There’s a moment in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where two women are sitting around talking about loneliness and relationships. One woman says to the other, “Oh, I’m single by choice,” (waits a beat) “just not my choice.” And they share a look.
And I was sitting there thinking: Yes. F*ck yes! That’s it in a nutshell.
And before you start preparing your argument for everything that’s great about being single or the need for me to find myself before I can expect to find a relationship, let me just say that I have my sh*t together. Sure, it’s been less than two years since my divorce, and yet I have delved into the depths of my own soul like it was my g*ddamn job to do it.
I’ve even taken every ounce of my own heartache and put it on display in case it could help someone else pull themselves up. And most of the time I enjoy all the freedoms that come with not having a man to annoy me and to be deadweight in my glorious life (sorry, guys, just speaking from my own admittedly f*cked-up experience here).
I get to sleep on any side of the bed I want to. I plan my life without having to listen to anyone else’s criticism or complaints, and I can actually save for things that I value, like travel and experiences, because I don’t have a partner blowing every last dime I make.
Also, I don’t have to rush around trying to make someone else happy when they can’t be made happy. And there’s no one else to make a mess but me and my children so I don’t have to be annoyed when the trash doesn’t get taken out or when something else that should have gotten done doesn’t.
But for all of the great parts of being single, try to give us a break when we—the single people of this world—express our desire to be in an actual, legit relationship. We don’t need to be told that one day it will happen or given endless advice on how to make ourselves the perfect mate for someone else to love.
We’re pretty f*cking fabulous right now, thanks so much. The problem is that we can’t make anyone else see that. Apparently, it’s all a matter of timing, and there’s nothing people love more than being told to be patient while we’re waiting (heavy sarcasm intended).
And for all that we may enjoy being single, we actually don’t want to sit around on a Friday night reading 50 Shades with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (although it’s more like Anais Nin and gourmet chocolate, but I digress). It’s actually not always the best time ever catching up on our DVR while we pick up toys and sort laundry. Body pillows are great, but we can’t be tricked into thinking that it’s a living breathing person beside us. And when we’re staring into the void of our own mini-existential crisis, which we all have now and again, we would much rather not have to stare into it alone.
And yet most of us single men and women go out of our way to hide the fact that we’re lonely. I would guess that it has something to do with all of the judgmental commentary we hear if we dare mention it. Like we’ve just made ourselves pathetic to admit that sometimes we’d like to feel like we matter outside of our platonic and familial relationships. Like our need for sex, connection and basic companionship is somehow subverted in our single status and must be kept secret if we do in fact find them necessary. Because God forbid anyone comfortably coupled is made uncomfortable by our loneliness.
We’re not asking you to fix it. This isn’t a cry for help. It’s just a basic fact of being on our own that often gets downplayed and ignored. It’s not that we are codependent because we want a healthy, functional relationship. There shouldn’t be so much shame wrapped up in expressing that being single really sucks sometimes.
And I can only speak for myself, but what I find even worse than being single is to form any attachment whatsoever with another human being. For me, a crush is just that—crushing. I cannot have affection without the accompanying uncertainty and fear, which is from a lifetime of being let down. And yes, I realize exactly how f*cked up that is. But it’s also real and honest and completely without filter. I truly would like to be in a real relationship, and it also scares the hell out of me because I’m so afraid that I’ll never be seen as anything but a complication. If I’m seen at all.
So when one woman says to the other that she’s single by choice but not her own, I felt this wave of recognition. Being single feels like that so much of the time. Of course we’d rather be in happy relationships. Of course we want someone to hold our hand and think we’re special. We’d love to have a plus-one to events who’s not a friend or family member. We’d love to hear the beating heart of someone we care about at night rather than yet another guided meditation because the nights are so long and sleep doesn’t come. And we’d like to be able to acknowledge the basic human condition of loneliness without feeling the weight of judgment, criticism and advice drop down on us.
We’ve rocked this single sh*t like a boss, and we’re tired of it. But since we refuse to lower the bar and put up with anyone’s bullsh*t, we just have to tolerate the ups and downs of the dating game until we find someone who can actually see us. And we’ll just have to do some heavy eye rolling when we’re told that we shouldn’t feel lonely, or if we feel lonely, we should never, ever mention it. We’ll put up with conversations that somehow never lead to dates and having people say one thing but mean another. We’ll navigate through obscured intentions and being kept on hold in case something better comes up.
And we’ll have days where we are genuinely glad to be on our own. Where we’ll soak in our single status and just recharge. Days where we’ll enjoy all of the freedoms and not feel weighted down by any of it. But we’ll also have days where the loneliness is stark and painful and really, deeply scary. And all of that is okay.
We’ll keep rocking our single status like a boss, but don’t expect us to keep our mouths shut about the loneliness when it comes. Don’t ask us to pretend that everything’s great when sometimes it’s not. Just listen. And be there. Hold a hand or offer a hug. But don’t preach. Don’t lecture. Don’t try to get us to pretend that it’s all fine. Let us break down if that’s what we need. In just a little while, we’ll get right back to being the badass singles that you have come to admire.
Just give us a minute to really f*cking hate it first.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Cecille Photography
Editor: Travis May