You never feel bad about being single naturally. You learn to feel bad about it because of friends, media, and society in general.
Look at the rom-coms which play in the cinemas and the tropes we impose on the lead characters, especially female ones: they are lonely, they are a mess. If they are successful in their careers, it’s because they eat vanilla ice cream miserably on a Friday night alone in their apartment. As I was growing up, I was exposed to Sex and the City. Sure, they were all strong and independent women who were liberal in their sexual beliefs. But the ultimate end of the show, when you take out the nuances, is that they found happiness in another man. Anything outside that happiness can’t be valid or must be put on.
As I approach my thirties, the contrast of how more friends are getting into serious relationships seems more stark. A few of my friends are already on boyfriend #5 while I can barely wrangle up a date on any given night. It’s lonely, yes, because I have learned to compare my situation to that of my friends. One cannot help it, it’s normal to always try to be at par with your peers. There is a fear of missing out as their lifestyle changes while yours remain steady.
People tend to approach your single status with sympathy. “It’s okay, you’ll get there someday” or “There’s nothing wrong with being single.” I never said I found something wrong in being by myself, you just went ahead and assumed it. You also went on to reminisce how happy you were before you had a relationship. There are also times when there is false empowerment involved. “Single is the new sexy,” one could say. But when was single not sexy to begin with?
I’ll stop now as you might think I’m just bitter. But see how the loneliness with being single is most of the time imposed. It’s not something that comes part and parcel with the natural status you were born in. Loneliness can be learned. It can also be un-learned.
When I decided to stop reading those sappy entries online about love, it helped. I adjusted my news feed settings so I don’t see those essays about finding the right one which go on wistfully. Not that I took a matchstick to these stories and burned them along with hope. What I did was to eliminate the expectation. Often, stories of love make us feel inadequate. “If it happened to the silent girl who was always the wallflower, then why isn’t it happening to me who is the life of the party?” “If it can happen to Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, then why am I still alone? I’m not asking for a McConaughey even.”
These questions pop up even if your logic tells you it’s silly. They set up love stories like they are manufactured so neatly. They build your anticipation and make you feel that the world owes you something. So when reality doesn’t play out the way fiction has taught you it would, misery comes. If there is one thing we should take from these stories, it’s that every love story is different. No one should dictate how yours should play out.
It also helped to avoid those articles which stated what’s lovable and not so adorable about you. Aside from being usually sexist and misogynistic, those lists that dictate “Your guy finds these 15 things hot” will, consciously or not, make you pick at your own flaws. They also impose that being happy happens if you fulfill certain conditions. It’s made to look like a goal that’s already set, when really, we create our own contentment.
There are times of course that I feel the pang of needing someone when all my friends are out in couple dates. But to feel sorry for myself to say that I am lonely simply because I haven’t had the fortune to meet someone? I don’t think I should feel that. There are not a lot of things better than realizing that you don’t have to share your pint of ice cream, thank you very much.
Art by Lara Intong
Read Between the Lines: The Microtrangressions In Lifestyle Articles
How Rom-Coms Skew Our Idea of Love and Relationships
Why It’s So Hard to Fight Everyday Sexism
Ask Poppy: Why Am I Still Single?