It begins your Junior Year of college: Single Shaming. It’s that time when your relationship status is no longer a silly Facebook indicator or a reason bragging rights or a show of ‘how much ass’ you’ve been getting, instead, being single becomes part of your identity.
Relatives and strangers make assumptions about you, some painfully true and others relievingly false. They decide that you’re too ‘goal oriented’ (i.e: you’re power/success hungry) or that your crazy (i.e: you’re undiagnosed and probably have a lot of cats), or that your stubborn (i.e. can’t compromise, self-absorbed). Whatever the assumption is based in, your single status is always the fault of your own (read here: it is not a choice. You did not choose to be single. This singledom was thrust upon you).
At a certain point, your single status becomes the highlight of every conversation. The dinner table conversations are expected to be filled with embarrassing antidotes about one-night stands, hook-ups in public bathrooms, failed attempts at relationships, and hilarious holiday stories about your ex-partners father. You’re the brunt of the joke, the receiver of pity, and made to feel abnormal and at fault.
Then there are the friends who lamely try to comfort us for our single status. “Go crazy! I need to live vicariously through you”. Or condescendingly “how can you expect anyone to love you when you don’t love yourself”, or annoyingly “you will find love when you least expect it”. First off: Rude! I don’t want my flailing love life to be your entertainment. Second off: I love myself plenty! And third off: I don’t want love when I least expect it- I want it now! Though, I write these responses ironically and with humor, the blame and suggestive questioning of even the most caring friends often borders on insulting, depreciating, and nosey.
Being single is a series of contradictions. Some nights you expectedly channel Beyoncé in All The Single Ladies, other nights you sit alone in your big bed listening to Roy Orbison’s Only The Lonely and other nights you’ll spend constructing the most perfect Tindr, OKCupid, or match.com profiles. There is no one right way to be single, there is no wrong way to be single, and there is nothing wrong with being single.
It is painfully easy to get wrapped up in the societal expectation that you leave high school, attend a college, meet the partner of your dreams by your junior year, and the two of you get married three years after you graduation. Some of our friends are following this neat path (couple scrapbooks, his & her towels, Golden Retriever puppy, etc.), while others take a risk at independence and are forced to embrace the life of ‘not yet married’.
For those of us trying to figure out how to lead a happy, single life, I offer a series of pieces of advice I have gathered from both those who are single, and those who are no longer single:
1. Be spontaneous, this may be one of the few times in your life when your desires won’t be restricted by another’s desires. So spend that time with ferocity and passion:
2. Travel. Work hard, play hard, and take enough time to reflect. Learn it is okay to be alone.
3. Always love yourself first, know that you’re company. Take yourself on dates if you’re feeling romantic.
4. Never forget that finding a partner is only one of the goals that you can have at once. You are more than your relationship status, the brunt of a joke, the receiver or bad advice. You are a go-getter, an achiever, a person on their journey.
There is no shame in being single. Don’t forget this when you are single. Don’t forget this when you’re not single. Being single is not the overarching theme of your identity; your relationship does not summarize what you are like as a person. You are large, you contain multitudes, and you are wonderful as long as you continue striving to become the best version of yourself.