Is it natural to want companionship? Or is it socially constructed? Perhaps it is both, and they both inform each other. I understand that we have now progressed to a society that can at least imagine that being unattached doesn’t have to mean misery. And it doesn’t. There are plenty of unattached happy people – young and old. I know this and you know this. But knowing this doesn’t always take away the temporary loneliness that you might feel on nights when you’ve been away from home for the better part of the day, and there is no one who left dinner waiting for you; no one to kiss you good night, and no one to fall asleep on the phone with.
I like to think of myself as being as “strong” as they come when it comes to being single. Granted, I am also as stubborn as a mule and I consider being called “picky” a compliment. But the truth is I don’t even feel picky most of the time. I just feel like that lasting connection you make with someone when you fall hard enough for them and they fall hard enough for you, just has not resulted in a committed relationship in my short lifetime thus far. It is what it is and I try not to obsess about it, mostly because it is tiresome to be obsessed about something that you can technically change. Being in a relationship with someone – if what you want is simply any relationship – is something that I maintain is available to everyone. It just depends on what you’re willing to give up for it. And we must all give up something when we want something; life is a game of quid pro quo.
People in relationships make sacrifices to be in relationships, a fact that a lot of people seem to forget. To everyone on the outside, it may seem like a bed of roses but a romantic relationship like any other relationship involves dealing with people – complex, difficult people. And so from the outside looking in, it can be easy to be envious of the couple sitting on the train next to you; the couple that is holding hands and laughing every two minutes, which will seem like it is intended to make your single soul feel worthless for that train ride. But when it’s all said and done, one cannot declare that couple is living a fairy tale life.
In the same way, no matter how “strong” I am and how much I will tell you being single is great and fun and awesome, there are nights where I just want to throw in the towel and say to hell with the single life. Because the single life gets boring and lonely and pathetic sometimes. And although some would rather I do not admit this because it would perpetuate societal notions that one “needs” someone to be happy, it also feels good to tell the truth even when the truth is dark. I am not saying that being single is boring and lonely and pathetic in and of itself. But I am saying that just as relationships are not a fairy tale and we shouldn’t convince ourselves that they are, we shouldn’t feel a need to convince ourselves that singlehood is always as happy as the Single Ladies soundtrack makes it out to be.
I was in an office the other day and you know what the picture on the wall was? It was of a cat. I felt like making a quip on social media about it but I resisted. In the first place, maybe the lady whose office I was in was perfectly happily married or happily single and I had no right to assume anything. But I cannot deny the assumptions – the socially constructed assumptions – that I did make. And whether this makes me a terrible person or not, I knew that in that moment, twenty years from now – I do not want to have a picture of a cat on my office wall. The least important reason being that I do not even like cats in the first place. (Sorry Internet.)
Is it natural to want companionship or is it socially constructed? Honestly, in the final analysis, I don’t think I really care either way. But I do know that in the end, companionship is what I want for myself. And maybe on a Friday night, when I’m on my second cocktail, I’ll tell you that I’m too busy to date or make a humorous self-deprecating remark about how most guys don’t like me anyway or pompously make a wise-crack that I’ve got too many to choose from. And that would just be my way of communicating that being single can be fun and enjoyable. But it’s also true that on a Wednesday night, when Adele’s Make You Feel My Love comes on and I’m sitting next to that love-struck couple on the train, I’m not laughing or making wise-cracks. I am sad and alone in a lonely way. And even if I’ll be fine the next day, and the day after that; even if I’m mostly fine, dare I say even happy, at least let me acknowledge in that moment that sometimes being single just isn’t fun, even when it is a choice.