friends whom I see regularly. Since my 30s, that particular combination has felt like the Holy Grail at times. I might have really good friends who I saw regularly or acquaintances who I saw regularly but the relationship never grew deeper. Part of that is due to this time in our lives, especially given how many of my friends are raising young kids. It's tricky to find friends with same availability and interests, which makes them worth their weight in gold when you find them.

It's also important to have friends who are different from me, not for the sake of diversity, but because we have so much to learn from one another and that is what makes life interesting. 

I also think it would be delightful to be friends with my neighbors to the point where our homes are open to one another for spontaneous meals and movies and hang out time. I haven't really had that since college.


3. Hospitable Home

I love entertaining, whether dinner parties or getting a group together for a show or to go dancing. This is what I was known for through most of my 20s. I still had people over here and there when I lived in Nashville but the way my house was set up wasn't conducive for entertaining. This is a priority for wherever I live next. I want people to feel relaxed and cared for when they come over, whether popping by for tea or eating a meal.

I also want to have a guest room for both short-term and long-term visitors. (It's even on my Life List.) This is even more important to me after the past year of living with dear friends. Their hospitality has changed my life for the better in ways big and small. I would love to be able to bestow that same gift on someone(s) else some day.


4. Safe, Navigable City

As a single woman, I am always aware of my surroundings, even more so now that I use public transportation on an almost daily basis. I can't afford not to be. At the same time, I'm not afraid of walking by myself. I'm simply smart about it. I'm aware.

Some day, Safeher will be in every city and I will rejoice. In the meantime, I do my best to get to where I need to be and I give thanks and praise for areas with a decent amount of parking. 


5. Regular Travel

There are still so many places I want to explore and so many places I want to go back to and so many friends I still need to visit. It's been 10 years since I went to Ireland and I cannot believe I haven't been back yet. There are still 20 states I need to check off. Don't even get me started on how many road trips I've dreamed up! I have yet to visit France, Italy, and Germany, even though my major goal in college was to study abroad. Oh, the sadness of dreams deferred! I think that's why regular travel is such a priority for me. I'm still making up for lost time.


Favorite Books On Singleness


Books on marriage still far (far!) outweigh books on singleness but it seems like books on singleness are making more of a splash when they are published. I hope this trend continues!


All The Single LadiesAll The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation- Rebecca Traister

At the top of my Books I Gush Over list, you'll find this one. This is a remarkable undertaking, not only because of the scope of Traister's research and interviews but because of how well it's compiled together. She manages to validate a number of singles' experiences, while also acknowledging her shortcomings, namely the bulk of her examples are white women in their 30s and 40s in NYC. However, she does feature stories from Women Of Color, as well as drawing from research and other works. What I loved is how validated I felt as a single woman. There was good food for thought- I especially loved the chapters about cities and friendship. There's also pointed critiques of society and religion, which is much needed in this age of marginalization. You don't need to be single to gain insights from this book- in fact, I'd encourage everyone to read it. But if you are single, you'll walk away feeling heard and seen and maybe even inspired.





Bachelor GirlBachelor Girl: The Secret History Of Single Women In The Twentieth Century- Betty Israel

This is a thorough social history of single women, particularly in the United States and primarily white, and how their plight has changed over the years. The way Israel depicts the stigma single women faced in each particular era and the ways this stigma plays out still to this day is equally fascinating and horrifying. It made me grateful to be single now instead of then, even though singleness today is not without its own challenges. (This also highlights the need for books focusing on single women of color.)







Going SoloGoing Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone- Eric Klinenberg

Well researched look at the benefits of living alone, as well as societal bias against it. Klinenberg raises great questions about aging alone and the way legislation and health care is currently structured. The research is especially worth taking a look at. 








Singled OutSingled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After- Bella DePaulo

A fascinating and fair portrayal of the benefits of singleness, along with helpful critique of marriage and happiness studies. Ahem, married people are not more happier than singles, despite what poorly conducted and widely disseminated research says. DePaulo doesn't spend much time discussing her own singleness and very little time addressing singles who would like to be married. That weakened some of her argument for me but I still recommend this to anyone interested in the topic.






SpinsterSpinster: Making A Life Of One's Own- Kate Bolick

Spinster is an exploration of singleness as the culmination, not the interim of life. Full of sound insights and observations, Bolick believes singleness is to be celebrated. It is enough in and of itself. But we have hardly any examples of what the fulfilling single life looks like. Part memoir, part biography, and part social science, Bolick considers her relationships and her resistance to marriage, while envisioning a fulfilling single life.

Woven through Bolick's own story are profiles of her 5 Awakeners: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. These women became her guides to what the single life could be about. As I read about each Awakener, it became clear why Bolick was drawn to them and what lessons they could teach her. Almost all of these women married at some point and then divorced, which seemed fitting for her fear of commitment. However, I could not relate to them, nor did I agree with many of Bolick's choices. While Bolick's life choices are very different from my own, I did relate to her quest for mentors and guides, as well as external affirmation of her decision to remain single, both of which resonated with me. 



