Please don't think of me

Layah Shagalow
7 min readFeb 8, 2021

The other day, I woke up to a text from an elementary school classmate I hadn't spoken to in 15 years. We went to different high schools and live in different states. Our paths rarely cross and haven't for a very, very long time. And yet there she was, in my inbox, with a question for me. Or rather, a question about me.

She apologized for the awkwardness of it all, she didn't quite know how to say it, but she wanted to know if I was still "in the market" or "looking for a husband". Because her husband has a friend our age. And she'd like to set me up. Sounds innocent and kind enough, right?

Well, buckle up, here comes some back story. I'm a 29 year old, observant, Jewish, single woman. I've been dating (which, by they way, is the word she was looking for) with the intention of finding a life partner for just over 8 years. I have a master's degree in social work and I’m a certified human centered designer. I've been working in the field of disability inclusion for over 10 years in a number of leadership roles. I'm outspoken, passionate and educated. All of this is to say, that I have been made aware numerous times by numerous "well meaning" individuals in my community that these things that I value about what I bring to my community, are the very reasons I find myself without a partner this late in my life. The things I do to add value to my community as a single person, someone my community has no space for, are also the reasons that I’m single. I'll spare you the details of the years of trauma and the extent of emotional damage this has done to me as a person, and just how difficult it has been to claw myself back to baseline, time and time again.

So understand, when someone approaches me with the intention of setting me up with a very random and unsolicited suggestion, I tend to be a bit wary. Yes, I carry some emotional baggage when it comes to dating. I've been burned, not just by guys, but by the system that somehow seems to put me at fault every single time something doesn't work out. I'm tired of being blamed for being too much, too picky, too educated, too independent, too whatever it is this month. So most times, I just shut it down.

But that day I decided to be open. Isn't that what they always tell me to be? To let this random message play itself out. My old classmate asked me what I was…