From Our Readers

The Truth About Being Single

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

  • Evania Lina Fasya

    same problem

  • Shona Johnson

    Dude, I’m 31 and am pretty much in the same position. Thanks for the article, good to know that there are other people out there who don’t glide into these things as easily as everyone else seems to. Good luck, fellow singleton! xx

  • Evania Lina Fasya

    Exactly what happened to me right now. I’m just few days away to my 24th birthday and still never been in a relationship. I think the problem is that when I like one boy, I’m so convinced that I should have him. I don’t doubt that this is bugging me every day. But there are things I learned through all those years, that when you want it so much it will just running away from you. You cannot be so certain for one boy unless he shows you that he really cares. Don’t believe what he says, see from his actions towards you. Be nice, be polite, be humble to everybody. I hope the right guy would come along and I won’t ruin it again.

  • Stephanie Higgins

    I am lucky to have never really and truly loved a boy romantically — I only love my own idea of him.
    Which is dangerous.
    I envy your ability to differentiate the two!
    You have a good head on your shoulders and when/if you find someone, you can be confident that they are unequivocally right for you.
    I wish you luck and happiness. ^-^

  • Amy Jorgensen

    Woah, the only difference between this being written about me vs you is that I’m 25, and instead of asking “Am I too loud?” it’s “Am I too quiet?” Uncanny. Good luck to you though, it’s a tough world out there.

    • Summer Winkler

      I’m with you on the quiet thing. Feels like a major problem sometimes.

  • Ivan Remtoula

    I’m a 27-year-old boy who has been in 2 relationships so far. I had my 1st girlfriend when I was 17 (it didn’t last long, 3 months, but she was in the same high school than I was and I didn’t like it). I had my 2nd girlfriend when I was 22. It didn’t last long either, just 3 weeks (yes, shorter than the 1st), and since then, nothing.
    I’ve been asked why I’m single. I’m interesting, sometimes funny, I like to help people, making people smile/laugh, I am sometimes a chatterbox.
    However, I can’t find the girl who will be able to make my heart smile. I keep saying that if I won’t find her in my country, it will be somewhere else.

    But when you see people around you getting married, or holding hands, you get to wonder why you can’t have that. I wish I had an answer for that.

    I hope all the single people will meet their soul mates. I hope the latter will love them for who they are, and not for their bank accounts or something else.
    In the meantime, let’s not give up, and we will all find that one person who will make our hearts smile and beat faster. It’s just a matter of time…

  • Lívia Maria Vasconcellos

    Those questions you make to yourself, some days I just find myself waking up to them and falling a sleep to them. I used not to care, to enjoy going out and maybe hook up with random strangers, because I knew that eventually I would find someone. Well I am 24 too, and no one came along. Just recently I started dating, never even gotten that far, my first time on movie date was last year. So that’s a new hope.

    But I feel like every man that I know (that used to be too young to be looking for a relationship), now have a new excuse. They all already had their loves, their passions and girls/woman that broke their hearts, and they don’t have space for me.

    It’s like there was this whole time when people got to grow up emotionally and I skip it. Not because I wanted to, believe me I really wanna be in love, but because I miss it somehow. I feel sad because I can’t seem to break the cycle, or to stop thinking about this. I am going mad. And I really don’t want to be bitter about other peoples relationship….

  • Amanda Palm

    I’m 36 and you pretty much just wrote my life, only my heart-breaking, sort-of relationship happened just three years ago and it damn near broke me. The reality is my singledom becoming permanent is slapping me in the face every day.

  • Chelsea Davis

    did you try to write my life story?? Thank you so much for this. I cried last night over a game changer boy that didn’t work out, and being alone a lot of nights because my friends are with their husbands and boyfriends. thank you for this because I needed it today more than ever.

  • Stephanie Lopez

    This is amazing. Thank you for being so brave and sharing it with the world. In a little under a year I will be 30 years old and I have been single that entire time. Not even so much as a date. Interest comes in men I’m not even remotely interested in (am I too picky) or the homeless (I’ll write a book). I always felt that nobody understood that part of me that wanted it but was afraid of it at the same time, and all the confusion that goes with not having those experiences at a young age. This was amazing. Who knew there were so many of us out there, instead of focusing on how sad that thought is let’s at least be happy we’re not entirely alone in the way we feel.

  • Chongyang Du

    It’s nice to have someone to share our life with, to feel happy and special. But we cannot force how others feel about us and how we feel about the others. I think as single and attractive ladies, who are not afraid to be alone to wait for the quality guys instead of rushing into a relationship with someone is just “okay”, we should be proud of ourselves. Life is short, and we should share our time and emotions with caution.

  • Marla Isabelle

    Wow… Thanks for the article! I think like many that have posted, you have perfectly captured my life story too. I may just be twenty but I have been single for all those years. I still enjoy my single life but now that my bestest friend has a boyfriend, I’m starting to wonder: When is it my turn? Have I done something majorly wrong in the past that karma’s kicking my butt? I have my doubts but I try and ignore them. I’m way past thinking there is something wrong with me. Cause honestly, I don’t think there is. No one’s perfect. Full stop. And even though it’s frustrating being “really single” all this time, I’m glad I’m not alone. Through this article I realized I don’t need to feel so lost anymore. Thank you for that. And ladies (and gentlemen, if you read this too), as a true romantic I do believe there is someone out there for us. Even if we are 50 when we meet them. So (to quote a amazing musician, Ben Howard) – Keep your head up, Keep your heart strong.

