Still single after all these weeks

Neenah Pickett's plan to find a husband in a year didn't work -- but it shouldn't be called a failure

Topics: Love Happens, Broadsheet,

About 53 weeks ago, Neenah Pickett launched a year-long husband-landing project at the blog 52 Weeks 2 Find Him. As she wrote in a recent post, prior to the project, she had “over a decade of experience of doing nothing to find a husband. From the time I was 22 years old through the age of 36, I didn’t spend any effort on finding love. I lived a very full life. I had lots of friends, was social and active in my community, and even volunteered on a regular basis. I had a great job, yet didn’t spend any more or less hours at work than any of the other people my age in NYC. But in those 14 years, I had only 2 dates.” So Pickett decided to put serious effort into dating for a year, in hopes of finding a man to spend her life with — and, as you do, she chronicled the experience online.

The year is now over, and Neenah Pickett is still single. Turns out hard work and determination won’t necessarily bring you love by a certain deadline — go figure. There’s no doubt that Pickett’s predictable failure to meet her goal leaves her open to snarking and scolding galore. Everyone knows you can’t hurry love, that trying too hard will ruin everything. Everyone knows The One only turns up when you’re not looking. Everyone knows women who admit they want to get married come across as desperate and off-putting. And P.S., everyone knows a successful career gal should be happy alone, and if she’s not, that means feminism’s a bust and women should just admit that they’d all be happier back in their traditional roles as full-time wives and mothers.

Everyone knows a lot of things that grossly oversimplify the human desire for love and the nature of attraction, much of that “knowledge” revolving around the theme that women are peculiarly needy and, if they wish to date men, must focus all their energy on pretending they’re not. (Lesbians, of course, have their choice of equally needy partners — fire up the U-Haul!) The only way you’ll get a man to commit to you is if you act like it’s the furthest thing from your mind — which means your best bet is to focus on being as pretty, charming and non-threatening as possible and, once a potential love is on the horizon, never doing anything that might spook him, like admitting what you want out of a relationship.



Funny how that dovetails with long-standing gender roles and sexist expectations, although it’s now dressed up as the self-respecting, even vaguely feminist choice — only the most pathetic,  unenlightened woman would openly act like she might be happier in a committed relationship, right? Even if she’s pretty sure she would. Saying you want a man because you happen to be straight and lonely is just too dangerously close to saying you need one and single-handedly sending women back to the dark ages! It’s much safer for your own heart and indeed the sisterhood if you squelch your desires and wait patiently for someone to come along and deem you dateworthy. Just as women have always been trained to do, but never mind that. (Perhaps the popularity of “The Rules” can be explained by the simple fact that it gives women something to do while furiously pretending we’re doing nothing.)

That Neenah Pickett remains husband-free after knocking herself out to change that status can — and no doubt will — be presented as further evidence that desperation is the ultimate turn-off and playing hard to get is the only viable option for women who wish to be got. But focusing on her marital status means ignoring what she did achieve in the last 52 weeks. She went on over 30 dates — some of which she describes as “awesome” — gaining new insight into her preferences and her own behavior. In her final post of the project, she says, “I found courage, I found friendship, and I found acceptance. I shared what was on my heart hoping that it would resonate with a few. But as it turns out, there were many — thousands all across the globe.” Hmm, that doesn’t sound so bad to me. “I also learned more than I bargained for, from how to treat others, and when to trust myself, to finding peace in the midst of hurt. I also learned to laugh a lot (especially at myself), and discovered ways to create adventures, so that I could hurdle burnout and the mundane.” Neither does that. And how about this? “These 52 weeks will go down in my personal history books as one of the best years ever!”

Neenah Pickett’s experiment can be seen as a cautionary tale for women who get it into their silly heads that admitting what they want and going after it are good ideas. But it can just as easily be seen as an inspiration: Whether or not abandoning passivity and pretense will lead you to The One, it can lead to laughter, new friendships, greater self-awareness and having one of the best years of your life. Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot more fun than sitting on your hands, waiting to be pursued? 

Kate Harding is the co-author of "Lessons From the Fatosphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body" and has been a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>