I have a habit of nicknaming myself.
There’s “Frankie,” of course–my mum gave me that nickname because of the movie Frankie and Johnny, which I love because I see a lot of myself in Frankie. (Maybe it’s true what they say–your name helps define who you become?)
There’s “NC”–my middle initials. I started using them as a name when I started publishing fanfiction, because it sounded cool and vaguely author-ly.
There’s “Key,” which is basically a shortened Frankie.
There’s “Tweet,” which I got in sophomore year of university because of an inside joke between me and my friend Inah. The nickname didn’t last, though.
There’s “Panda,” which is what the DJs of Mellow 94.7’s The Factory call me, due to my then-predilection for dancing around in a panda hoodie.
…and there’s “Lonelygirl.”
I made up “Lonelygirl” the summer I spent in Starbucks Pearl, which was incidentally the summer I was obsessed with Gossip Girl (in general) and Ed Westwick (in particular). It was one of those summers when I desperately wanted to be in love with someone while falling out of love with someone else. A celebrity–by nature unattainable and more than a little bit imaginary–was a great distraction, but there was still that nagging sensation in my heart (somewhere in the left ventricle) that Ed Westwick wasn’t enough.
That, coupled with the fact that I did actually spend most of those long afternoons alone, commandeering a booth at Starbucks, gave birth to the nickname “Lonelygirl at Starbucks Pearl.” And even after I stopped going to Starbucks regularly (budget, obvs), the “Lonelygirl” name (branding?) stuck–“Lonelygirl: The Elinor Adventures”; “Lonelygirl’s Excellent Brazilian Adventure,” “hashtag-Lonelygirl.”
You could say it’s become a habit, calling myself “Lonelygirl.” And, at least in one respect, the world would not disagree with the label.
I’ve noticed that, in the eyes of a lot of people, I’m kind of old (at a decrepit twenty-one) to have never had a boyfriend (or even a first kiss). Even my mum’s friends’ reassurances of “You’re still so young!” are beginning to sound increasingly hesitant, followed more and more with “Maybe you haven’t been looking?” “Maybe you keep turning people down?”
To be honest, I have been looking. Or, rather, had been. For most of my late-teenage years I jumped from crush to crush, crashing and burning in my search for The One, or at the very least someone who fit the bill at the time. Some of them were pretty great. Some…not so much. A few were very nearly something.
But, in the end, nothing happened. Or, well, nothing that can be called a “relationship” or even a “romance.”
Throughout those years, I found myself often taking to social media to rail against my consistently-single state. I carved a niche for myself as the “bitter-love” girl, who could be counted upon to bash romance and relationships…while at the same time writing poems full of love and longing while “On My Own” played on loop in the background. Complaining about being single and apparently unlovable became a habit, something that defined my personality just as much as the self-proclaimed nickname of “Lonelygirl.”
…and yet, on the (very) odd chance that a guy would actually like me enough to make a move, to hint at the possibility of something, to maybe end my single state…I always shot him down. Even when I thought I could like him–and in one case I really liked him–I said no. I backed off. I said I wasn’t ready for a relationship. When he would (inevitably) ask me why, I would recite a spiel on being too immature, too emotionally unstable, too jealous, too selfish to consider having someone in my life. I’d reel that off, rapid-fire, with all the earnestness I could muster, and in the end the boy would go on his merry way and I’d stand there thinking that perhaps that was my chance but I refused to take it.
Looking back on those years, though, I’m glad I refused to take any of those chances. Despite the fact that I probably sounded incredibly self-righteous reciting that laundry-list of reasons, the truth is I was right. I was, I am, not ready to be in a relationship yet, for the simple reason that this isn’t my time for romance. Rather, it is my time for something else.
Girls are often compared to flowers, “blooming” into womanhood. I don’t like that illustration very much–it tends to sound cheesy or vaguely obscene–but there is some truth to it, in that flowers–plants in general–are governed by seasons, by steps in growth. You need to grow a root system first before it can flower, otherwise the weight of the blossom will cause the plant to tip over or result in a bloom that fades too early. Plants know this, which is why some refuse to bloom when the soil isn’t rich enough or the rains haven’t come. Instead, they wait, biding their time, gathering strength, waiting for those roots to sink down deep to support the beauty that lies ahead.
All those years I was waiting, whining, looking, and running after the ideal of romance were years that I neglected my roots in favor of trying to force flowers out of season. But it wasn’t my time: I was neither secure, mature, nor disciplined enough for a relationship. The proof? My relationship with God.
There’s a reason why, in Revelation, God refers to himself as the church’s “first love”–because that is what he is supposed to be. Your first love. Because He is love, personified and codified in the take-no-prisoners terms of 1 Corinthians 13: patient, kind; never envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily-angered; and keeping no record of wrongs. God is an all-in-all love, and he pursues a relationship with us so that we learn to reflect the same. He is the root system that defines the flower and, eventually, the fruit. Without a connection to him, we are incapable of any other kind of love, whether familial or friendly or romantic.
Looking back on college-age Frankie, with her self-righteous spieling and nagging insecurities, it was obvious that I was not ready for love. And I’m still not quite there yet now. But instead of fighting the isolation, the “loneliness” of not having a “significant other,” I’ve learned that there really is no rush. That there may be (will be?) season of romantic love for me, but now is not it. Right now, I am growing roots that stretch deep into nurturing soil, drinking deep and being prepared for the next level, the next stage, and confident that when the time comes–however it manifests–God will move me forward into full bloom.
I have made peace with the “Lonelygirl” identity, because I know that even as I am “lonely”–that is, single–I am not lonely at all. Instead, I am loved, and learning to love, so that when the time comes, I won’t feel the need to spiel, or make excuses. I will know, because He will have told me, “It’s time to bloom where you’ve been planted. Your season has come.”
(Stay tuned for Part 6.)