  • Lavina Veg Harte

    What a great article! I am 28 and only recently started feeling the same way about what is talked about in this article. I am not going to lie I am a party girl, and I LOVE my single life, the added hardship on my quest to find the love of my life is I am into the same sex. Yep percentage wise on the population it may take me a little longer, but very hopeful of the perfect partner. As you finished your story I am holding out to find that person that loves me back as much as I love them. Thanks for the morning read!

  • Larissa Howlett

    I had two of those “game changer” boys in my youth: one at 19 and the other at 20. The one at 19 was on/off until 21, and even resurfaced via text two years into my marriage (at 26), yikes! The one at 20 COMPLETELY broke me for about a year, because there was no closure – one minute it was “I love you” (from me, alas) the next he disappeared from my life entirely. Anyway, when I was 21, I decided to try this thing my friend dubbed “look how female I am” which was basically just acting really girly/ditzy/clueless/flirty as flirting practice. I did it for one day – mostly in retail settings – and I met my now-husband, no joke. He was working at Blockbuster video (I know, I just aged myself, lol) and armed with this project of my mental state, I was able to be cute and flirty and so outside of myself but also me – does that make sense? – that I let him know I was interested and we had some chemistry. Granted I had to come in a few more times and basically beat him over the head to let him know I was interested (he was a bit nervous to ask me out) but eventually he did and we’ve been inseparable ever since (that was almost 8 years ago). Sometimes you just have to get out of your head for a little bit. It helped me to think of flirting as a game/project. I was “female” with all the guys I came across, even the not-so-attractive ones, just for fun. Anyway, that’s what helped me snap out of my slump. I never expected to marry the guy from Blockbuster when I started flirting with him, but you never know which days will change your life.

    Also: being in a relationship doesn’t get rid of loneliness, unfortunately. My husband and I moved away from our friends/family a year and a half ago and basically just have each other and our dog and cat, and this past year I have been incredibly lonely (although I only realized it 6 months ago). It’s just as you described, and I may have to steal your paragraph on it when I try to explain how I feel to my best friend in Texas (I live in SoCal).

    Sorry for the novel of a response. I wish you all the best in overcoming your loneliness and finding love!

  • Mayra Alejandra Cervantes

    My goodness!!! Are you like my long lost soul sister?! You seriously just told the story of my life. And just like you, I hate feeling this way! Am I too independent? Is there really something wrong with me?
    It wasn’t until recently that I too realized I wanted all that cheesiness that comes with being in love.
    You have no idea how much this somehow makes me feel better…knowing I’m not going crazy by myself.

  • Danielle America Fritz

    This has pretty much summed up my singles existence. Beautifully written.

  • Karis Tucker

    Wow. My life right here. I am about to be 21 and at 20 me being single started to bother me. I have never been in a relationship or even had a guy express interest in me, so I would get discouraged thinking,”What is wrong with me!?” my friends who are younger than me have had great long term relationships and my childhood friend just got engaged. I would start to wonder when it will be my turn? I hated it when I started liking a guy because I knew that it wouldn’t ever happen. I always try to remind myself that there IS someone out there for me and not to get discouraged. I am still young so I do have time. So comforting to read a relating post, thanks so much! Good luck :)

  • Christine Schneider

    I’ve had two relationships in my short 29 years on the earth. I’ve been single for the past 5 years. Which seems to really shock some people. You summed up exactly how I feel sometimes when all the loneliness and singleness rears up. Most of the time I’m content. I have nothing tying me down anywhere. I just made a major move from Chicago to Atlanta for a really good job opportunity. One of which wouldn’t have been as easy to do if I was in a relationship (bring it on southern boys where are you?!?). Truth be told, I don’t think I’ll ever get married, I never really have, and I’m totally ok with that. Most recently though (have it be the move or just that I’m getting older) I’ve felt the desire for a man by my side. It’s a struggle. I’m a traditionalist, I’m not into online dating, and the guy needs to make the first move. I think what I’m trying to say is the “single and content” piece gets better, if not familiar again, though, you clearly defined the times where something seems to be missing.

  • Colin Albro

    This article is my life, word for word. Well, except that I’m a 30 year old gay man (minor details). I understand your pain and confusion but also your hope and optimism. Until that special someone comes along let’s make it a point to love ourselves and our single friends a little more and more each day.

  • Michelle Mantovani

    When I finished the post I thought ‘OMG! When have I written this?’. It’s just all I’m feeling… you know, I have 22 years old (almost 23) and every single day of this life I’m single. In the last years there always were days when I’m feeling very lonely, but recently this is so much harder… it’s like with the age these moments of loneliness became more effective, and today this is so difficult to understand… like you said about you, I can’t imagine me in a relationship and “I have no idea how to be close to someone” but “the truth is,” I’m also “can’t wait to be in love with someone who is in love with me”. And I don’t have idea how this could work some day when it happen (if happen some day).
    In some way it’s comfortable know that there are more people living with that kind of feeling, so thank you for sharing this.

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