Serial Singleness

Everyone seems to be falling in love lately. My social media newsfeeds are flooded with wedding photos and engagement announcements, loved up date night posts and kissing snaps. And me? I’m settling in with a big fuck off glass of wine, some peanut brittle and a blanket on the couch. My only company is the ghost, and dead guys just don’t do it for me.

I’m a bit of a singular entity. None of my relationships have ever lasted that long, and I am the kind of person that gets sick of other people quickly. So how do they do it? How is it that so many people I know seem to be happily settling into coupledom? Is it magic? Do you follow some scientific formula and end up in a relationship? Or do you just have to barrel on in and hope for the best?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to hop aboard the Tinder train or anything. But when everyone around you is getting into relationships and moving in together and making gooey eyes at each other until you feel vaguely ill, it kind of makes you ponder your serial singleness. And it occurs to me that being single has such a stigma attached to it. So much so that some people become afraid to be alone, and will subsequently stay in bad or toxic relationships because they think it’s the lesser of two evils. Now, I don’t know about you, but something in that scenario seems hugely wrong to me.

To be honest, dating has never been a big thing with me. I’ve never met someone I want to settle down with. I mean, my ex is great and we’re awesome friends now, but our short lived relationship was the result of a romantic incompatibility. And that was over three years ago and I’ve been single ever since. I’m not sure I’d know how to date anymore! The strange thing is that when you’re single, all the coupley people, whether they realise it or not, they kind of pity you a little. It’s like there’s this notion that if you’re single then you must be lonely, and pitiable. Because how could you possibly be content if you don’t get to curl up with someone at night, right?

I guess the point I’m driving at here, albeit confusingly, is that it’s such a socially accepted thing to be in a relationship. It usually follows the ‘date, get engaged, get married’ formula and no one questions it. And yet people question being single all the time. I’m forever being asked how my love life is, or of I’ve met anyone lately, or getting a condescending pat and a ‘don’t worry, you’ll find a nice girl one day’. Or if it’s not that, it’s the ‘oh my god, how are you single?’ I’m single the same way you’re an asshat. And excuse me, people in relationships, but I don’t need your pity and I don’t need a consolation sigh. Leave me alone with my wine and my couch and my ghost, I assure you I’m quite content!

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And then there's this...

Elastic Love

Love is a little bit like a rubber band. Love, like a rubber band, can bind two things together and hold them fast. Love is elastic, it can be stretched to the limit and still manage to spring right back. Love, like a rubber band, is durable but can also be incredibly fragile. If you stretch the boundaries of another person’s love for you, there’s every chance that it is going to snap. And even if you manage to fix it, tie it back together, that knot is always going to be there, marring what was once whole.

Imagine you and the person you love, are bound together by a giant, invisible rubber band. That band wraps around you both and is made up of everything you share with that other person. Sometimes it can bring you close together, and sometimes you need to walk in opposite directions so the band stretches out and gives you some room. That band is your relationship, your love. In every relationship, there are going to be hardships. The thing about love is that it is never one hundred percent easy, and you can’t ever expect that a relationship is going to be all good, all the time. So you need to be flexible.

Rubber bands have a certain amount of stretch. Sometimes you can push the boundaries and get more give than you thought possible. But if you take that elasticity for granted, you’re going to break it. Love is the same. A lot of things can test the boundaries of your love and your relationship. Everything from money issues to a sudden unexpected death, from insecurities to a lack of trust. When hardships occur, it is ok to need space, a bit of room, a bit of give. The trick is not letting that invisible band of love stretch too thin. Because the minute you do, you weaken it and when it gets too weak, it will inevitably break.
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Of course, the elastic band theory doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. You have elastic bands with every person you know, and some will have more give than others. One of my strongest elastic bands was stretched a bit lately. The very notion that it could have broken, though unlikely, scared me more than I think I really want to admit. Flashes of possible scenarios went through my head, my thoughts going, as they are prone to do, straight to the darkest places. We talked it out, my rubber band person and I, and everything was ok. It was a strong reminder of that which I have already stated here; love is not always easy. But when you get it right, it’s worth every second.

