23 July 2017

Dating diaries: It's okay to not enjoy being single

This post is inspired by an article I read on Refinery29 a week ago. It was written by a journalist I love and usually agree with - the title and intro had me nodding enthusiastically (on the inside) - but by the middle I was lost, and at the end I was like, 'oh, right.'

It's no insult to the journo (Maria Del Russo, I love your workkkk) - because the article was well-written and interesting. I did, however, feel the title, 'How To Handle the Scary, Sad, No-Good Single Days' was misleading.

Because it didn't really provide a 'how-to' solution like the title suggested. Instead, in the article Maria explains that she came to realise the sadness she felt towards being single was actually misplaced: really, what she was sad about was the loss of her grandmother, and the ups and downs she'd experienced as a result of this life-changing event. Which, of course, is devastating, but it implied that being single wasn't the reason she was unhappy.

So is it acceptable to feel unhappy about being single, or are you just unknowingly dissatisfied with something else?

I'm going to put it out there, guys, in three controversial statements. They're a bit taboo, especially for a mid-twenty something woman living in London, who calls herself a 'feminist' (and proud. Screw you, Trump), who believes every woman should learn to stand on her own two feet, but I'm going to do it anyway:

1. Sometimes you do feel crap about being single. 
2. It's okay to not enjoy being single. 
3. It's okay if you're feeling down because you are single.

I've barely ever been in a relationship - there have been people I've dated, flings, one-night stands - but nothing very long-term. It's not something I've ever felt like I needed, and I've always felt a little sorry for people who can't seem to function alone, or feel like they have to be attached to someone to boost their self-worth.

But I would be a big, fat liar if I said I'm happy being single 100% of the time. I have a supportive family and wonderful friends I can turn to; I have a lovely job full of equally lovely people around me; and I live in one of the most exciting cities in the world. 

Sometimes it's just not enough. You can have everything going for you, and still crave something more. It doesn't mean that because you're craving it, you're trying to make up for something you lack. 

Sometimes you want a shoulder to fall asleep on. Someone to drag around an exhibition. To have a cosy dinner with.

Sometimes you want a kiss on the head when you least expect it. Or a hand to reach out and hold yours.

It doesn't make you weak. It doesn't mean you're taking feminism back 50 years, and that you think a woman's place is in the kitchen. 

Sure, being single means you don't have to compromise - you can be selfish and live on your own terms. And sure, you can be fickle and date who you like - which is fun.

People push this 'Enjoy being single' lifestyle, but what if I don't mind compromising, and I like the idea of considering someone else? 

There's a bit in 'How To Be Single' (great movie, by the way), that has stayed with me. It's the end, where Alice (Dakota Johnson) is living her best single life, exploring the Grand Canyon - alone, because that's the point of the film, that she learns she can be fulfilled alone - and she's doing a voiceover:

I’ve been thinking that the time we have to be single, is really the time we have to get good at being alone. But, how good at being alone do we really want to be? Isn’t there a danger that you’ll get so good at being single, so set in your ways, that you’ll miss out on the chance to be with somebody great?

You know what? I'm really good at being alone. I do 'alone' all the time. I enjoy the solitude journeying to and from work. When it comes to shopping, I prefer to take my time and browse without feeling rushed or like I need to be elsewhere. I'll happily explore a new area of London by myself, or take myself to a gallery if there's an exhibition I've had my eye on. Heck, I even went to the cinema to watch Wonder Woman alone last week, on a Saturday night (I sneaked in wine and fizzy laces, it was the bomb).

But as much I love 'How To Be Single', and Maria Del Russo, they both fail to acknowledge that being single can be a legitimate reason to be unhappy. It's frustrating to feel like you're not allowed. If you're feeling low about being single, you should be out with your friends, they say ('they' being society). Or culture yourself. Or have a makeover.

I'm writing this because as much as I believe it's important to be good at being alone and love yourself - after all, as Oscar Wilde says, 'To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong love affair' - I often find myself wondering, How good at being alone do I want to be? Just because I'm good at being alone and I can enjoy it, doesn't mean I want it all the time. Sometimes I worry that by being so fiercely independent that I do risk pushing people away, or not knowing how to let them in.

The fact is: friends, family, work and hobbies aside, being single can be lonely and at times, not enjoyable. It just can. And if you do happen to feel like that, you're not alone.

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