A year ago, my best friend and I sat down on the floor of her apartment armed with a laptop, a bottle of champagne, and a sense of determination. We were going to find our soul mates and maybe get drunk. According to various Google searches, the process was simple — make a detailed list, internalize it, then burn it up and wait. Essentially, a game of M.A.S.H. minus McCauley Culkin plus booze. Jackpot. Our litany of complaints about how hard it was to be single again and again at almost 30 — the bad dates, the worse dates, the inconclusive text messages, the gentle suggestion that you should just try online dating again, like you just should try buying pre-marinated chicken from Fresh Direct — all of it was silenced by our ritualistic list-making. For a moment, there was a delusional sense of possibility.
It felt weird. Because if you’ve noticed being single has become the opposite of possibility. It’s 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Go On a Date With Him Because He Probably Has Glow in the Dark Facial Tattoos, 7 Text Messages You Should Not Send Unless You Want to Be Alone Forever But Wait, You Just Did, and 5 Men That Aren’t Going to Help You Put Your Ikea Furniture Together So You Should Probably Hire Someone Off Craigslist. It sounds frustrating and sometimes lonely. It looks like half-naked selfies and emoticons. It probably sounds like a tragic Taylor Swift R.Kelly collaboration titled “Make Love to No One.” Sort of makes you want to throw up your hands, go buy a freezer full of Lean Cuisines and/or three to five cats and settle in to make a list of reasons dating in your 20s is equivalent to being forced to go to a water park (you’re wading in a tidal pool of piss).
But honestly, is it all that bad or are we just holding onto the notion of how bad it is as some sort of mangled, spit-soaked single girl security blanket? As in, it’s not my fault I’m still single: insert links to various It Happened To Me stories here.
For my part, I think it’s probably because it’s sexier to commiserate than to admit you’re still alone and it probably has a little something to do with you. Not totally — I mean it wasn’t your fault his definition of true love was ignoring you until 4:00 a.m. and then wondering whether or not you were awake. Yet, if you really didn’t want to be single, like in a serious “I will date the next person I meet even if he happens to be offensively wrong for me” way, maybe you wouldn’t have dismissed him because he didn’t meet the height requirement. I know I am guilty of sending coded text messages, ignoring men that were definitely interested but really didn’t interest me, deciding there wasn’t enough there to force a bad relationship, and my personal favorite — hoping my subway crush will profess love for me because I happen to be standing next to him. And through it all, I’ve been standing there scratching my head and wondering what sort of high-level conspiracy is keeping my soul mate from finding me in an elevator. Odds are if you’re single, you’ve done the same thing — minus the delusional part.
Thing is, whether I want to admit it out aloud at my friend’s engagement party or not, I’ve realized I’m probably single because somewhere I still want to be. Maybe you have a good reason like trying to become a mature, responsible human before you involve someone else in your bullshit or maybe you still think there’s something better lurking around the corner. Or maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet. Who knows? All I know is that what gets lost in all the tell-tale sign language and competing definitions of what it is like to date now is a sense that being single is inherently hopeful. Yes it’s a hopefulness riddled with frustrations and letdowns, but still there’s the possibility that maybe you’ll actually find whatever it is you wrote down on two pages of college-ruled notebook paper and burned up. Or maybe it will be something surprising. And maybe that mindset won’t get as many likes, reposts, or shares, but maybe that doesn’t matter if for a second it makes you realize that we don’t actually have it all that bad — and reminds you, to entertain the delusional possibility.