Of all the places I’d like to spend my Saturday and Sunday, a scenic, romantic, quintessential rustic, sexy mountain getaway isn’t at the top of my list. Especially when that weekend happens to be the ‘Romantic Couple’s’-themed weekend. But as a woman who never backs down from a challenge, when Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, gave me the opportunity to see if two single girls could make it through the dreamiest weekend they host, specifically designed for twosomes, I went for it.
I took my friend Kathryn along, who has been single almost as long as I have been, and we decided we would immerse ourselves into everything the romantic resort had to offer: from spa treatments to wine tastings that would um, get us in the mood. To be honest, as excited as I was to get away from the chaos of New York, I was nervous about putting myself directly into situations that I usually wholeheartedly avoid. Did I really want to be face-to-face with dozens of happy, loving people who had the one thing that I want more than anything else? Was I really going to let myself take part in activities that I’d give nearly anything to share with a man who adored me?
Did four years of being single teach me nothing about how not to emotionally manipulate myself?!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate couples. In fact, my friends nickname me ‘love’ because I love love that much (why else would I write about it for a living?). But as much as I enjoy sweet how-we-met stories, elderly couples who have stood the test of time and seeing my friends find their partners, a part of me is a little (read: a lot) jealous. There’s something about seeing everyone around you stumble across the relationship you keep praying to find that makes a girl feel a little insecure. A little unworthy. A little uneasy about the likelihood that ‘it’ll work out’ – as everyone promises you that it will.
But here’s the other thing about being a big believer in love that’s important to know about me: I also believe in signs. And my trip to Mohonk was filled with signs so blatantly obvious that even Kathryn, who isn’t quite as idealistic or whimsical as I tend to be – couldn’t ignore.
After dropping off our luggage and drooling over our room (complete with a fireplace and 5th floor balcony overlooking the mountains), we headed downstairs to check out everything. We first stumbled across a library with a reading room. Since the resort was built more than 150 years ago, there is no lack of history or charm in every corner, and the library represented all of the heritage behind the property. Perhaps because we were giddy – and exhausted from working and traveling – we decided to open up the large dictionary, close our eyes, and point to a random word. While I picked fair-minded (maybe a sign I shouldn’t be quite as picky), Kathryn pointed directly to ‘heart.’ Astonished by the randomness, we quickly resorted to wine in the Carriage Lounge to dish on our latest dating adventures.
That night after way too much food in the dining hall, we decided to take what was left of our bottle of wine back upstairs to sip on by the fireplace in our room. As I watched the embers catch fire and felt my shoulders release their daily tension, I thought about all the couples I had seen that day at Mohonk: a husband smiling widely as his wife blew out the candles on her birthday cake, an elderly couple who held hands all the way down the hallway, causing Kathryn and I to take our usually fast-paced stance to a gentle walk to let them make their grand entrance to the dining hall, and countless others. Had they all had a ‘fair minded heart’ at some point? Had they been single-somethings wandering around, building a big life to prepare them for a big love? Had they fallen asleep to the sound of fire, hoping that one day, a flaming love affair would be more than just lust? Since I was already noticing all of the signs around me, I asked the universe to keep sending those signs for the rest of our stay.
The universe listened.
As we caught the elevator down for breakfast, we noticed the painting on the fifth floor lobby – a man bending down to kiss his wife that served as a reminder of the romantic gestures of affection that I’ve often discounted in dating. We made our way up the mountain to the infamous Sky Top – a short hike that gives you unobstructed views of six states. When we climbed the 100 stairs to the top, I noticed a middle-aged couple in the corner, trying to take a selfie of the view behind them. I offered to take their photo, and they returned the favor for Kathryn and I. And then when we made it downstairs to take the hike down, I saw them sitting on a bench, looking at the vastness in front of them. A little more forward this time, I came up and told them to hold still, that I had to capture their profiles. And just like in that painting – the man leaned over and kissed her. I asked them how long they had been married and they just laughed: “Too long but not long enough.”
But the signs kept coming.
That evening, we went to a wine tasting with Charles Smith wines – a man, who himself, had modeled many of his wines after relationships gone wrong (and right). In the video they showed about Charles Smith becoming the winemaker of the year, he said, “I was always the bridesmaid, never the bride!” – a sentiment that caused Kathryn and I to nod along understanding. At the tasting, we sat next to a couple we met during our archery lesson, and I asked how they met. He smiled, she laughed, took a sip of wine and said: “Well, he’s my third husband.” She went on to tell the story – first friends, then their love was inevitable – and how that sometimes, it doesn’t work out quite how you think it will, but 16 years of marriage later, they’ve never been happier and return to Mohonk twice a year to get away together.
But perhaps, of all of these reminders that love is always around and always possible, the sign that meant the most to me was a simple piece of wood. Since I grew up in North Carolina and chased my dreams of becoming a writer to Manhattan, there’s something about nature that helps me get back to the soft parts of myself that I often forget I have. It’s that vulnerable side that makes me afraid – to love, to feel, to believe that a someone could become the someone. As Kathryn and I were walking around the Barn Museum at Mohonk, I bent down to take a photo of a old newspaper clipping from the late 1800s, when I noticed something on my right: the bottom of a tree trunk that was inexplicably heart-shaped. It was hundreds of years old and wasn’t full of beautiful flaws and colorings, and yet, it stood up bold and brave, holding it’s ground against all of the other interesting antiques. The heart-shaped wood might not seem like much at all, but after so many failed attempts at building a relationship, so many terrible men, and so many nights spent alone… it’s easy to feel hardened. To feel like the part of you that’s open to love is slowly withering.
But your heart doesn’t wither. It’s like a tree trunk, the toughest, hardest, strongest, and most durable, long-lasting part of you that sticks to the very end. No matter how much you want to give up on the storm or hide away from the tides that come your way. It keeps on keepin’ on, it keeps beating so you keep believing.
And so will Kathryn and I. And perhaps we won’t avoid couples so much. If Mohonk taught me anything, it’s that being around love doesn’t have to evoke jealousy or make me feel less than worthy. Instead, being around happy couples can have the opposite effect: I have a date tomorrow night, and for the first time in a very long time, I’m hopeful about what romance and love might be in my future.
Who knows, maybe next year, I’ll take my boyfriend to Mohonk for the getaway and show him the heart-shaped tree trunk that made me have a little faith that he actually existed somewhere, out there beyond the mountain tops, beyond the dreams I had imagined for him and for I.
And if not, Kathryn, are you game for round two? Meet me in the spa. I’ll bring the wine.
Lindsay Tigar is a 26-year-old single writer, editor, and blogger living in New York City. She started her popular dating blog, Confessions of a Love Addict, after one too many terrible dates with tall, emotionally unavailable men (her personal weakness) and is now developing a book about it, represented by the James Fitzgerald Agency. She writes for eHarmony, YourTango, REDBOOK, and more. When she isn’t writing, you can find her in a boxing or yoga class, booking her next trip, sipping red wine with friends or walking her cute pup, Lucy.