C was the first boy I ever went out with and he took me to see Along Came Polly at the West Orange 5 Movie Theater in Windermere my junior year of high school. He picked me up at my house in a Dodge Neon and I was so nervous the whole time that still to this day I have no idea what that movie is about. I didn’t really find him particularly interesting or exciting… I didn’t really find him particularly Anything, actually. But he was kind and tall and handsome and on the football team and after having 6th period P.E. with him for a semester, he knew my name well enough to tell me I was funny and ask me to the movies and so I went.

We spent most of our short relationship playing in the gym after school or hanging out at the ice cream shop where I worked. He came to a few of my basketball games and burned me a mix CD with the words “For Morgan” in Sharpie with little stars shooting out from my name. He had deep, soft blue eyes and opened doors for me and passed me notes at school and would wait for me in the parking lot after class to say bye. And then… just as quickly as it started… it ended. We were sitting in the high school gym after our respective sports practices laughing about something silly the principal said on the announcements that morning when he said it, abruptly, like he’d almost forgot and wanted to blurt it out before it was too late.

I think I’m gonna go home. I think I’m done here.

He told me he just didn’t like me anymore. He told me it wasn’t personal, really, I just wasn’t pretty enough for him. His friends were giving him a hard time about me. They didn’t think I was cool. Head bowed, shuffling his feet backwards towards his backpack he said he was sorry for everything. He looked up at me and said one of the most devastating and haunting things I’ve ever heard: You’re great. I don’t care what they say.  I know you are cool. But… you’re just not pretty enough for a guy like me… for my friends. But what he said next was the real heartbreaker; an attempt at an apology that morphed into a harbinger of a lifetime of self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. But… I need you to know that you’re too cool for the nerdy guys… guys more your type… so… I don’t know.  I really hope it all works out. I’m sorry.

I was 17. I remember looking down at my feet on the wooden gym floor, frozen.

I really hope it all works out.

I have been worried about that statement for 10 years. Not pretty enough for cool boys and too cool for the guys more my speed. In that moment, amongst a thousand self-conscious thoughts— about my body, about my face, about my teeth, my nose, my voice, my brain, my everything— the fear of it not working out for me set-in. Seventeen-years-old and already wondering if I would die a lonely old spinster. I could feel the stray cats closing in on me; their itchy fur finding their way to my lonely heart and nestling in for a lifetime of purring while I heated up Lean Cuisine’s for One in the microwave.

College came and went and so did the crushes and date-nights and boys… but nothing ever worked out.

The sin of single people is not different from that of married people. Pride and the need for approval and validation from a man and from society weigh heavily on my tattered, sinful, lonely heart. The trap for many single women is a whispered lie from the garden— God is withholding something from you and because of it, you are incomplete. It’s easy for us to hear the echoed words of scripture “it is not good for man to be alone” and translate them through the scarred tissue of a heart that beats in isolation: you are not good, and you are alone. 

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a deeply flawed and sinful woman. A woman who longs to be seen as something other than just a broken, unwanted soul. To be loved. To be understood. To be picked up and held close by one who sees my marred body, with all its imperfections and shortcomings, and chooses me anyway. I’m sure, though, that this is no different than the way married women see themselves. We all long to be naked and unashamed, as we were in the garden. What we all want is Jesus.

Honestly, the only man who comes to my door looking for me these days is the UPS guy because I recently discovered you can order tampons and toilet paper from Amazon Prime. (YOU KNOW Ain’t nobody got time to buy those in the store!) And it’s hard not to feel stalled in life when all around me, life seems to be getting on: marriage, houses, babies, second babies…

One of the things I’d like for this blog to be (without becoming a BLAHG) is a place to sort out and hopefully sort through whatever delayed emotional trauma I suffered that fateful day in the high school gym.  I’ve learned a lot recently— about myself, about being single, about God, about patience, about love, about burning Christmas trees, about hope, about truth, about surviving sub-10-degree temperatures… I’m figuring it all out. Until then… my feet are unfrozen, walking towards something. Only 2014 will show it. 

morgan cogswellwritings