Being single means different things to each of us. For some it is a way of life. For a small minority, it is the way we always will be. For most of us, its is a constant battle with optimism. Hope springs eternal they say. We weren't designed to spend our lives alone. For the solitary monk it may be a life of dedication but for us mere mortals, its is a state of being that we hope is temporary.
Being single is not easy. It means first of all that we are daily responsible for every decision we make. We can't share decision making because there is no one close enough to share things with. We trust our friends but we will not have formed as close a bond as we do in a long term personal relationship. Therefore it us up to us to decide what we do each day, whether we go to work, what we will have for dinner, where we will go at a weekend, what we do on vacation and where and how we socialize.
When we get home in an evening there isn't anyone there (which is why so often we have cats and dogs) to welcome us. We prepare dinner alone (or don't bother), run a bath, take a shower and generally live a solitary existence punctuated by our social life and friends as well as work routine. One of the primary issues about being single is not being able to discuss things on our mind when we want to. In social circles we can to an extent and we may call up friends on the phone but this lacks the deeper understanding and compassion we receive from a close partner in a relationship.
We like to play ideas off each other, discuss, talk, think aloud and have pillow talk about the future. All of this is missing when single. Occasional dates or romantic encounters may provide passing closeness but in effect we remain single still. There is something interesting on the TV, but we won't chat about that until we are at work. We have an ailment that worries us, who do we discuss that with? There is an issue with a person at work, what should we do. Friends and family play their part but they don't fill that singleness we are likely to feel.
Cooking for one is a painful experience. What is the point of cooking a nice meal if there is no one to share it with. There is a great movie but we will watch it alone. We need to go shopping and get something new for the apartment but we are going to have to do without the fun of deciding together. Then of course there is sex. Sex-for-one is well known to most singles but its generally not what we were designed for.
Close relationships offer companionship, understanding, empathy, friendship as well as love and romance and without them, we are pretty much left to our own devices to fill that void. When we are younger there is so much to focus on that it may not be such an issue but as we get older we begin to discover that visiting the wonders of the world alone is deeply dissatisfactory.
Being single is a heightened sense because our society emphasizes couples. From meals for two in the grocery store, to paying for single supplements in hotels; much is set against the single person. Why do we pay extra for a single bed when on vacation? The we have our friends who are in couples which does much to heighten our sense of singledom. Dinner parties mean we are excluded due to not having a partner, or we are matched up with some geek we have little in common with by friends desperate to pair us off.
Adult society in the West is made up of approximately 33% single people and this is increasing at a remarkable rate. Admittedly in many areas of the service industry, singles are being seen as a new market and opportunities to cash in on single life are steadily coming into the market place. But again it emphasis a state of play we may not wish to be reminded of. When we set off outdoors on a weekend we will encounter many many couples along the way and we find ourselves wondering what it is about them that got them together when we are total treasures that no one appears to discover?
Therefore being single means being optimistic. It means keeping positive in the face of adversity. That adversity manifests itself through the thought in the back of our heads that whispers 'what if..'. What if we meet someone tomorrow, what if we spend out lives alone and never meet anyone again, what ever we never fall in love, what if no one actually likes us, what if we were meant to remain single. And it is this whispering that we fight to keep at bay daily by fighting to remain optimistic.
Optimism comes from the general knowledge that most of us will meet someone, we will find Mr. or Miss Right soon enough. But as we get older, we start to worry, even start to silently panic. If we are to meet our perfect match it has to happen before we are too old. We would like it to happen whilst we are still young enough. And as anyone in their 30's appreciates, as we get older , so time speeds up. In our twenties, time seemed endless. But as the wrinkles in the corner of our eyes demonstrates, one day we wake up and we are older, much older. And we are still single.
Being single is to an extent a triumph,. It means we have avoided the disappointment of dating disasters, wrong choices, and loneliness within a terrible relationship. It means we still have our own choices and our own sense of direction. We have the full sense of self determination and control over destiny. But at the same time it wears us down. It may be hard to admit, but the vast majority of us don't like being single. In fact we hate it.
We hate it because we don't get to share. We don't get to make happen the sharp image in our head of the perfect relationship we know is possible with the right partner. We have a never ending well of 'giving' that so far has been ignored. We want to give and we want to please. We wish to love and we want that opportunity. We are ready and willing but we are not allowed. Its almost like being in an isolation cell in prison. Being single heightens our sense of the need to give and it heightens the sense of frustration accordingly.
Being single isn't a cornfield full of casual sex, boozy nights, general lack of responsibility and carefree existence over the age of 25. Its a burden that many of us carry. Through failed relationships we have built up a mental list of the things we will never accept again in a relationship and at the same time it provokes and overpowering explanation of what we really do hope for. Being single isn't about choices, it is about circumstances. We know that had we been a certain place, had a certain life, then we probably wouldn't be single. But where we find ourselves today means that we are. Well we are for the time being.
By dating we keep our hopes alive. We realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And whilst the most recent suitor may not have been the one for us, at least we are heading in the right direction. And that's how many of us cope with being single. We do everything we can to keep our hopes alive. We convince ourselves that being single is by choice and that we are just waiting to meet the right one. And that's true, that's exactly what we are doing. But the 'what if' whispers away. Our body clocks may tick louder, our hair may thin, but we KNOW we will get there in the end. We hope.
Being single means living with a sense of frustration that little else can match. We don't have the answers as to why we are alone. We even ask 'why me?' This isn't how we have envisaged our lives, this isn't how we saw our future. So why has it happened? What went wrong. Where did we go wrong? Where are all the nice guys and girls. Maybe they have all been snapped up. Maybe there simply aren't any and we are fooling ourselves. Then we remind ourselves of the few examples of great friends in great relationships and this provides us with the temporary proof we need. And then we begin to question ourselves further. We may even question our own judgment, wondered if we have missed our best opportunity to be in a good relationship. Maybe we are simply too choosey? Maybe it really is all our fault. But of course it isn't.
When vacations and national holidays and Christmas or Thanksgiving come along, then we are reminded heavily just what being single feels like. On Valentine's day we are also reminded that we are yet again this year solitary creatures. However this year will be different. We feel it. We have our sights set one on or two potentials and who knows where things may lead. Who knows, by Christmas we could be engaged.
Married people often think the grass is greener on the other side. People in bad relationships dream of the freedom of being single. I have been told many times that I don't know how lucky I am to be single. The next time someone says that to me, I will go over and stick my finger in their eye and remind myself indeed how lucky I am that I decided to do that all by myself.