On Being Alone

In this summer’s issue of FLARE, Briony Smith wrote an article called “The L Word”, and no she wasn’t writing about love. Instead, she wrote about a topic much less talked about: That of loneliness.

It made me think about two summers ago when I was one of the only single people at a friend’s wedding.

I was in a coral lace dress sitting alone at a table for 10 waiting for my friends and their dates. We had some time to kill between ceremony and reception so we all met for drinks in Eau Claire. I was more comfortable sitting there overdressed and alone sipping my drink than I was two hours later when it dawned on me that I was the only solo person at the table.

But wasn’t I having fun until that moment of single girl panic? I was drinking and laughing with the dudes that my friends had chosen. I was absolutely, positively okay.

Later that week I was alone in the middle of my condo with boxes and pillows and books everywhere. Sixteen months had gone by since I moved there. It boggled my mind how much had happened, but also how much hadn’t. I never brought any guys home. A few slept on the couch, but it was only my girlfriends or coworkers that had slept in my bedroom. Shouldn’t I be having loads of sex and dates and choosing which guy I thought was a keeper? I thought.

And who put this idea in my head-that my mid-twenties should be bursting with men?

See, I wasn’t lonely until I was surrounded by couples at that table two summers ago. And I wasn’t lonely in my mid-twenties until I was packing up my apartment and realized I hadn’t brought anyone home the entire time I lived there. I wasn’t lonely until some expectation about what my life should have been like started to sink in.

Now, two years later, on the other side of singledom, I sometimes feel weird talking about “what worked” or offering up any kind of advice. Who am I to talk? I was making mistakes right up until the day my boyfriend made a move on me. *

There is nothing more annoying than being single in a group of girls, (or even worse – family members) who decide they ought to start dishing up advice.

Stop focusing on it.

Maybe you’re looking in all the wrong places.

You’re being too picky. What about [insert name of guy you’ve friend zoned here]

It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.

Join a beer league.

And my personal favorite, “Just focus on yourself”

Are you kidding me? I’ve had half a decade worth of ‘me-time’, self-improvement, and staying selfishly busy. 

Hearing “Just focus on yourself” just pissed me off.

Single girls don’t want advice. As Briony Smith points out in her article, all a single girl needs is some empathy and your hot friend’s number. (2015, Summer) The L Word. Flare, page 92.

But if there’s any advice I wish I had let sink in as a single lady, it’s that I never needed to be anything more or less than what I already was.

All that self-awareness stuff, sure it’s worth it in a lot of ways. But is it necessary to find love? Aren’t we supposed to be loveable just as we are? And why did it always feel so weak to admit that “Yeah, I’d really like to have someone to go home and have relationship-y sex with.”

I would have really enjoyed a date sitting beside me at that wedding two summers ago, but I shouldn’t have felt, even for a moment, like there was anything wrong with me because I didn’t.

“This obsession with dating success by way of self-improvement is a by-product of western society’s can-do ideal …. I tried, for a long time, to eradicate my undesirable bits. Some changes made me a better person, like going to the gym and softening my bitchy resting face … I eventually gave up. There’s only so much of myself I can change before there’s nothing left.” Smith, Briony (2015, Summer) The L Word. Flare, page 94.

As the months went by and my single status never changed, I really started to feel like I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough, witty enough, smart enough, and so on and so forth. It makes me cringe that some nights, the lack of some drunk guy hitting on me had that much of an impact on my self-worth. And even worse, that the same kind of guy also had the ability to make my self-confidence soar.

“You’re gorgeous” said the devil.

I believed him. And I believed all sorts of other vain compliments from guys over the years. But when the guy who is falling in love with me says the same words, I automatically think, “He has to say that”.

I’m admitting this because I wish I could tell my fifteen year old self that even if no one is loving you at certain points in your life, you’re still super loveable. I wish I had never given my power away to this idea that I needed to be better in order to be desirable.

So no. You don’t have to master self-confidence in order to find love. You do not have to be the smartest or wittiest girl in the bar. You don’t have to start or stop anything. You’re not doing anything wrong. Stop giving away that much power to the idea of romance, when most of what our dating lives consist of is meaningless hookups and mediocre dates. It’s not worth beating yourself up over.

You can want it as much as you want, just don’t base your self worth on whether the real thing is in your life yet or not.

It’s easier said than done. But I wish I could make that feeling disappear for every girl and guy in the world. Because it’s a liar.

Fresh out of dating, newly retired if you will, I don’t miss being single at all. I suppose there was something thrilling about knowing it was all ahead of you – the meet, the first kiss, the falling. But what’s better than all of that is the kiss that says “I missed you.” 

The difference now is that being alone doesn’t worry me anymore. Not that heartbreak doesn’t scare me – nobody likes heartbreak; it’s what fucks us all up. Even our parents heartbreak can have a huge impact on us.

#daddyissues

But the being alone bit, the waiting for love to show up again, that I can do. Because now I know for sure that you can be totally surprised by it. It can show up in the most unlikely of ways, when you least deserve it. And you don’t have to change a single thing about yourself. I really didn’t think I was going to be surprised by love ever again. 

“You might already know him.”

Pffffft. YA right.

I was surprised, to say the least.

No advice here. Just a message to future romantics and seekers of love (and to my fifteen year old self if I could talk to her):

Someone will get over themselves and their shit and go to the depths it takes to love somebody like you. In the meantime, be as much of yourself as humanely possible because even though at times it will feel like a game that you desperately want to tap out of, the right person will want you. Including the undesirable bits.

Ugh. I feel like the advice that annoyed me the most probably annoyed me so much because it’s TRUE.

“Just focus on yourself”

But don’t make that mean that you have to focus on changing yourself. You don’t have to change a thing.

*I was still sleeping with the devil