I’ve been single for a very long time now. And, as a singleton, there are certain tried and true sentences that people offer up to you as ‘consolation’ for the fact that you are single. I pretty much don’t expect ever to be in a relationship again, which I am ok with, but most other people find this extremely distressing. They take this statement to be some kind of cry for help, some silent plea for compliments and reassurance. Which just infuriates me, because, you know what? Despite everyone’s impression of me as some kind of romantic, boy-mad, love-obsessed, Austen-maniac, I have spent most of my life as a single, independent person (don’t even get me started on whether Jane Austen has more to offer the world than romantic wish-fulfilment stories for sad 20 somethings). I am perfectly ok. I know sometimes this blog has made you think otherwise and certainly there have been times when I’ve been down about the fact that I am single. But, no longer. I am sick of talking about love and romance and relationships and all the rest. I think I’ve probably talked about it enough to last me a lifetime. So, I can’t speak for all singletons, but, if anybody says any of these things to me again, I am liable to do a Hulk-style rage and tear apart some inner-city skyscrapers. Or something.
1) ‘You need to love yourself first.’ So, me not being in a relationship is evidence of the fact that I don’t love myself? That seems a little unfair. I know I have my down periods, but I think that probably makes me a pretty ok person and not an egotistical maniac. I mean, am I required to love absolutely EVERYTHING about myself before someone else will love me too? ‘I love the little toe on my left foot even though its manky and has a funal infection that made the nail fall off. I love it in spite of its difficulties. I love it BECAUSE of its uniqueness. I love the third knuckle on my right hand because…’ etc. I’m pretty sure most of the people I know in long-term, committed relationships aren’t like that. And who do I have to see about proving that I like myself a sufficient enough to be in a relationship? Is there some kind of government body? Some sort of list I should sign up to? Or is just something that you announce on your first date? ‘Don’t worry- I love myself a sufficient amount to be on this date with you. We can proceed further, if you would also feel you love yourself enough to be on this date with me.’
2) ‘You need to make space for love in your life.’ My room in London is very small. How much space exactly is this love going to take up? I’ve already broken my chest of drawers with the amount of clothes I have in there and my shoes are spilling out of my cupboard.
No, but seriously. What is this mystical crap? How exactly do I make room for love in my life? Do I just block out large chunks of time in my calendar and mark it ‘love’ and then just sit around in the park or another public area and hope someone gets the message?
3) ‘Maybe you’re just too picky.’ That’s right, people, the way to find love is to force yourself into loving someone you don’t love just because they love you! And, I mean, really, shouldn’t the fact that they love you be enough for you to love them back?
4) ‘It’ll happen when you’re not thinking about it.’ Ok, maybe this is true. But, hello, has nobody ever played that mind game on you when they say the only think you’re not allowed to think about is a large, purple elephant? And then, of course, the only thing you can think about is large purple elephants? Hundreds of them? Thousands of them? Some in tutus and some in fancy hats and all of them doing the can-can? On your BRAIN? It’s like that other irritating phrase that you should ‘be in the moment’. The minute you start monitoring whether or not you’re in the moment, you’re no longer in the freakin’ moment. So, you think, ‘hoorah! I’m not thinking about love right now! Now its bound to happen! Oh, wait… DAMN IT!’
5) ‘Have you tried internet dating? My friend met someone AMAZING on internet dating.’ Yes, I’ve tried it. It sux.
6) ‘Have you tried speed dating? My friend met someone AMAZING on speed dating.’ Yes, I’ve tried it. It sux.
7) ‘But you’re gorgeous!’ IRRELEVANT. Whilst I enjoy being complimented as much as the next person, if there is anything that Jennifer Aniston and the tabloid press has taught my generation, it is that just being beautiful won’t stop you having problems with love. And just being beautiful won’t prevent some other, younger, sexier, arguably more beautiful woman coming along and stealing your thunder.
8) ‘You’ve been travelling.’ Apparently travelling makes people so unattractive to other people that you cannot, CANNOT ever be in a relationship with them. Perhaps its the smelly shoes. All that walking. Never mind that other people (often the people telling me ‘you’ve been travelling’) have gotten into relationships whilst travelling, when it comes to me – ‘you’ve been travelling.’
