Growing up I watched so many movies and TV shows where women in their 20s and 30s were portrayed constantly battling the agony of being single. Being single never looked fun. Single women questioned themselves and their worth. They always seemed either lonely and bitter… or drowning themselves in work.
When I was younger I thought ‘that must be sad’… but it was a thought I briefly entertained in passing because I knew it was not a future I would ever have to confront. I would, of course, be engaged by my early 20s, happily married and getting ready to start my small perfect family by my mid-20s. There was really no other way that my love story could possibly go. Now I know those were the silly musings of a naive schoolgirl who watched too many romantic comedies and mistakenly believed that ‘true love’ would be waiting around the corner.
I’m 28 now… that age where I constantly get asked about children… and about a mysterious husband that everyone assumes should have materialized by now. I never fail to notice the look of shock and concern that overcomes them once I confess that I have neither the prince charming nor the perfect bundle of joy. It’s almost as if they’re trying to make sense of the very wild reality that at the ripe old age of 28 I’m not only childless but worse… single. Because how ever will they calculate my worth as a woman if I don’t have a ring on my finger or a child on my hip?
I am very aware of my singleness. I don’t need reminders from strangers and family friends who haven’t seen me since I was 12. I get daily reminders when I scroll through social media. I’m also reminded ever so often when plans are being made and I’m that one friend who just doesn’t consider including or planning around boyfriends. Why would I? It is after all an alien concept to me. The majority of my friends are in serious long-term relationships. Several of them are married… and almost all of them have children. They go home to their partners and children at the end of a long day or after a long night of partying. I, on the other hand, am very much the single friend. I go home to myself… and I love it.
In the last couple of years, I’ve explored the dating arena in a very lacklustre way. The truth is, while I sometimes crave companionship, I’m not particularly occupied with thoughts of getting into a relationship. I have come to the realization that I am not ready for a real relationship... not right now. I’m not ready for commitment, compromise, or sacrifice. I do not want to feel the need to adjust parts of myself to accommodate another person. I’m not ready to actively consider another person’s feelings or best interests when I make decisions… whether that be decisions about where to live, what to have for dinner, or my sexual explorations. I do not wish to argue over who does the dishes. I do not want to share the last honey BBQ wing. I want to eat all my wings… all alone in bed while I watch Bojack Horseman and tweet wildly hilarious and provocative thoughts that I know won’t be sent back to me as screenshots by a questioning boyfriend. It may be selfish. It may be shallow and immature. But it feels good.
While I never imagined I would be single in my 20s… it’s a reality I quite enjoy. I am spending these years learning about myself, on my own terms and for myself. I appreciate learning how to love the best parts of me and how to confront the less-than-perfect parts. I’m well aware that I can have these learning experiences within a relationship. But I feel selfish right now when it comes to the time, energy and affection that I dedicate to discovering and loving myself. I’m not quite ready to share that with a partner.
I also enjoy learning about the highs and lows of relationships by observing my friends. We often have candid conversations about how their relationships force them to confront parts of themselves and their partners that they probably would have preferred to avoid. We talk about how they are learning to be patient, understanding, vulnerable. I’m learning these things too… but at my own pace and without feeling like I owe it to another person. I’m learning about the changes and improvements I need to make, but for me not because I feel like a relationship is dependent on it.
By observing my friends in real, grown-up relationships, I have also learned that it’s really not as simple as being in love. It’s not like in the romantic comedies where love seems to magically solve everything. Love on its own isn’t always enough. In a way, I’m thankful that I get to learn how unrealistic many of our ideas about relationships are, without necessarily having to be in one. I rather make peace with that reality right now, from the sidelines… rather than battling it while I’m neck-deep in a failing relationship that I mistakenly think can be saved by love on its own.
When the right opportunity for a relationship eventually knocks on my door, I will hopefully be a lot more prepared and a lot less naive. I hope to know myself in an unshakeable way so that being a plus one doesn’t make me second guess, condense or rearrange myself as an individual, for the sake of a partner. In the meantime, I’m content to spend Friday nights alone licking BBQ sauce off my fingers and playing Wordle.
Written by Amanie Mathurin