And you can’t fix it, no matter what.
To begin, I take umbrage (what a fantastic word) with “still.” Still implies that you’re late, that you haven’t done something fast enough, and that’s bad. Last I checked, not only was there no globally mandated timeline for partnerships, but I’m pretty sure we have the capacity to love until we’re dead. Whatever time it is, you’ve got more, and “still” is a trash way of pressuring you into feeling like a loser. Now then, let’s get on with it.
This is a response to an article that was recently brought to my attention, titled: This Is Why You’re Still Single. Not only do I disagree with this essay down to my shoes, but I also cannot physically go on with my day or indeed my very existence without clawing it to shreds like so many couches in homes with cats.
I believe this piece was written from a good place. Of course it was. No one sets out to give advice from a place of evil unless you’re a cartoon villain from the 90s. I’m certain this author meant well and I’d like to acknowledge and celebrate that well-meaning. At the same time, I can’t leave this alone, because there are enough listicles reiterating to single people just how wrong they are, and I think we as singles have the right to slam a few back over the net.
There are several “reasons” given as to “why you’re still single.” One ground rule that will help you as you progress through life and indeed this essay: If something isn’t wrong, you can’t be at fault for it. The blogerati love to give single people “reasons.” In general, I think having something to blame for an undesirable situation just makes everyone more comfortable. But seeing as how single people are free to do whatever they want all the time, make all of their own decisions all the time, and compromise with no one, ever, I don’t think that singlehood is quite the life plague we’ve been led to believe it is. Being single isn’t inherently wrong. Being so unhappy being single that you’ll listen to bullshit, or try anything and everything no matter what you have to endure in order to “find someone,” is wrong, or just unnecessary. And by the way, if it wasn’t these reasons, it would be their exact opposites. Read all the reasons that follow in the exact reverse, you’ll see what I mean. (Ex: “you aren’t confident” vs “ you’re too arrogant,” etc.)
What follows are the reasons given by the author of this essay as to why you are still single, as well as my efforts to turn them upside down and inside out.
“You aren’t confident — and it shows”
If you’re not confident, then you’re just not confident. That’s okay. Is it okay to whine to all of your friends and family that you have no confidence or self esteem in way that suggests you actually want those things but take no action to acquire them? No. If you have a desire for more confidence, I hope you pursue it, but in this moment, you’re not lacking anything that can keep you from the right partner for you. If you don’t have a natural “swagger,” to use the author’s term, that’s okay. That’s who you are. And who you are is worthy of love. Also, if you adopt a confidence or a swagger that isn’t actually your own, and that’s what attracted your partner to you, you’ll have to shine that shit on for literally the rest of your life. That sounds exhausting.
You are allowed to love yourself as you are now, even if you don’t have self confidence similar to others around you. You can love yourself as you are, because who you are is the truth.
“You aren’t putting in enough effort”
What’s enough? Can I ask? Because last I experienced, dating was actually the one area of life where effort doesn’t match reward. I online dated for ten actual years and didn’t have a single relationship result from that effort, and I have a friend who is currently married to her second Tinder match, ever. So “enough effort” isn’t tracking for me. It’s an arbitrary assumption. You don’t know what “enough” is. No one does. Except maybe Fate, and she’s tight-lipped.
In this section, the author also mentions, “You have to be willing to go on a lot of bad dates in order to eventually find a good one.” I think this really speaks to the kind of dating culture we’ve created for ourselves. Why is suffering through a lot of bad dates the assumed way that one makes it through to partnership? While I do agree with the author that there is something to gain from every experience, dating or otherwise, I disagree with her assumption that suffering leads to success. Listen to the most recent episode of Why Won’t You Date Me? by Nicole Byer. Her guest Amber Ruffin met her husband on the street. The street! Fuck your effort. This takes luck.
“You give up too soon”
This one is very similar to the reason above, and thus my response is as well. Sticking something out “just in case” is not a prerequisite for falling in love. What is meant for you will not miss you, and further, if you don’t like a situation you’re in, leave! You don’t have to keep yourself in an uncomfortable or disappointing situation “just in case.” There is no reward for that, and please do not listen to anyone trying to sell you on the idea that you have to suffer through a negative in order to be rewarded with a positive. Honestly, how the fuck do they know?
“You’re too picky”
Sweet Mary mother of Morticia Addams if I hear this horseshit one more time. People who are currently partnered did not meet their partners because they weren’t picky, and just went with whatever came along. Actually, the next time someone says this to you, ask them if they found their partner because they had no standards or preferences, like at all. See how good it feels coming in their direction, for a change.
Telling a single person they are picky is the same thing as insulting their appearance or personality straight to their face. It’s telling them that they don’t deserve what they want, because they aren’t worth it. It’s implying that because they’re “still” single, on whatever timeline happens to be in fashion that day, that they’ve somehow lagged behind, and should therefore lower their standards to accommodate their failure and lateness. If you want something, or don’t want something, that is your truth. You don’t need to accommodate shit.
You are not doing anything wrong by living and existing in a way that feels natural to you. There is nothing about you that makes you less worthy of love than any other human being on earth. You deserve love right this second, there’s nothing you need to “fix” first. I am sincerely sorry that you have not yet found the romantic love and partnership you deserve, and believe me I wish I could tell you where to find it. But I can’t, no one can, and no volume of “this is what you’re doing wrong” posts on Medium will ever change that.
There is no timeline you’re being measured against. Your life is your own, and any urgency you feel to “find someone” might come from comparing yourself to other people. Yes, other people are in partnerships. But what they have does not, in any way, take away from what is within your capacity to have, too. I get that we hate the uncertainty of not knowing where to find love. I wish our efforts perfectly matched our rewards. But they don’t, so we can decide to let that make us miserable, or we can choose to let ourselves off the hook. We’re allowed to live valid, happy lives right now, and we don’t have to “fix” anything first.
The author concludes with:
“I’d rather be single and lonely sometimes than in a relationship with the wrong person and wholly miserable. Hold out for the right person — they’ll be coming along any minute now.”
Let me make this Crystal Pepsi clear: There are more outcomes than just being single and lonely, or partnered and in a bad relationship. There’s single and happy, and partnered and happy. We shouldn’t have to see a reality shittier than our own before we feel better. You have a choice as a single person. You can choose to be happily single. You can choose to stop seeing singlehood as a negative state.
Also, this author has no idea when your person is coming along. She has no way of knowing if it’s “any minute now” or in another ten years. It’s a baseless promise, one that no one is qualified to make. All I can tell you is that if you decide to start seeing the good in single life, you will care less how long “any minute now” actually turns out to be.
There is one reason, and one reason only, why you and I are “still” single: We haven’t met our partners yet. That’s it. It’s no more complicated or involved than that. We haven’t met them, but I believe in my bones that if we want to, we will. I can’t tell you when or how, and I strongly caution against listening to anyone who says otherwise. Especially someone who says that changing things about yourself is the way to make the right partner for you appear. You don’t have to change anything to be lovable. You already are.
All the things about you are all the things about you. They aren’t wrong. They are valid and true and they matter. You are worthy, just as you are. If you and I want love, I believe that we’ll have it. In the meantime, we already have a profound capacity to be happy, when we stop seeing our singlehood as a set of problems and faults to fix. I’d love to see a world where singlehood and couplehood are enjoyed in equal measure, that one status isn’t seen as a problem to be reasoned away. And I think we’ll get there, with time. And maybe a little luck.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.