9) ‘Don’t be silly – of course you’ll find someone! You’re awesome!’ The WORST. Because:
a) I apparently cannot argue against this statement without seeming particularly depressive and self-pitying. The more I protest with whoever is saying it, the more they pat my back and smile at me and gently shush me and tell me again, ‘Don’t be silly!’ But, here is what I want to say, well-meaning people, if you would just stop patting me for a second. Can you guarantee that I will ‘find someone’? Can you pinky-promise me that I will ‘find someone’? Can you put down a million dollars and promise me that I will ‘find someone’? That’s right. You can’t. You won’t. Because not everyone does ‘find someone’. Some people stay single for the rest of their lives.
b) In this statement, in your reasoning, my awesomeness is reliant on the fact that I will ‘find someone’. Given that, as we have already established, it is NOT guaranteed that I will find someone, and perhaps I won’t, would that then take away my awesomeness? Or does that mean that I was never awesome in the first place? Call me egotistical, but I think I’m awesome as a single person and also in a relationship. I don’t want to toot my own horn guys, but I’m a lot of fun. You want to be my single friend? Great, I will go drinking with you. I will cut it up on the dance floor with ridiculous moves that make you laugh. I will go on holidays with you. I will bring you presents from my trips. I will bake you things. I will write you stories and poems. I will take photos of you doing fun things and post them on Facebook so everyone can see what a fun person you are. I will go to your shows, your gallery openings, your music nights. I’ll read you articles from ‘Vanity Fair’. I will support you in your crazy decisions. I will discuss politics with you over Pimm’s. I will discuss Justin Beiber with you over red wine. I’m a freakin’ hoot. But, hey, you want to be my partner? Awesome. I’m great. I’ll cook you curries. I’ll remember your appointments when you forget them. I’ll organise our holidays. I’ll buy you funny T-shirts just because I saw it and it made me think of you. I won’t clean our room, but I’ll do the dishes. I’ll make playlists we can dance to in the living room. I’ll remember your friends’ names and make them b’day cards. I’ll snuggle with you when you want and hold your hand in public. I’ll probably secretly watch you lovingly in the corner at parties whilst you’re talking to other people. I’ll sneak up behind you and kiss the back of your neck when you least expect it. I’m adorable.
I’d be much happier if, next time you asked me about my love life and I replied nothing was happening you replaced your well-meaning, ‘don’t worry, you’ll find someone, you’re awesome!’ with the phrase, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. You’re awesome’.
Say it with me, people, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. You’re awesome.’ It might take some getting used to, I know. I sometimes feel like the pressure to get married, or be in a relationship is worse these days than it was back when you got married for money and property. You know why? Because, in Austen’s day at least you could blame your parents for not saving up a good enough dowry, or for not furnishing you with enough accomplishments. If you wound up a spinster you could think, ‘oh, well, it’s all about money and property anyway, so I just didn’t have enough of those things to be a good match. Now let me get on with being an awesome spinster aunt.’ Now that marriage and relationships are all about ‘true love’ (what a wank) and who you are as a person, the fact that you have failed to get into a long-term relationship suddenly means that there is something wrong with you. Not with your parents, not with your house or your dowry, but you. Specifically you. And the pressure to be in a relationship just goes on and on and on. It doesn’t end at 25 and you can think, ‘oh well, never mind, I tried, but it seems like this is my life now.’ You have to keep doing embarrassing, soul-destroying things (internet dating, I ask you!) until you find someone, ANYONE to love you in the way that popular culture says you should be loved. All the lies we are fed about relationships and love and marriage perpetuate this impression – the lovers being two halves of a whole, making you incomplete as a singleton; that there is someone out there for everybody etc. So, if you don’t happen to find someone who loves you for you, well that probably means that ‘you’ isn’t worthy of being loved in that way.
But the fact of the matter if that I quite like myself. I have quite a few friends who quite like me too. My family seems to be pretty happy with me – I haven’t been chucked out of any gatherings or refused invitations to any things. I get all kinds of love from all kinds of places. Dogs really like me. Kids snuggle in to hear me read them stories. I am no social pariah. I’m a good, decent human being. I’m kind of smart. Sometimes I write good things. I like the world. And none of that is reliant on my ability (or not) to be in a ‘committed’ relationship with someone.