I was sixteen going on seventeen when I left home. Looking back, I wonder what my parents were thinking letting a sixteen year old go half-way around the world. Of course, sixteen years of age means different things to different peoples and cultures. And my parents would tell you they had as much worry as any parent who lets their late-teen leave home. But my parents would also tell you as they often tell me, “But we weren’t really worried about you. You always knew how to take care of yourself.” I guess I grew up fast and developed a sense of independence that was mental before it was anywhere legal or actual.
I’ve almost always been the single one of my friends – through high school, college, grad school, and even when I’ve been seeing someone, it just never led to anything worthwhile. And the truth is I’ve always been more okay with it than not. It’s on my mind because it’s that time of year when people seem to be especially keen on asking me about my dating life. These days I answer that odious, tiresome question, “Why are you still single?” with the answer, “No one I’m interested in, is interested in me so I’m planning on dying alone.” Keeping as much of a nonchalant straight-face as possible, I have found that most people won’t ask you a follow-up question to such a self-deprecating response. And while it’s not exactly a completely true response, it’s enough for people to want to change the subject. I win.
The only times I feel awkward when I’m single is when I find myself faced with one of those extremely PDA-intent-on-making-you-feel-like-crap couples or when I have to find a date to something like a wedding. Most of the time, I’m not really thinking about it. I live by myself and although I have many close friendships and am close with my family, I have always found that I am still one of my best friends. I know that sounds weird but I think being “so alone” has allowed me to further my emotional independence. And as I get older, I appreciate it more and more.
While we often focus on becoming financially independent in our twenties, I think we forget that we need emotional independence as well. And for better or for worse, being single, living by myself, and being with myself a lot, has given me a head start. I know being in a relationship is wonderful and I will always slightly envy the next girl I know who is seriously dating or getting engaged or getting married because at times, it makes me feel like I’m being left behind. But those moments are few and far between because I think what people value at different points in their life is different.
And I value relationships, I really do. I want it when it’s right and it’s just never been right. Notice I didn’t say perfect, I just said right. And the truth is I am not interested in how many people my age are forming relationships. Hook-up culture is rampant – it’s how people want to begin their relationships these days; it’s how people do begin their relationships these days. And I’m not interested in it at all. I think we can talk about people’s autonomy till we’re blue in the face, but in the end I think the physical coming before the emotional is a distorted version of events. I think the emotional toll it takes on people is eventual emptiness, and I think people silence their emptiness with more of the same. But that’s just one girl’s opinion – what people do is their business.
But what about the “good relationships?” I do think they take time, and for me, it’ll probably always be a more old-fashion process. And while I don’t have guys blowing up my phone all the time, I have found that people will treat you how they can get away with treating you. So most guys who are interested do treat me well because I demand it. And while I will rarely ever state an opinion on what people should and shouldn’t do in their romantic lives, I just wish more people – men and women – would demand they get treated better.
But do you know why I demand it? It’s because I have emotional independence. My self-worth is not attached to an emotional dependence on another imperfect human being. I don’t depend on anyone to “make me feel good” about myself. Don’t get me wrong – I need people as much as we all do. But I never want to be completely emotionally reliant on someone. Maybe I’m too practical but I believe that in the end, all people will disappoint you at some point. And you will disappoint others too. So I guess I believe it’s best to have a sense of self that isn’t completely contingent on somebody else for your emotional stability.
Single people love to whine about being single. And get enough martinis in me, I’d probably do the same. But the truth is I like where my life is at, mostly. I have my health, I have good family and friends, and I’m doing what I love in my vocations. I’m happy; maybe not all day every day, but almost every day. I’m happy right now. But in the end your relationship status – whatever it may be – does not signal or negate happiness. In the end, it’s all a matter of perspective. And from where I’m standing, my grass is pretty green.