Singledom: It’s Normal, So Relax: Reader Response

Being a single woman is tiring. I spend the week getting ready for work, going to work, doing work, stressing about office politics and trying to brush it all off when I get home. There’s dinner to make and clean up, projects to work on, television to catch up with and a bedtime to uphold. There’s the imperative to try to find social situations with which I’m comfortable, without the natural camaraderie of school. And there’s also the pressure to put myself in situations with which I know I’m uncomfortable, but feel the need to push myself into, now that I’ve been single a while. Plus, everything has changed. Including me.

The last time I was single, I was 22 and living in a student building in Amsterdam. I was decidedly not looking for a relationship, stressed very little over the fact that I wasn’t in a relationship and had easy access to meeting new, interesting people via graduate school. Eventually, I made a new friend, and that grew into something bigger – but, while I wasn’t really paying attention (five years, countless jobs and three cities later), that “something bigger” fell apart.

And so at the time when all other couples who had been together as long as we had were announcing their engagements, I got to announce that he was moving out. I’m not bitter about it; we still are friends, really. After being coupled so long, it was a breath of fresh air to worry only about myself and have a bit of space. But, it’s been almost a year, and I’m starting to feel ready to “get out there.” Whatever that means.

When I was 22, I was a work-in-progress with an open schedule and easy access to new peers. On the verge of turning 28, I’m more “me” than I’ve ever been before, I’m very busy, and I find it difficult to meet new people. My interests used to exist in a constantly expanding state, but within five years, they haven’t changed – they’ve just gotten deeper and more specific. I no longer have a “job,” but rather, a career that I’m serious about, at a company I respect. I’m no longer moving as the mood strikes. I’m tied to NYC by my work, and I love my little corner of Park Slope, where these days I can afford to live without roommates. I am here. Like my now-ingrained interests, my work life and the place I live are more settled than ever before.

And its not just me, its my friends, too. Their relationships (or lack thereof), young families, careers, projects and activities have them as preoccupied as I am. The days of just hanging out are over; now we make plans at least a week ahead, usually focused around decidedly not-cliche-youthful activities (wine tasting, dinner parties, brunch). I’m now more likely to meet a girlfriend for drinks on Sunday afternoon than go clubbing on a Friday night, and when we meet, it’s to genuinely catch up and to take a break from our regularly-scheduled responsibilities. I don’t disparage this. I like these activities – they’ve evolved naturally, rather than by preconceived notions of what it means to “grow up.”

So. The game has changed. Now there are stakes. My mind is no longer so open about who I want to meet, and my schedule has lost its flexibility. I’m looking for a partner in crime. But, much like my interests and situation, I’ve only gotten more specific and unbending about what I like: I don’t want my partner to move in, but I don’t want a casual relationship. I probably want to spend more time at my place than my parter’s. I want to go to DIY concerts and new Brooklyn restaurants, but no amount of interest will have me staying out past midnight on a work day. I want to be naked with my partner, but if they don’t remember the difference between me and a porn star, they might as well put their own dick in their eye.

It may be a fairytale list – somehow I’m both more fanciful about what I want and more skeptical that I’ll find it. Over the years, the open space in the jigsaw puzzle of my life has become a bit more warped, a bit more curvy. And many pieces that used to look like they could fit no longer do. I can take care of myself. I have no use for a prince in shining armor. Unless the shining armor is entirely inappropriate: because despite all the serious grown-up stuff, I’m still ridiculous and silly and I want someone to be silly and ridiculous (and serious) with me. And unfortunately I think that means there is so much more at stake than the last time I was single.

It means I, and they, have to be honest, open and vulnerable. It means that, now, we must want the same things out of our future(s). It means that we’ll no longer get together by happenstance, and we’ll actually have to work towards being together. And that scares me to death.

I’m not stressed out because I’m single. I’m stressed out by the idea that it’s becoming painfully obvious that by having a mostly-formed life, interests, opinions and requirements, that it’s quite possible I’ll never find someone who both fits in the space and wants to make an effort to stay in it. I’ve never been good at faith, but I have to believe that somewhere out there is someone for me. And until I find that someone, I just have to keep working towards making my life what I want without them. For as much as I’d like to share my life with someone, my lack of having them cannot be a driving force as long as there is still so much out there to do. TC mark

image – Bob Jagendorf

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  • http://twitter.com/dcmjs Matt Stevenson

    Excellent post, Alison. Hang in there.

  • Drea

    im 18 and this scares me

  • Sam

    Extremely thoughtful and well-written. I have faith that we will all find someone out there to fit into the puzzle of our lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=799225004 Casey Hartley

    This is exactly why I don't want to wait until I'm in my late 20's-early 30's to start looking for a man. By then I'll be too set in my ways to want to “settle” for a guy, because it's simply harder to change as you get older. Plus, I don't want to be desperate once the bio clock starts ticking louder.

    • cazador

      bio clock isn't real you dumbfuck, more like sociological clock

      • Dani

        I hate to break this to you, but your childbearing years do, in fact, eventually end, which is generally what the term “biological clock” refers to.

  • Raingig

    im 16 and this scares me

  • http://twitter.com/SophieZhao sophie zhao

    I'm 22, moved to the big city, working full-time (20 hrs a day it seems) and hardly have time for myself let alone want to meet someone and cultivate a relationship.

