Hey, Coffee Date: If it was you.


“Hi, I’m Ted Mosby and exactly 45 days from now you and I are gonna meet and we’re gonna fall in love and we’re gonna get married and we’re gonna have two kids and we’re gonna love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away but I am here now, I guess, because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” -How I Met Your Mother

“Hey Mandie,” she’s 17 and I’m 24, looking back, “What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”

I’m wiping down a blender, listening. Mid-wipe, I pause. It strikes me as odd that I’m being asked because it’s such an old dream by this time that I don’t know I’d recognize it if it was standing right in front of me. It’s like taking an old clock that’s been paused off a shelf, dusting it off and setting the time right all over again, strange how it surges to life. Somehow you forget it even stopped. And somehow I forgot that I’m even in the running to be loved. It’s strange how foreign it feels–that someday someone might hug me tight and want to know all the thoughts locked up in my head. I thought I’d closed all that with 2014 and pixie cuts and picking myself back up.

“Uh…” I’m Amanda  Russell for a minute, no longer in manager mode, “Working, I guess…”

I was going to write a normal coffee date blog post, followed by an empowering Valentine’s Day post for all the singles out there, but somehow I needed to write to you–the person out there who may or may not be looking for me, the person I’m going to need to be there someday. Tomorrow I’ll write my post about being rooted and strong, but tonight is for you and for all the lonely people and wanderers who feel like a piece is missing.

So here’s to you, loves. You’re not the only one alone tonight. You’re not the only one waking up to no one tomorrow morning. And your value is non-transferable, not dependent on relationship status whatsoever.

And to you, whoever you are. If I were to have a coffee date with you, here’s what would go down.

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. It’s 15 minutes after  the agreed-upon time by the time I actually get to our table. We probably have a table by this point. We probably have a usual. We probably have a barista who eyes us while we sip coffee and we probably have an inside joke about her. You’re sitting there, scrolling through your phone and I’ve already sent you 3 “two minutes” texts because I’m stressing about being late. And you’re smiling because you know I took a backroad, last minute, and I thought I had it in the bag. You knew I didn’t have it in the bag. And you know I’m flying down Wade Hampton, all but flipping off old ladies because I get SO. MAD.

Maybe I’m in uniform and just getting off a shift. Maybe I’m headed to a girls’ night out and maybe you’re headed to a guys’ night out. Maybe we’re on the same page or maybe we’re just floundering through whatever this is. Maybe there’s a ring or maybe there’s nothing but empty spaces.

But the beautiful thing about coffee dates are that the details aren’t deal-breakers. Coffee dates are all about heart. And so…

