No, it's not leprosy; I'm just a single guy

It's a phrase I've heard over and over again from well-meaning folks in all sorts of situations: "Don't worry. She'll come along someday."

If you read the headline, I'm sure you've already figured out what this column is about.

With the beloved St. Valentine's very own day approaching, love is in the air, and especially on the television waves.

And you know what, I couldn't be happier for all of those involved in mushy-gushy relationships who choose to celebrate this day — and while that probably came across sarcastically with the "mushy-gushy" addition, I sincerely mean it.

I am not one of those "Celebrating Singleness" folks. I don't think that's exactly necessary.

But at the same time, the often-asked, kinda-personal question, "So, you're how old? ... Oh, 30 years old? Are you married? Or at least seeing someone?," can put off a sort of vibe that makes me understand the Valentine haters.

I know that the majority of folks who ask this question, and follow with the response I introduced this column with — "Don't worry. She'll come along someday." — mean the best.

They've discovered a new way to experience happiness through their own marriages or relationships, and they want nothing more than for you — or me in this case — to experience the same.

But almost without fail, they really don't seem to believe me when I tell them that, while I'm not ruling out the possibility of Miss Perfect-for-me miraculously coming along, I'm also not holding my breath and dying for it to happen.

Whether they believe me when I say it or not, I'm perfectly content living in my singleness.

I mean, it's not like I'm living secluded on an island. I have my days where I think, "Boy, it'd be nice to have someone I'm a little more connected to."

But for every one of those days, I can assure you that there's also a day where I walk around thinking, "Boy, look at those poor chaps, tied down as they are."

OK, I admit it. I almost never think or say the word "chaps," but it just felt fitting. Maybe I should start.

Anyhow, like I said, it really doesn't bother me when people are trying to get to know me and ask if I'm dating anyone.

I see it as a noble attempt on their own parts to make good conversation and learn something meaningful about who I am.

But it's that, "Don't worry. She'll come along someday," that makes me feel as if I've been diagnosed with leprosy.

Growing up, the only time I ever really heard of leprosy was in the church. And I never was quite sure exactly what leprosy was — in
fact, without the Internet's assistance, I'm still not sure I could quite describe it.

What was perfectly clear, though, was you didn't want to have leprosy. And, when you did come down with a case of it, nobody wanted to be around you — no matter what.

They'd avoid you like the plague.

The look I sometimes get from people when they hear me say I'm content with being single makes me feel as if they not only disagree with me, but they sure don't want to catch whatever it is I've come down with.

Here's the thing about everything we say to anyone we encounter. We say one thing, and they often perceive another.

Ninety-nine percent of the people who say things similar to the "come along someday" line don't mean it to come across negatively.

Quite the contrary, the ones who are nice enough to say it usually mean, "You're well worthy of being loved, and I hope you find someone someday to help you experience that type of love."

Unfortunately for the well-meaning, probably oblivious teller, the single, contagious hearer thinks you mean something along the lines of: "You're not complete without a mate, mate." Dang, there's that British speak again.

Who is at fault here? I'm not really blaming either person.

I'm just saying that on both ends, we're much more likely to handle it responsibly if we step back and realize what's actually happening.

Teller means well; hearer assumes worst.

It really seems to be a part of our DNA to take things as digs, to go on the defensive almost constantly.

It's important, from both sides of the coin, to be sure that we're aware of how we're coming across.

Those of us completely content with our singleness can easily come across as bitter toward those who have found their "someone."

And it's just as likely that those who have met their soul mates are coming across to the singlehoods as braggarts.

It's all about perception, and we're responsible for responsibly perceiving the things that others say to us.

If you've found your true love, I say Happy Valentine's Day to you, and I hope you continue to enjoy many more Valentine's Days with your love, as the world around us seems to be forgetting the gift that comes with staying in the presence of the one you've promised to love and cherish, "'til death do us part."

And if you are in the same boat as I am and haven't found your true love, "Don't worry. He or she will come along someday."

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.