    The “28 y.o.” you describes my outlook on life and relationships PERFECTLY…

    Yet not too long ago – a year ago to be exact – I was that “22 y.o.” you.

    Have I grown up too fast?

  • http://www.facebook.com/wingedthing Leigh Alexander

    the last paragraph YES

    i feel way more normal now.

    • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

      I was going to say something like “glad my insanity could help.” But in non-insanity-zone its great to hear that someone else relates.

  • Ford Tennis

    Great post. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/sgadin S

    I feel you.

  • PERFECTCIRCLES

    More frustrating than the situation the author describes is that her contact information is unavailable. Thus the cycle continues.

    • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

      My name is there. You obvs didn't google hard enough.

      • PERFECTCIRCLES

        Sure, but the contact information isn't tied to your name above, which we can only take as a suggestion.

      • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

        Sure. My name is real. And frighteningly I'm the result you get.

  • ___

    i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i

  • http://www.lifelikelola.blogspot.com Karli

    Yes about the dick in the eye. And yes to the last sentence. You've got it right, sister.

  • reverser

    i'm 37 and this scares me. also, i've been married for 12 years. which also scares me.

  • humblecore

    Really enjoyed this piece and the comments on it – interesting to compare and contrast them with the ones on the original article.

  • Cher01

    Agreed, excellent post Alison.

    At the end of the day, perhaps its easier living life alone than to have it with someone who will never be on the same page as you. There are more to life than being in a meaningless r/s.

    “For as much as I’d like to share my life with someone, my lack of having them cannot be a driving force as long as there is still so much out there to do” – Right on, Girl :)

  • http://www.calvinmarkus.com peter

    sometimes i try to convince myself that being single is a choice i'm making so i can stay productive and shit but really long term relationships have a lot of benefits to them

  • Chris

    I think what annoys me most about being single at 35 is the implication that something isn't quite right…like I'm somehow lesser than I was because my friends are mostly in relationships. I liked your article.

  • Benjamin

    I'm 30, been divorced for almost 10 years (yeah jumped the gun on that one…) During that time its been only me and my daughter.

    Except for the required school/work I have no set schedule. Things are done on a whim… I have an awesome job that allows me to set the times I choose to work… I don't have to consult another adult when I want to paint a room or buy a new dining room set or a vehicle.

    I have a group of friends that are all in the 30s & 40s and single. We go out to dinners, movies, & plays… occasionally we go out for drinks but that is no longer as big as an activity for me as it was 10 years ago.

    I enjoy my single life. While my mother (naturally) thinks its unhealthy for me to be the only adult in the house, I don't plan on changing that for a very long time still (if ever, but don't tell her that)

  • Asterix

    Awesome post Alison .. I am 30 and single, amazing how this article echoes my sentiments exactly!!!

  • nadine

    great perspective – this makes the tone of the original article starkly immature.

    also, i'm 19 and this scares me

  • Calum

    Why do I predict this will be my story in 10 or so years? I'm 15 and this scares me.
    Thank you for putting my (and it seems a lot of others') thoughts into words =J

  • Lindsey-lu

    you're talking about how hard it is to find a man once you're established. I think the same thing applies to friends too. I've moved at 19, 21, 23, and 25 and am now 30 living in the same city for 5 years. The older I've gotten the more difficult it's been to find people I want to be friends with each time i move to a new city. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of friends all over the country and all over the world, but each time i've moved, i've gone somewhere i know no one. So I've had to start over making local friends. it's hard, you have to put yourself out there and sometime's it's uncomfortable, as the author said about putting yourself in uncomfortable social situations, because you know that's what you need to do. So i totally get the sentiment about how hard it is to make new connections (romantic or otherwise) the older you get.

    What i don't like about this article, or the first one on being single, is the defeatist attitude. I can relate to the fear of never finding the right person, but the idea that your life is set in stone at the age of 28 is ridiculous. We live in a society where half of marriages fail, where more and more people are not getting married in their 20s, so there are obviously going to be a lot of great single 30, 40, 50 somethings out there. And yes, they'll be set in their ways to a certain extent too. but that's where the growth happens. you'll have to break out of your 'i'm a 28 year old spinster” attitude and keep pushing yourself to keep growing. it gets harder, but it's what we are meant to do. how sad to think of your life as totally routinized by 28. come on, you have tons of time left, and I think you'll find the people you date the older you get will be way cooler than the guys you dated out of happenstance in your early 20s.

  • http://twitter.com/srslydrew Andrew F.

    Between personal experiences and the comments here, I'm struck by the number of women who worry legitimately and consistently about this. You ladies are great and I can't imagine any woman I know staying alone forever, unless she wanted to (like seriously, not in an “it's your own fault” way). Which makes me wonder, are the guys so bad that it seems truly hopeless?

    I'm of the “it'll happen when it happens” mentality. Not in a passive way, just when things line up and you want it, you'll make it happen.

  • Albatross McKinnley

    That's awesome. I completely felt the same way. Suddenly, I have found myself in a relationship that I thought could never be. Now, I'm no longer scared of ending up single, but scared I'm going to end up married. Then, what scares me even more, is that I don't think I would mind being married to this person.

    Godspeed,
    Albatross

  • http://twitter.com/duckumu nick

    i'm 8 and this scares me

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