My adult life has been full of bucket list moments that the 12 year old me would pinch herself over. For instance, I’ve met Jason Priestly – twice. There are a few things I have not done, that nearly everyone I know has experienced: visit Japan, watch The Wire or be in a serious relationship.
Whenever I reveal that I’ve been single my whole life, people react as if I’ve just shape-shifted into Jeffrey Tambour. They ask why and spit out responses of disbelief (e.g. “But you’re attractive”), condescending pity or unwanted advice. Rather than shrug it off with “It’s just the way it is”, I feel the need to offer a list of reasons to combat their assumptions.
Single people are always expected to justify themselves, yet it is not questioned when someone jumps from one relationship to another. An “Instagram official” post of a new couple will generate celebratory love heart emojis from friends. No one will comment “You were only single for 2 weeks and your new partner looks like a sheep’s testicle. You should address your issues with emotional dependancy.”
Here are some common stereotypes of single people identified through my interviews with long-term singles, sociological research and media.
SINGLE PEOPLE ARE MISERABLE
Bridget Jones is unfortunately the poster child for straight single women. Apparently we spend our evenings crying into a tub of ice cream because we don’t have a man. If you catch me crying while eating ice cream, it is because I’ll suffer consequences as I’m lactose intolerant.
Tragic romantics are brainwashed by the idea that the only path to happiness is a relationship. You can blame it on biology, movies and capitalism. Though romantic love replicates euphoria that only drugs can replicate, the initial dopamine hit from the honeymoon period is not worth it for some. Many women prefer to remain single after a divorce. Studies show that single, childless women are the happiest cohort of the population.
Those who pity singles conveniently ignore the fact that you also be miserable in a relationship. Sadness is an unavoidable part of the human experience. Not all singles are sad because of their lack of relationship. I recently couldn’t get out of bed after reading about the Neo Nazis in my neighbourhood.
SINGLE PEOPLE ARE LONELY
My single mum friend Sarah (49) was called a “lonely heart loser” by the bitchy mum clique at her daughter’s school. This is an offensively inaccurate description of Sarah. Loneliness can’t be simplified into a condition that only affects single people because we sleep alone. The singles I interviewed have rich and interesting lives filled with activities and people they love. Single people are likely to have more friends than married people, and are better at maintaining friendships.
It is normal for anyone to feel lonely at times, whether you are in a relationship or single with good friends. There are many different types of loneliness, which can be triggered by a variety of things:
- Your partner of seven years has become a Covid conspiracy theorist – lonely.
- Just had a baby and it’s just you and the baby all day, everyday – lonely.
- You want to see a weird experimental band but can’t find anyone to go with you – lonely.
- You’ve started a new job and everyone in the office is into horse racing but you – lonely.
- You go on Instagram and see that everyone but you had social plans the weekend after lockdown – lonely.
- You read and watched Normal People over a week – lonely.
My singleness has never been a source of loneliness because my emotional needs are met by a variety of people. Being single is not the same as being alone, and being alone does not equate to loneliness. Solitude can be bliss when you learn to appreciate it.
SINGLE PEOPLE ARE DEFECTIVE
“No wonder they’re single.”
Who has been guilty of saying this to insult someone behind their back? Heck, even I’ve said it.
Most people, irrespective of looks, personality or wealth, manage to get into at least one relationship in their lifetime. Logically, if someone remains on the shelf, there must be something wrong with them, right?
Though I’m happily single, my self-esteem takes a hit whenever a barely single friend finds new love instantly, making me feel like I’m mouldy fruit. I feel better once I assess their circumstances: would I want to date their partner (no), do I want their relationship (no), should I stop comparing my situation to others because love is not a race and everyone has their own shit to deal with (yes).
Sure, there are people who aren’t relationship material because they sing Ed Sheehan during sex, but there are plenty of decent people who just happen to be single. My perpetually single interviewees were attractive, smart and kind. Nothing about them stood out as being unworthy of a relationship. They generally preferred to be alone than with the wrong person, and many prioritised their passions over dating.
Measuring someone’s worth on their relationship status implies that people in relationships are perfect. Being single does not make you inherently defective, and being in a relationship does not absolve you of being a dick. Look at how many times Donald Trump has been married.