  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I went to this incredible Beach Boys concert three weeks ago and it shook me to my core. I sat there, speechless and awed. It wasn’t because it was a spectacular show or the excitement in the room moved me or anything like that. It was the passion that made me grin like an idiot in a dark arena, an hour away from my hometown. I was sitting there watching men in their 70’s absolutely rock it and it wasn’t because the crowd was the same as it’d always been or because they were trying to stay relevant. It was this deep love for music that moved those guys forward and it ingrained in me this mission to be like that when I’m 70. I don’t want to be rocking on a porch and I don’t want Bingo night with the girls to be the only thing I look forward to. When I’m 70, I want to still be moved by passion and love for people. I don’t want to be lifeless while I’m living. I really, really don’t.
  • Also…I’d ask you if you’ve heard God Only Knows yet for the umpteenth time and I’d beg you to watch Love and Mercy with me. I’m fascinated.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you I was rejected within the past week and it stung so bad. I’d tell you all about the faith wounds this rejection poked at and I’d say, “I know it sounds stupid…” about a million and one times because these faith wounds are the kind that I don’t know what to do with. I’ve combed over the details and asked questions. I’ve relived the details. I’ve dug deep. But I come up short every time. I’d leave the conversation hanging by a thread, uncertain if you really understand where I’m coming from. And, God knows this is what I wish for…if it was you, you’d pry. You wouldn’t let the conversation go without making me dig deep.
  • If we were on a coffee date…We’d talk 50 Shades Darker. I’d want to know your true opinion, not the popular opinion from the community we were raised in. And I wouldn’t toss your opinion aside because you’re a man, so you MUST have a porn problem and OBVIOUSLY you’re wrong about all things sex.  I’d want to know your thoughts. We’d talk fiction–we’d talk about the rallying cries and you’d hear ALL about how every time I hear the rallying cries against something, I have this tendency to peek around the corner to see what the root of the hubbub is. Thus, I currently have a Hillary Clinton book waiting on me. We’d talk fact versus speculation. You’d probably roll your eyes heavenward because I’m on that thing where I don’t stop talking because I HAVE SO MANY ARGUMENTS, TWISTS, AND PERSPECTIVES.
  • If we were on a coffee date…you’d be annoyed.You’re probably the type to think a lot before saying anything and I’m the type who just blurts out all the thought processes and curiosities. I’d study your expressions and hold my tongue when I really want to shake you and say, “WHAT DID THAT MEAN.” To be honest, when I think about finding you…I think a lot about how patient you’d need to be. LORD KNOWS.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your family. Tell me all about them. Tell me all about your childhood. Tell me your favorite spots and your favorite traditions and what you did for birthdays. Tell me what you liked and what you hated–about everything. I want to hear all the things you. Tell me if you read books or played with Legos or were more outdoorsy than anything. Tell me about your friends from way back then and if you still know any of them. Fill me in–I’ve been waiting 20 years to fill all the spaces.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your goals. Not in your career, but in your life. There’s a big difference. Where do you find happiness or are you still looking? If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why don’t you go? What’s your bucket list? I’d want to know about all the walled-in, abandoned corners of your heart. I’m nosy–I’m a pryer. Unapologetic, man.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d talk about summer 2017 with you and make plans. Summer 2017 is going to be a thing, man. 24 is so beautiful and so golden and I want to soak as much beauty in as I can. Tell me we can learn how to skateboard and go kayaking. Tell me you’ll go fishing with me and learn how to crab just because.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d want to know what you did tonight. I want to know how you spent the night before the world wakes up to magic.Were you alone in the world or did you find a friend who feels the same way you do? Did you have someone you thought was the one or were you at the point where you found out she was only a chapter in the story? Or has she been long gone, but the scars are still fresh? How’s your heart doing? Is that even allowed to be said or did I just break bro code? …and for the love of God, is that still a thing? <—Literally what would be said.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about my night. It was spent with a single friend and we talked Valentine’s Day hype and sipped on coffee. We laughed a lot tonight and watched ridiculous movies and ate Pinterest recipes that turned out way better than planned. W
  • And lastly…if we were on a coffee date… I wouldn’t want to leave. I’d want to stay as long as possible. But one thing I’d tell you before I left, no matter what:

           Your life and my life may become one beautiful life one day, but just because we’re not in it yet doesn’t mean our lives aren’t simultaneously and individually beautiful. It doesn’t mean we lack value and it doesn’t mean we’re going nowhere. It just means we’re in separate chapters. It just means we’re human. It just means the best is on its way.  So hang on, kid. You’ll be in it before you know it.



The Mandie Russell Guide To Singlehood




“Mandie, why are you single? Like you’re so pretty and smart. And stuff.”

`I know. I know. This is obviously what you’re all thinking. I get asked this all the time.

Actually, I’ve never been asked this question in my life. But I definitely don’t know why. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that every white shirt I own has a chocolate and/or coffee stain on it or that I wear the same outfit at least three times in a week or that I think jokes like, “Are you a beaver? Cause dayummm,” are funny.

*cough* Anyway…

One of the things I’ve noticed in my online wanderings, if you will, is this weird extremism that surrounds singleness. Either a.) people take it too seriously or b.) people build it up to be this completely magical time of life where you do things like backpack through Europe, which really is magical if you have that kind of money as a twenty something, or c.) people make it into this social statement that you don’t need a man and  you’re too fabulous and blah, blah, blah. To be honest, it’s all annoying. And to be honest, most of us probably wouldn’t choose singleness over being with someone you care about…let’s be real.