On Admitting That I Need a Person

Do you ever have a moment where you realise, despite how often you insist that you’re not, you’re actually just like everyone else? I had a moment like that last week. And I hated it.

I’m what I like to call fiercely independent. Or at least, I used to be. I thought I was happy being single, not being tied down. Relationships scare me because I suck at commitment and I’ve been content for so long not having a ‘person’ that it never occurred to me what I’m missing out on. Or that maybe, there is a part of me that does want a person, and I’ve just been too stubborn to admit it.

The need for someone else is something I’ve always found – with no small degree of snobbery, I confess – to be a weakness. What, you mean you actually want to spend a lot of time with another person? Lame. But recently I’ve come to realise that needing someone is only a weakness if you let it be. And that, actually, it’s just part of being human. We all crave the touch of another person, we love to be loved. Even the heartless among us (raises hand) who struggle with affection still need it in some degree. I think there’s an inherent need in all of us to be wanted, to be hungered for and desired. And, despite how much I tell myself that I’m an exception, I’m exactly like everyone else in that regard. I’m human. Damn it.

There is a difference, a huge difference, between being lonely and being alone. I spend a lot of my time around other people, so I enjoy being alone. But lately, by myself or otherwise, I’ve been lonely and it’s almost a physical ache. I know how that sounds, believe me. I feel weird just saying it. And even though there is a huge part of me that feels like I’m admitting defeat by saying this, I need a person. I came to the realisation that saying that doesn’t make me any less independent. It just means that, right now, I need someone’s arms around me. I need to curl up with someone. I need to feel someone’s skin against my own, not even for sex but just because. I don’t want to go home and sleep in a bed on my own, or wake up wishing for something that I don’t have.

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Last week, I realised that I need a person, and I hate that I want it as much as I do. I hate hating the fact that I’m lonely. I hate admitting that I’m like everyone else. Suddenly, the idea of a relationship doesn’t seem so unappealing. That comfortable intimacy I see in so many of my friend’s relationships now makes me a touch envious. I miss past Amy, the one who laughed in the face of commitment and secretly felt a little bit sorry for her friends that openly admitted to wanting a partner. Past me thought she was better than them, the relationship snob that she is. I bet she’d mock me now.

The Art of Flirting

I went out for tea with a friend of mine last night. We were sitting there after finishing our meal, waiting, at first patiently, and then less so patiently for the waitress to come and clear our plates so we could order more drinks. (‘Full table service provided’ doesn’t mean much to these people, evidently.) When the somewhat snooty waitress finally deigned to do her job and come and ask us if everything was ok, we decided to order two hot chocolates. As she was taking our order, another waitress came up and stood beside her while she wrote our order down. Then she told us, completely unexpectedly, that our drinks would be free, courtesy of two young chaps who had been sitting outside and thought we were cute.

Never in my life has anyone bought me a drink and I confess, I thought the gesture was impossibly sweet. But it presented us with a problem; how to avoid awkwardness. My friend is in a long term relationship and me? Well, guys aren’t really my thing. Neither one of the lads came up to speak to us personally and I only caught the barest glimpse of them as they walked up to the counter a little later. We told the waitress to pass on our gratitude but when they went up to the counter, we did the cowardly thing and left while they were distracted. Bit of a pussy move, huh? I can practically see you shaking your collective heads as you read this.

The thing is, neither one of us really know the proper etiquette if you will, that is involved in being on the receiving end of a shouted drink. Do you go and talk to the buyer? Do you give them a nod of acknowledgment from across the room? Do you go home and sleep with them? Ok, honestly now I’m just confusing movies with reality again but the sad truth is that I honestly don’t know how to react to flirting. From a personal standpoint, I’m not very good at it. And I’ve never really been flirted with so much as had guys aggressively flirting at me.

I’m not the greatest in social situations, especially those involving horny guys, or even to a lesser degree, guys who just find me attractive. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a bit of alright, it’s just that I’m never interested and would rather avoid that awkwardness altogether. I’ve had a number of experiences with guys who just couldn’t take no for an answer and my polite indifference soon turned to vehement and defensive anger. I’m not trying to be rude but I just don’t want to have a drink with you, or see a movie with you, or catch up some time. It’s nothing personal.

