I’m pretty sure I read somewhere once that to be young and single is the ideal life. Well, if that’s the case, I think we can correctly assume that my life is ideal. If you, however, are like pretty much any other normal human being, that is only “ideal” when you’re in between relationships and are currently exercising a massive amount of hatred and disdain towards your most recent ex. Or all of your exes. People only like to revel in their “singleness” when they don’t have something better.
I’m 24. And I’ve been single for every single one of those years. Incredible, right? Now, before you think I’m asexual, a closet lesbian, take fashion tips from Richard Simmons, have hair that resembles Weird Al’s mane, or that I’m a crazy feminist who runs around braless, let me kill the suspense – I happen to like my bra very much, thank you.
What’s interesting is it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started becoming conscious of my “single” life. It used to be something I only acknowledged in the presence of my other single friends on nights where we would get together, make pizza and cookie dough, and eat ourselves into comas while watching the same Rom Coms over and over [I can accurately quote the entirety of Pride & Prejudice, both versions]. We would laugh until we cried, gossip about the boyfriends we would have someday. So what if “our boys” hadn’t shown up yet? We were waiting for that twist in the last act. We were young, alive, and crazy. We had other plans to take care of.
Then the inevitable happened. It was only a matter of time before all of my single friends started finding significant others. It came to the point where it was more common to see a relationship status or an engagement announcement on Facebook than an Instagram photo. Friends got into relationships, broke up, dated each other, broke up, dated other people, broke up… and all this time I’m still flailing around in my singledom, giving advice to these friends that I am in no way qualified to give. I received my first wedding invitation in the mail recently – my first friend from freshman year at college. I knew it would happen at some point, but it still was like someone threw a left hook at my jaw: I’m now at the age where you aren’t necessarily off-your-rocker-crazy to be getting married so young, but rather it’s an increasingly acceptable next move in your life.
I love the idea of weddings. There is so much joy and hope and love filling every single moment. But if you wanted to pick an event that seemed to erect neon signs against your will that flashed SINGLE! SINGLE! SINGLE! above your head, a wedding would be the ideal occasion for that. While everyone is swirling about in the merriment of love, you’re left dancing with the five-year-old ring bearer. We all love the ring bearer, but after an hour of acquiescing his requests to be lifted every ten seconds, you’re left feeling incredibly sore and incredibly lonely.
I never used to feel lonely. Alone? Absolutely. But there’s more to loneliness. You can be alone without being sad, without aching in a way that you don’t understand. Loneliness is different. You can be in a room filled with your favourite people in the world and loneliness can still sneak it’s devilish little head in and prey on you. Loneliness is a different kind of beast that feeds on your barely kept composure and confidence until you are ridden with a feeling that you don’t want to call hopeless.
I tried to figure out when that transition happened, when I went from being alone to feeling lonely. It’s like one day the world thought it would be amusing to obnoxiously point out what I was missing; like I needed a violent shove from my “I’m single and content” state to an “I’m single and I really don’t want to be” state. And now, when my mind fails to distract itself, loneliness creeps in. I end up internally flouncing around in my anxieties about just how single I am. When did this happen? And when I can’t find any more shiny objects to divert my attention to, I am left talking myself into circles, frantically trying to figure out why I’m single. Am I simply craving attention? How is it possible that I so desperately want something that I have never experienced and can’t begin to understand? Why am I left sitting at the singles table? Am I too independent? Am I too loud? Am I too opinionated? Am I too tall? Is it me? What am I doing wrong?
And that is what I hate the most. Those thoughts that I struggle to keep to a minimum, but are enough to disgust me for hours. I hate thinking that I’m single because for some reason I’m not good enough. What does that even mean? Why can’t I bury that thought in an inaccessible filing cabinet in the most remote corner of my brain? But after so many years of failing, the common denominator in every single equation is me.
Sometimes people try to tell me I’m not ready to be in a relationship. Or that contrary to everything I have felt my entire life, it’s obviously not what I really want, that if I truly wanted a relationship, I’d be in one. Who IS ready for a relationship? Is there some test that I don’t know about? Did I fail it without knowing I even took it? And you’re right, I’d much rather fall asleep hoping for that one day instead of experiencing it.
Over the years, there were boys who expressed interest. Some were never going to be right for me. Some were very good friends. Some were guys who I managed to hoodwink into asking me on a real date. But nothing ever worked. I never seemed to get past that fateful first date. And as a strong young woman in this world, I’d like to fancy myself invincible to the flitting emotions that so many women in the world have fallen prey to in the past. I hate that I have become this girl who finds the thought of being single so disorienting and the thought of a relationship so daunting. I have no idea how to be close to someone. I never wanted to need anyone. Am I single because I’m independent or am I independent because I’ve always been alone?
Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I’ll see two teens wrapped up in each other on a park bench, stealing kisses. Or my roommate’s boyfriend will come over one night, excited about the elaborate plan he concocted for their one-year-anniversary. Or an elderly couple will amble by, holding hands like they never want to let go. Or the couple kissing in the middle of the street in spite of everyone watching, because fuck it, they are in love and who gives a damn about anyone else. Good for those people; I want what you have.
I met a boy once. A boy who I thought was a game changer. A boy who could change my world. A boy who could silence every doubt, every hopeless thought I ever had. A boy who had the power to fill the empty spaces in my life. This boy was not like the other boys. And yet, after years of being an unwilling and yet very willing participant in some elaborate and twisted dance, nothing happened, save for the bullet that shot a gaping hole in my parachute of hope. A hole that sent me crashing to the ground, snapping every bone in my body. I thought that just once I wouldn’t be left picking up the million little pieces my heart had been smashed into, telling myself “you knew better.”
You’re probably thinking that that sounds like an overly dramatic response for someone to respond so intensely over something that hovered in the grey area that comes before relationship, but when you are me and you haven’t had a real relationship, this was, and somedays still is, incredibly heart-wrenching. While everyone seemed to gracefully glide into their twenties, my emotional-age was left somewhere around 17. Everything is still new to me. I’m still working it all out. I’m still trying to figure out what it all means. So when it crashes and burns, I fall harder than I think I should at my age. And that is frustrating, since I fancy myself Superwoman. But at the end of the day, I have perfected the art of rebuilding. I pick up those scattered pieces, I find the strongest glue in the world, and I delicately rebuild myself, scared to death that one day I won’t be able to find all the pieces or they won’t fit anymore.
The truth is, I can’t wait to be in love with someone who is in love with me. And that fact hurts me because I can only sit here hoping and wishing that I’m one of the lucky ones, while never forgetting the reality that I might never be.
By Holly V Furman & Kayla Jackson