It's Not YouIt's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single- Sara Eckle

This book would have been so helpful to read in my early to mid-20s. I've worked through most of these "reasons" already but it was a helpful affirmation of where I'm at now. I like how Eckel wove in Buddhist philosophies and championed mindfulness- it made the book stand out from others along those lines. 





What are your favorite books on singleness?

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Tired Of Waiting (On Advent and Singleness)


I wrote this for a publication who ended up not running it after all. Advent may have ended but I worked hard on this piece. Since there are 12 days of Christmas, I thought I'd publish it anyway. I'm still looking for the light in this season. Maybe you are, too.


As a child, I loved everything about Christmas. The carols, decorating the tree, the candlelight Christmas Eve services, and even the snow. The ultimate anticipation lay with what we might find beneath the tree. It was always worth the wait, even if I didn’t get everything on my Christmas list.

I believed waiting for something always ended with a resolution. You wait. You receive that which you’re waiting for.

Then I grew up and realized that’s not how life works. At least, not for most of us.

I check ring fingers reflexively. The guy reading a book while on MUNI, the musician at church, the man in front of me at a coffee shop. My eyes slip to his left hand before zeroing in on the ring finger. He is sorted, whether or not we ever actually interact.

A few months ago I sat in a room full of dear friends and told them falling in love seemed impossible. I cried as I confessed my deepest fear about the dream I’ve held since childhood: I’ll never get married.

I thought I’d marry straight out of college and have my first child in my mid-20s. Instead, it’s been a few years since my last promising date. No matter where I’ve lived, intriguing single men have proven hard to come by and I am left aching to share my life with someone.

Next month I’ll turn 36. I have an otherwise good life. Though I have plenty of years before me, falling in love no longer feels likely. There have been too many false starts. Too many years leaving me no closer to a long-term relationship. How on earth could it possibly happen now?

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to expectantly wait for a dream when there is no guarantee. I feel my singleness more keenly during the holidays. Advent reminds us we are waiting but I don’t need that particular reminder.

I am tired of waiting.

With Advent, we remember how long the world waited for a Savior. We read in Luke about Simeon who was promised he would not die before he had seen Christ and about Anna the Prophetess who “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Luke doesn’t say how old Simeon was when he finally beheld the infant Jesus at the temple. I was taught he was a very old man. Anna is described as very old, a widow who was married only 7 years before her husband died. Sunday School lessons emphasized how blessed Simeon and Anna were. What amazing faith they had. They waited and they received.

For centuries the Israelites looked forward to a day when the Messiah would come at last and set them free. Centuries of waiting. How many Israelites died without seeing that dream realized?

They waited but they did not receive.

Did they give up hope? Did they have days like me where their dream seemed impossible? How did they resolve the tension between now and not yet in their lifetime?

Why were Simeon and Anna worthy while so many were not?

Waiting is not meant to be a passive activity. We choose how we will wait: with expectancy, bitterness, resignation, hope, excitement, boredom. Whatever it is I’m waiting for, I try to anticipate the goodness that might be around the bend. Emphasis on the word try.

Some years I’ve fared better than others. I’ve watched other dreams come to fruition. I’ve felt alive with the possibility: love could find me at any moment. It could all change in an instant. It’s still true but the possibility feels more and more distant. The dream of marriage is slipping through my fingers.

Even though I was raised in non-denominational Christian churches, I’ve never been good about memorizing scripture. There is one exception: Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I stumbled onto it my junior year of college. Wait for the Lord. I’ve lassoed the edge of this verse in seasons of loss, stress, and frustration. It carried me through unemployment and underemployment, the death of loved ones, matters of social justice, and my conflicted feelings about still being single. It reassured me God was at work, some way, somehow, even if I couldn’t see it.

The longer I’ve been single, the more difficult it is to see how he is at work. There is no reason why I’m not married, other than not having met the right guy. In my lowest moments, I look at people who I deem less than me in some way and wonder why they have a spouse and I don’t. But there is simply no rhyme or reason.

This is the tension I must live with: the not knowing, the wait stretching year after year, the dream deferred.

I haven’t known how to approach the holiday season the last several years. On a day to day basis, I don’t often think about being single until something happens to remind me. Advent is a constant reminder of what I hope for and what I doubt I’ll receive.

Everything is geared around families, especially at church. Places of worship are no longer sources of refuge. They are a reminder of what I don’t have. It has become harder to darken a sanctuary door, even for those candlelight Christmas services I adored as a child.

Whereas I used to marvel over Simeon and Anna’s eleventh hour miracle, I feel more kinship with the Israelites who wandered and waited and never received.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I pulled out a book of readings. It will be my daily practice in the coming weeks as I strain to see the light. My God, how I need to see the light this season.

Christmas is tinged bittersweet, it’s true, but there is respite from the ache. I listen to Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas and watch Buddy the Elf run through a revolving door. My breath catches at the sight of Christmas trees aglow with white lights and handmade ornaments. I can’t wait until my family has toasted with eggnog.

I look at my loved ones who do not allow me to carry this burden alone. All of this reminds me God is the giver of all good gifts, even if I never receive the gift I want most.

I’m tired of waiting but Advent is here, helping me wait one more year.