My husband and I take our seats at a table as our waiter welcomes us. Pleasantries are exchanged and our drinks ordered. Once the waiter leaves our table, I glance around the small, quiet café. I enjoy our occasional kid-free lunch dates where we can sit and talk without feeling rushed.

As I survey the few other occupied tables, those who also have chosen this quiet hour before the mid-day rush, I notice an elderly couple talking softly as they sit side-by-side. I see a young family with a sleeping baby in her car seat and a toddler happily coloring on a kid’s menu while mom and dad quickly scan their own menus.

And in the corner, toward the back of the restaurant, I see a woman in her late 20s or early 30s sitting by herself, sipping a cup of coffee as she casually looks up from her phone. I catch her eye and smile. She quickly smiles her reply and looks back down at her phone as if something urgent needed her full attention. I notice her bare ring finger as she swipes through her phone.

Hmm, I wonder what her story is . . . presumably unmarried . . . single, divorced, or widowed? Maybe she is actively dating in pursuit of her soul mate or perhaps she’s completely content and happily single? Most likely a combination . . . content yet hopeful. Yeah, I bet that’s it . . . I still remember those days . . . 

I shift my focus back onto my lunch date. It’s been six years since my husband and I got married, eight years since we first met, but I still remember what it felt like to be single. Not just “marital status: single”. I mean “dating life: single”. The type of single status that only goes out on a date every blue moon yet strongly desires someone to share life with. Hopeful it will happen someday, yet trying to be content in the present.

I’ll never forget what it was like to be single in a world that caters toward couples, marriages, and families. Probably because my husband was my first real boyfriend, and we didn’t meet until I was in my mid-twenties. Between my high standards and general distaste for the “dating scene” I never found anyone who was worth wasting kisses on.

In fact, my husband was my first kiss. I’ll never forget that kiss . . . it was at my apartment where we were lazily watching a movie one Sunday afternoon. At one point, my soon-to-be-fiancé covered me with a blanket as he leaned toward my face. His lips softly touched my cheek. He knew not to kiss me until I was ready, but that day, I was ready. I was 26 years old when I finally experienced my first kiss from my first and only boyfriend, and it was well worth the wait.

As my mind wanders down memory lane, I quickly reach across the table to grab my husband’s hand so I can kiss the freckle on his palm. We knowingly exchange appreciative smiles then return our attention back to our menus in front of us. When you’ve waited and prayed for your future spouse as long as I did, your gratitude only grows stronger when you recall all those special firsts with your one and only.

I glance back at the woman sipping her coffee and recall the days when I felt I had finally mastered the cool, casual dining-out-solo look. I remember there was a time when I finally had enough of sitting around and waiting for Mr. Right. If I wanted to go out to eat at my favorite restaurant and people-watch or see the latest chick flick in theatres, well, I could just go treat myself! So I did!

I remember what it’s like to be the third wheel, fifth wheel, and any other odd-numbered wheel on group outings. I know what it’s like to be single while all your friends are dating, getting married, and having kids. And I remember what it’s like to secretly dread the holidays and family reunions where someone inevitably always asked, “So, are you dating anyone?” Or “maybe I could set you up with so and so . . .” Urg!

I always felt like people saw me as less interesting of a person for not having a boyfriend. Like I wasn’t yet complete. Certainly, that’s the societal pressure that’s been placed on women and men alike, and I bought into that lie over and over again as a single lady in my teens and 20s.

Turning my attention to the present and back onto my husband again, we proceed to enjoy our kid-free lunch. We talk and laugh like our dating days before marriage. It’s so very refreshing to have these moments alone together without chasing after our toddler son.

We pay for our meal and get ready to head back to reality, but as we’re exiting the café, I remember the woman and glance back at her. She’s watching us as we exit the restaurant hand-in-hand. I smile and give a slight wave. There’s a hint of sadness in her eyes as she casually smiles and nods her goodbye before shifting her focus toward the waiter refilling her coffee.

I remember that look . . . admiration and envy combined. She wants what we have, a relationship, someone to do life with. I ache for her because I remember that feeling all too well. You can’t live most your young adult years single and just forget as soon as you get married.

As we make our way to the car, I ponder on the blessing of marriage. I have a wonderful man to share my life and grow old with, and for that, I am forever grateful. But my single years will always be etched in my memory. Not everyone can say they remember or even know what it’s like to be single for very long; the good, the bad, the ups and downs, but I will never forget.

So as we make our way back home and before my mind starts wandering toward family matters, I consider the single woman in the café. I ponder my girlfriends and family members who are currently single. And I allow myself to be taken back to the times I cried myself to sleep when the loneliness was more than I could bear. Recalling that pain, I say a prayer for the single lady in the café:

Lord, I don’t know her story, and I don’t know what you have planned for her life, but please help her to know how loved she is by You. Help her to feel complete, full, enough, lacking nothing at all. Help her to truly know she is so deeply and passionately loved by You. And if it’s what her heart desires, please bring her someone to share life with because I know firsthand how sweet life is when it’s shared with someone you love. Amen.

So to all the single ladies and men (whether you’re divorced with children or never been married) please know that I see you. I truly see you. And I haven’t forgotten.

May you know you are complete, full, enough, lacking nothing at all. May you know how deeply and passionately loved you are by the One who created Love itself.

Alaina V. Fletcher

Alaina is a Kansas native who lives in Cincinnati with her handsome hubby, toddler son, and senior cat. Her childhood love for reading and writing led her to earning a degree in English. She has an interest in and appreciation for all things visual and performing arts. She’s a dancer, runner, photography-lover, and stay-at-home mom to an amazing little boy. Her life-long purpose is continuing to grow in the Lord while using her talents to bless others and unveil her unique and beautiful story of redemption, love, and grace. Follow Alaina at livinglovedbylainy.wordpress.com and on Facebook: Living Life Loved