I don’t flirt because flirting leads to trouble if only one party is interested and I’m legitimately never interested. I don’t see the point in leading a person on if you have no interest, all for the sake of being polite or because you’re bored. The problem is that being that I’m no good at it, I don’t flirt with people I find attractive to start a conversation either. Social awkwardness and all that. So really, the moral of this story is that I am destined to be single forever because I have not and can not master the art of flirting. Bring on the cats.

P.S. I actually don’t like cats. Shit. Better think of a Plan B.

Why Relationships Should Come With a Toxicity Warning

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Do you ever look at your past relationships – romantic or otherwise – and wonder what the hell you were doing? I do that a lot. To be honest, my past is positively littered with people I’ve intentionally lost contact with. Which might sound really antisocial but there is a reason those people are in my past and not my present. So when someone that I had happily left in my past suddenly wants to get back in contact with me, you can understand that I’m not entirely thrilled by the prospect.

I’m not the kind of person that holds onto things for very long – grudges notwithstanding. For me, once something is over, I usually wash my hands of it. Take, for instance, relationships. I have never been romantically involved with someone that I didn’t end things with on my own terms. Of the (few) people I’ve dated, I only speak to one of them and as for the others, I cut them out of my life a long time ago, and with good reason. Basically, I’m just better off without them.

The sad thing, is that that knowledge only comes with hindsight. If I had known at the time that my relationships weren’t right for me, I’m not sure I even would have bothered entering into them. What’s the point if, in the end, the only thing you’re going to get out of it is another person you no longer talk to? I have enough of those already, at the rate I’m going I’ll have no one left to talk to at all!

However it’s not just romantic involvement. I have lost – or discarded – many a ‘friend’ who no longer fit that particular description. When you find out that your so-called friends are spreading vicious rumours about you behind your back, you know it’s time to get out. But again, if I had have known how things would have turned out with those people, I have to wonder if I would have bothered. That’s not to say that there weren’t good times, but just that they mean nothing now because they’re marred with a heavy cloud of negative emotions.

The thing with relationships though, is that you often can’t look at them rationally because you have a personal attachment and it blinds your judgement. Sometimes you just can’t see the bad, even when it’s right in front of you. And this is where I think relationships need to come with warning labels. Magic neon signs for your eyes only, clearly displaying why you and another person should stay far away from each other. Warning! This relationship is harmful and toxic. For your safety and happiness, don’t engage. The warnings wouldn’t necessarily have to come at the beginning either. Maybe they could appear at a time when happiness was about give way to misery and woe, so you could break things off before you had to deal with the negative drama that was due to come.

Can you imagine how easy relationships would be if you didn’t have to deal with all the emotional baggage that can come with them? You could have a person in your life for as long as you were compatible and then go your separate ways without any of that residual guilt, unhappiness or anger.

I think about all of the relationships I know of, and how many of the people in them would benefit from warning labels. People who were once in love and now don’t even talk. People who stay in unhappy relationships because they can’t see that it’s killing them. People who do everything for a friend and get nothing – barely even a thank you – in return. And then I think about those kind of relationships I have had with people, (barring the first) and how I wish I had have had some kind of prior warning before I got involved.

Admittedly, there is a problem with my concept of warning labels. For a start, people don’t always heed the warnings. And secondly, life is all about experiencing the good and the bad. If everything was good, we’d have no point of comparison and then, how good would anything really be? It’s that whole ‘without suffering there would be no compassion’ theory. In order to appreciate the good, you need to have experienced the bad. But that being said, I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks back on past relationships and wished I had never gone there.

I guess the thing to remember is that, while there may have been good times, your relationships end for a reason, toxicity warning or not. Don’t get me wrong, they can be repaired and built up again. I myself am now back in contact with an old friend, after a six year absence from each others’ lives, and we get along great. The trick is knowing yourself well enough to know when something doesn’t, or no longer feels right. And if an unwanted visitor from your past turns up wanting to be all friendly again, don’t be afraid to tell them to shove it.