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Life as a 29-Year-Old, Formerly-Good-Looking, Frustrated Virgin

“Get optimistic,” I grunt to my reflection. "Don’t you cry on me now.”

2011.

That was the last year I attended the wedding of someone older than me, and I go to tons of weddings. I’m drowning in an ocean of weddings, actually. I photograph them and am invited to them and have been in multiple bridal parties.

But they’re all for people younger than me. 

I watch these young punks exchange vows and kiss and have the most romantic pictures taken of them (sometimes by me) and then we dance and I’m legitimately happy for them and I’m not jealous, not at all.

I’ve reached the age where my seating placement is relegated to the table of the misfits and outcasts (read: other old single people), and I was invited to the wedding “because I was his youth pastor,” or “I mentored her through a tough time.” 

Then I get into one of my two cars (because I’m rich and single, ladies) and drive home alone and eat ice cream and definitely don’t cry.


Being single at 29-and-a-half would be all fine and dandy if tonight, when I came home, I hadn’t stubbed my toe and nearly punched a hole through my roommate who left candy wrappers all over the house. A puncturable offense? Not really. But my romantic desperation often transmogrifies into rage these days.

I was coming home late from the gym. I was actually there when they closed at midnight and we got booted.

And when I say ‘the gym,’ I really mean a stretched-tight sea of yoga pants, both on the TV screens and in person, wrapped around calves, thighs and butts which Every Man’s Battle told me to just ‘bounce my eyes away from,’ as if it were as easy as shooing away a fly. Throw in a fair amount of sports bras and sumo squats and you have my night at the gym. 

Or every night at the gym. 

Ever.

For the average married person, these tempting delights may be more easily swallowed knowing you have a warm bed and a partner to share it with waiting at home. 

One married friend once told me, “Let’s be real, Ethan. Everyone probably tells you that marriage won’t cure all your problems and desires, but the reality is, you go home to a cold twin-size mattress and a dog, while I go home to a loving wife who shares my bed. It doesn’t mean my life, or our marriage is perfect, but I acknowledge that there is a substantial difference there.”

So yah. 

Suck it, everyone who tried to tell me that marriage won’t make me feel better.

And if tonight happened but I was younger, I would be more optimistic. Each ticking of the clock’s hand wouldn’t cut me quite so deeply as I march on toward a lonely cemetery plot. I wouldn’t feel like every cute girl I failed to approach was the one who got away, while my hair grays and my muscles atrophy into dust. 

That happened tonight at the gym, actually. She was wearing Chucks like mine, so I figured I had a conversation opener, but then we kept missing each other. She headed for the cardio area as I went to the free weights, then we’d swap. There was never the prime opportunity to strike. 

I held the door for Yoga-Pants-and-Sports-Bra as we exited, asking her if she had a good workout. 

“Yes, what about you?” replied YPaSB without breaking her stride.

“Good.” I hung my head, realizing she wasn’t keen on chatting, and moped my way to my beautiful convertible Mustang which, evidently, I would NOT be sharing with Yoga-Pants-and-Sports-Bra tonight.

It’s not fun having your body shrivel up while your soul thirsts for intimacy. 


It’s not fun having people tell me that I’ll find the right one, or, just stop trying so hard to find her and that’s when God will bring her into your—(I couldn’t finish the sentence without physically gagging).

I also get told (surprisingly? unsurprisingly?) to just go out and have sex already! I mean, sure, I’ve waited this long; may as well just throw it all away now.

It’s also not fun to be told, you’re not THAT old. Because after 29 years of swings and misses, it gets a little tiring. Realistically, maybe 11 years of really trying, but still. If you can’t succeed at a task after more than a decade, it may be time to reevaluate your methods. 

Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. 


Or at least, that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every day as I examine my shell of a torso which used to have a higher quantity of abs and a lower quantity of gray hairs. 

“Get optimistic,” I grunt to my reflection through gritted teeth and fierce, saggy old eyes. “Get out there and kill it! You look good. You can do it. Don’t you cry on me now.”

Some days it works.

e

15 comments on “Life as a 29-Year-Old, Formerly-Good-Looking, Frustrated Virgin

  1. To be honest, I have this struggle too. I’m 27, but still—I’m at peace actually with my singleness, but the desire is still there, and I’ve had to learn that I can sit in both—feeling peace but also having that desire. But I think it’s definitely hard in your late 20’s when people around you are getting married and having kids and you are still single. I don’t think they talk about singleness well either in church, to be honest. I’ve been able to do a lot of fun things in my 20’s that I wouldn’t have been able to do (most likely) had I been married, but still—sometimes it would be nice to have a partner to do it with though. I think recognizing that while marriage doesn’t cure your problems—it is nice to have someone to come home too is good too (especially during this time of quarantine when life as a single person can be weird because meeting someone “organically” is not in the realm of possibility realistically. You can sit in both. Praying for you too and your journey.

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  2. Gary Jones

    Dear Ethan,

    My advice is to stop looking for a partner. Here is how it worked for me. I too was a virgin. I wanted to find a partner/wife. But, I had preconceived notions as to what I was looking for. So, these preconceived notions kept me from seeing the person God wanted me to find. Finally, at 31, I decided that I would just be happy being single and make the most of life with friends, work and family. I chose several things to keep me active. I became a Big Brother with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, joined a church and started to attend Young Republicans. Anyway, she was at Young Republicans. We hit it off right away but I was too timed to pursue her. So, God made her call me for our first date. Once again, she was not who I was looking for because she was divorced, and from the wrong side of the tracks. But turns out she was perfect. So, Ethan, be happy with yourself, pursue your interests, put your preconceived notions as to who is perfect out of your mind and God will present her to you.

