It didn’t really occur to me just how obsessed with are, as a society, with the idea of love, being loved and being in love. Earlier this year, I became single for the first time in two and a half years, and suddenly, I felt my worth being diminished by 79% (a very accurate and scientific guestimation). I wasn’t part of a couple anymore, so I was less valuable, less desirable, and less interesting.
It got me thinking about how I was treated by society when I was single before. A lot of the time, I got the dreaded, “but how are you single??” As if being single was a major design flaw of mine while I was being built in the Factory of Desirable People. Asking someone how or why they are single is not only deeply personal (and, quite frankly, offensive), but is a prime example of how we are not valuable in society unless we’re part of a couple. (Side note: Robin James, who blogs at Man For Himself, has a brilliant blog post about this, which I implore you all to read)
Love, the pursuit of love, and being in love, is everywhere. It’s in songs, books, films, TV shows. Everyone everywhere is contributing to the narrative of ‘you ain’t shit if you ain’t in love.’ Which is problematic is many different ways, but especially so in regards to those who actively don’t want a relationship, such as those on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. What about those people? Do we just erase them from this grand narrative?
One is the loneliest number. Two’s company. What is this obsession with being coupled up?
I’m certainly not impervious to this. Just a month after my break up, I was on back on the scene: downloading apps, swiping, chatting, and going on dates.
Now, for the sake of transparency, a big part of this was battling loneliness. Where I currently live, I don’t have many close friends or family around me, so when things ended with my ex, that sent me further down my spiral of isolation (woah, bleak much?). And so, going out and meeting people is a great distraction for this horrible reality I am facing.
I did have to stop and think about why I was putting so much emphasis on dating, though. Initially, it was just a bit of fun. Dating is fun! I convinced myself. Meeting people is fun! But as I dug deeper, I realised that I only really knew how to function in the world when I had someone else to think about. When I was crushing on someone, when I was waiting for a text, when I was thinking romantic (and sexy) thoughts. So, again, I beg, why do we put so much emphasis on love and being loved?
Once again, I asked the good people of Twitter if they too felt the pressure of coupling up; the response was nice and varied. Some said that they did, especially as they got older, and more friends and acquaintances were moving in, getting engaged and getting hitched. Others said that they didn’t feel the pressure at all: that as a society, we’re living longer and therefore moving away from the pressures to settle down and couple up early.
I think both of these viewpoints are very valid: it’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison game when you see all of your friends pair off. When you slowly start to realise that you’re one of the only singletons left in your friend group, thoughts like Why can’t I find someone? can easily take over. But again – we are living longer, and there is less expectation to settle down early, like generations before us often did.
The first thing that came out of many people’s mouths upon finding out about my break up was, “Aww, don’t worry, you’ll find someone else!” Which isn’t a bad sentiment in itself, because I knew it was coming from a good place. But I couldn’t help but think, Do I need to find someone else right now?
I’m quite happily single after spending so long giving myself away to someone else. I’m very much enjoying learning about and exploring different parts of myself as I enter this new phase of life. BUT, I think the reason why I jumped into the dating scene as quickly as I did after my break up, is so I can be deemed as acceptable to society. So that, if someone asks about my love life, I can at least say: Nope, not found anyone yet, but I’m on the apps… I’m actually chatting to someone at the moment… I went on a couple of dates last week…
Because if it lookslike I’m trying, society and my coupled up pals will nod approvingly, rather give me those pitying ‘poor single you’ stares.
I was chatting to my friend Jo about this the other day (second shout out in a row because she’s full of wisdom) and she said, “So many people are either ‘I am single and so happy’ or ‘I want to find love’… but what happened to being somewhere in the middle?!” And I think I’m definitely sitting in that middle ground: of being single and happy and exploring myself, but also being open to that meet-cute and finding that special someone (though, one could argue that meet-cutes don’t really happen anymore, but more on that in a future post).
I’d love to extend the discussion out to you guys: how do you feel about the way society views being single vs. being in a relationship? Do you feel pressure to be romantically involved with someone? Or do you think we’re slowly shifting mindsets to being free and single? I’d love to hear your thoughts!