‘I’ve been thinking that the time we have to be single, is really the time we have to get good at being alone’Alice, How to be Single
I spent the majority of my teenage years and early twenties in an unhealthy, immature relationship. When it was finally over, I was nearly 25 and had never been on a date.
It might be 2020 but the looming question that hangs over single women everywhere continues to be the main topic of discussion in any casual conversation; ‘are you dating?’, ‘do you have a boyfriend?’, ‘are you gay?’, ‘don’t worry, you’ll find someone’. Just this week, when I was speaking to an old acquaintance, our ages came up in conversation and his response to my 29 years was a fairly matter-of-fact ‘Oh you’ll have to get married soon.’ The disappointing truth to that comment is that he meant it. Instantly, everything I had achieved and everything that I was as a woman was discredited, because what good was I without a man? Here’s me thinking we’d moved into the 21st century.
It’s comments like this that spark a defiant fire in my boiling blood; maybe i’ll stay single forever and prove how wonderful life can be just to teach you, with the archaic principles, a lesson.
As i’ve skated through dating over the last 5 years, somewhat precariously I might add, I wish I could say i’ve relished being single and playing the field; refusing to commit, completing Tinder with a fist pump and a shot of Tequila. I’m often enamoured by the tales of single women taking what they want and rejoicing in the freedom of their choices and the coy ‘oh well’s’ of their adventures. Unfortunately my lack of dating skills did not prepare me for a world of ghosting, bread crumbing or orbiting, so much so that my story is not so much a hilarious plethora of ‘oops’ but rather an eye-rolling chapter of awkward moments. I couldn’t stop fantasising about a future ‘that-could-be’ and I struggled with controlling the bitter disappointment whenever I was once again left hanging, often confused and self-conscious when there was no explanation for why I wasn’t good enough. I developed acute anxiety over meeting strangers from dating apps which lead to panic attacks before dates and, on one occasion, during. The constant rollercoaster of feelings that came with wondering whether the next guy I dated would be ‘the one’ had exhausted and, frankly, embarrassed me, so, after only a year or two of riding that train, I gave up. I moved home to my parents, got a new job, stopped wasting my time on Hinge and Bumble and Tinder and decided that if there was someone out there for me, he’d show up eventually and if he didn’t, well I am completely whole on my own.
And that is part of the point of being single isn’t it? It’s got nothing to do with wanting or needing a significant other to complete you, but there is a fundamental requirement to be able to be on your own without the constant thought that you’re waiting for something better. I know 1000 percent that i’m a better human being when i’m not thinking about a man; I’m more confident, self assured, motivated, productive, I spend less time trying to impress and more time indulging in the things I enjoy, so why wouldn’t I choose to pursue that lifestyle rather than one of constant over-thinking and anxiety?
Despite the flippant comments of the few, we are seeing a shift in the way people ‘settle down’ now. Marriage statistics have dropped, though this could be due to economic difficulties, with young people living with their parents longer, paying off student debts and struggling to buy homes it’s certainly not as straight forward as it was for generations before us. That being said, women are focusing on their careers, having children later in life and the nuclear family is a thing of the past, meaning women are able to pursuit their choices in whatever way suits their lifestyle. Now, more than ever, women are encouraging each other to live a full life, to appreciate our friendships and seek fulfilling careers, with or without a Partner.
I’m learning, slowly, that I don’t have to cling so hard to my friendships either, that they’re going nowhere and will always be there for me even as our lives continue to move in parallel ways, the same as I will be there for them. As my Queen, Dolly Alderton says, “Nearly everything I know about love, I’ve learnt from my long-term friendships with women.” and she’s so right. The constant and unyielding care my friends have shown me in moments where I have been selfish and emotionally useless, the true happiness I feel in the moments that we’re laughing or simply talking about things that we totally and completely agree on, even in the moments when we’ve gone days and months without seeing or perhaps speaking to each other I’ve known that when I see them again it will be like nothing has changed. My love for my friends is unconditional but it took a break up and several years of bad decisions to realise the relationships I was actually committed to were with my girl friends.
Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty.Robert Frost
It’s no surprise that once I stopped seeking romantic opportunity every time a man crossed my path, I started to excel in other areas of my life. I don’t deny that there are quiet moments when I think it must be nice to have someone to share certain things with, but I admit those moments are mostly found when watching a rom-com or reading a YA novel, and i’ve long since realised that a love like that is impossible to achieve. Whilst, once upon a time, I envisioned myself a married woman with children, my future is no longer so clear but feels full and exciting which are words I could have never used before. Perhaps my 20’s haven’t been so roaring, but i’ve got a good feeling about my 30’s.