    Sincerely, Gary

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  3. Dear Ethan,

    My advice is to stop looking for a partner. Here is how it worked for me. I too was a virgin. I wanted to find a partner/wife. But, I had preconceived notions as to what I was looking for. So, these preconceived notions kept me from seeing the person God wanted me to find. Finally, at 31, I decided that I would just be happy being single and make the most of life with friends, work and family. I chose several things to keep me active. I became a Big Brother with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, joined a church and started to attend Young Republicans. Anyway, she was at Young Republicans. We hit it off right away but I was too timed to pursue her. So, God made her call me for our first date. Once again, she was not who I was looking for because she was divorced, and from the wrong side of the tracks. But turns out she was perfect. So, Ethan, be happy with yourself, pursue your interests, put your preconceived notions as to who is perfect out of your mind and God will present her to you.

    Sincerely, Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved it! And I can feel so related. We should open a club or something 😂
    Meanwhile, develop my relationship with God had helped me, specially on the very hard days were I look at myself and wonder if I’m called to his vocation at all.

    Hugs and greetings from the DR 🇩🇴

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for writing this Ethan. After hearing from several single friends that the church isn’t very accommodating to single people, I have been paying more attention. And I think this article, as well as others you have written, gives good insight into the realities of what it’s like. Thank you.

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  6. Seriously! Why is this so relatable! I just turned 29 last Friday and had to look at myself in the mirror and say “Today, I will choose to have joy.” It’s something about recent birthdays that makes the day bittersweet. Oh. And I’ve definitely been to some weddings recently where some of the girls were ones that I have mentored. I couldn’t understand why they were so obsessed/stressed with the details of the wedding when the best gift was that they have a man to love. As much as I’d love a beautiful wedding, I’d get married in a brown paper bag if that meant I’d be with a man who loves me and loves God!

    Thanks for sharing. It reminded me that I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love sees beyond looks…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post. I’m 61. Never found my connection. It doesn’t really get easier. As I’m sure you know, sometimes you don’t notice it. But it’s always there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Seriously! Why is this so relatable! I just turned 29 last Friday and had to look at myself in the mirror and say “Today, I will choose to have joy.” It’s something about recent birthdays that makes the day bittersweet. Oh. And I’ve definitely been to some weddings recently where some of the girls were ones that I have mentored. I couldn’t understand why they were so obsessed/stressed with the details of the wedding when the best gift was that they have someone to love. As much as I’d love a beautiful wedding, I’d get married in a brown paper bag if that meant I’d be with a man who loves me and loves God!

    Thank you for the reminder that I’m not alone.

    Like

  10. Tony Silker

    Last paragraph was hilarious. Great punch in the narrative. Thanks for your candor, Ethan.

    Like

  11. One of my favorite posts you’ve written. Love the rawness as a fellow (older??) single guy. Prayers for you and the road ahead, Ethan.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello Ethan,
    I recently started reading your book on dating. I’ll maybe have more to say once I’ll have finished it 😀
    Right now, though, I can relate to what you experience, and, yes, you are not that old, you are young 🙂 I’m 36 and single (and a virgin and sometimes I feel like an abnormality), and I never would have thought that I’d be alone this long. There are days when the pain is visceral and brutal. And there are days when I fully experience gratitude over God’s blessings in my life. A few months before I turned 30, my engagement and the 3-year-relationship that in entailed ended. I was quite depressed at the idea of being 30, and felt like I had failed for several reasons. This was, of course, a lie. As single people, we have not failed our lives. And yes, it is so hard to see people around us getting married and having kids, and to guard ourselves from comparisons that only harm us. What keeps me going is reminding myself that everything I experience can be a part of God’s perfect plan for my life. I have especially had to stand on that as a relationship I had much hope for was ended out of the blue with no explanation 5 months ago (I’m still processing it and wonder when will I stop thinking of him every day).
    So may this promise of our Papa be a lifeline for you, too – he makes all things work together for your good. I’m not saying it as an overheard “mantra” that makes one blasé; it comes from a place of raw emotions and hard experiences.
    Thank you for your honest and humorous posts.
    Greetings from Paris, France.

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  13. While I know this post was honest and probably a painful reality of your current situation, I do appreciate the candor. And my gosh, I wish that you could tie an easy bow on it and tell you it gets better. Coming from the celibate-gay camp, being single in your 30’s does suck. You at least can hold onto the glimmer that you will someday meet the queen of your dreams. To be honest, it is nice to see a “formerly-good-looking” guy who is navigating singleness honestly… speaks to opportunity for character growth. Most good looking people land their marriage plane without any hindrance and so they rarely experience the opportunity to be single. I hope that this will give you the capacity to relate, provide relationship and hopefully be an advocate for those who are single later on in life… but from a straight perspective.

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  14. Oh my word I relate to this SO much! Would it help to hear it’s even worse for women (especially those that want children some day?!). Twenty five has been the first year of my life having to trust Christ for a spouse has felt like a truly gutwrenching occupation. Thank you for writing this funny and relatable piece! 🤪😭🙌🙏

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  15. This post was hilarious, mostly because I can relate. Well whatever is the female version of it. The realness is much appreciated. This prolonged singleness sucks sometimes. But it is what it is. I know you might roll your eyes (which is making me lol) when I encourage you and say your girl will show up, hang tight.

    Like

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