That is why I have created a comprehensive list of all the reasons being single just isn’t that bad, but spoiler alert: it’s all based on reality. I promise. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, a solid 80% of being single looks a lot like that scene from Risky Business. Thank you, Tom Cruise.

1.To start things off, you really aren’t accountable to another human being. That can be a bad thing, but it’s also a good way to learn responsibility and see where you are as a human being. But if you’re spending over $100 dollars a month at Starbucks, maybe get a budgeting buddy. You can be budgies.

*Feel no obligation to laugh at that last one. I, for one, definitely didn’t spend the last 30 seconds laughing at my own joke. Ahem.

2. No one judges you for wearing a bandanna around the house like the Hulk Hogan impersonator  you certainly are not. Like at all. Okay, unless you blog about these things like an idiot.

3.  On Friday nights while most of the taken girls are dressing up and going out, you’re sitting on your couch in your underwear watching Fuller House. And Gilmore Girls. And Friends. And you’re not even sorry. (Not that I do that. Pfft.)

4.  You wanna join the Peace Corps? Do it. You wanna teach English in a foreign country? Do it, girrrrl. (Well, I mean…get that certification, girrrrl! You can’t just hop a plane.) You wanna walk the Pacific Crest Trail? Pack those bags! (Sidenote: Yes, this is on my bucket list. And yes, I need someone to go with me. I’m not Cheryl Strayed here and rattlesnakes are real.)

5.  Rock whatever look you want to. No shave November? Hah, that’s funny. Try no shave 2016. #overachievers

6.  I’m going to be real frank here: you don’t have to worry about his toe jam. And to all you ladies out there like, “Nahhh, that doesn’t happen!” I’ve seen your husbands and I already know it’s toe jam central.

7. You don’t have to worry that your SO is a Calvinist and that he’ll raise your children to believe that they have a 50/50 shot of getting into heaven. This is my fear.

8. You can take those pent-up feelings and give them out. Get a pet, volunteer, make something valuable. Like a bird feeder. Or a mug. For your mother.

9. You get to sit around with your sister and rate guys on tv guilt-free. Does it get much better than that? I think not.

10. If you want to stay under the delusion that love is a fairytale, you can do that too. Why the heck not? Stay innocent.

11. You don’t have to scour your social media to make sure there’s nothing embarrassing that doesn’t reflect who you are as a person currently. Unless you’re like me and all your statuses in 2008 revolved around fried chicken or something equally ridiculous, then by all means: delete those posts.

12. If you’re anything like me, the prospect of having to raise children is terrifying because I can’t even adult. I’m talking at a Sid-the-sloth-is-my-spirit-animal level. But none of that matters because you don’t have to worry about that and you have time to grow up a little more if you feel like you need to before all that happens.

13. You don’t have to worry about relatives treating you like an adult. Because they all pretty much figure you’re sitting in your underwear eating Oreos anyway or just trying to get the printer to work at your underpaid post-grad job.

14. No worrying about meeting his/her family. Put that social anxiety away and head to the beach for Christmas. It’s all good, bruh.

15. That concert you’ve been dying to go to landed on your six month anniversary? Won’t happen. Ever.

But I can’t promise it won’t happen with like meetings or your parents’ anniversary…you can’t win them all, kids.

16. As a single person, I guarantee your shower singing game will be on point. Can you master “When You Believe?” Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter because the only one hearing you belt it out is your shampoo bottle.

17. There is virtually no chance of having a surprise pregnancy. Unless you’ve got a 1980’s Three Men and a Baby situation going on and a baby lands on your doorstep. But hey, at least it’s not your baby!

18. Being single means you get to work on pretty awesome friendships with crazy, funny people. And it’s worth every minute of loneliness that being single will inevitably bring.

So. While singleness is about a lot of things, it’s mostly about forming great friendships and working on yourself before dragging some poor loser into your world. It’s great!