Last year I got sent a book to review called This is Why You’re Single. The title font is so big it looks like the book is shouting at you (which it is) and, if you read it on public transport, waves of pity will actually radiate towards you from other passengers.
The jacket cover photo is of two women sitting on a couch – one in a veil and bridal gown, looking up, dreamily to the sky, as if she’s taken a Valium and it’s now starting to kick in. She is the Bride.
Her friend on the couch is in pyjamas, eating not just a tub of ice-cream but also a bag of chips at the same time. A spoon sticks out of the ice-cream. This chick is sodepressed and messed up she can’t even be bothered getting a bowl. She looks pensive and tearful. There’s weird shit in her hair (curlers?) that she was too listless (or drunk?) to take out.
I am guessing she is the single girl or, as the cover telegraphs with all the subtlety of a sky writer: the LOSER.
If you want to go from the girl holding the ice-cream to the girl holding the bouquet, this is what you need to do, according to authors Laura Lane and Angela Spera:
- You never get a second chance at a first swipe – spend time on your dating profile, including researching the spelling of words.
- Don’t shop for date outfits at Forever 21 if you were born before 1997.
- Get your FOMO under control, or you actually may really miss out (on your dream man).
- Some people think you should have sex on the fourth date. This is arbitrary. You can do it whenever you want.
- After Whitney Houston sang, “I believe the children are our future/ Teach them well and let them lead the way … ”, she extolled us that the greatest love of all is learning to love ourselves. This book poses a variant of that truism: would youdate you? People will only date you if you are prepared to date yourself, say the authors.
- The longer you live in the past, the less future hotties you will be able to enjoy before you die (so get over your ex now).
We’ve got to call time on this crap.
Maybe you are single, not because you are not mysterious enough, or your branding on your dating profile is a bit vague, or because you kept texting him after he started ghosting you. There are many, many reasons why you may be single.
Maybe you are single because you are a libertine who is not into monogamy.
Or maybe you are single because you work in mining (a small, remote mine where there is not a huge dating pool), or in a remote community, or you are in a religious community or on an oil rig.
Or you are single because you are really picky and cannot be bothered adjusting your standards. And that’s fine.
Or maybe you are single because if you were to write a dating profile it would read: I like reading pure maths for pleasure, talking to my mother nightly, holidays in Bulgaria and eating in bed – and you must too. You know exactly what you want and you are prepared to wait until you get it.
Or you are single because love hurts too much and you are walking around pained by wounds that nobody can see – and that’s OK as well. Be single for a while, my friend, or maybe forever.
Or you could be single because you are a romantic and all the internet dating and app stuff makes you feel sad, because really you just want to meet a nice man in a bookshop or an animal shelter. And so you’ll wait until that happens, until all the people on Tinder have thrown their phones in the sea with disgust at the whole enterprise and start noticing people IRL again.
Or maybe you are waiting for pubic hair to be fashionable once more, or you are a free spirit who is constantly travelling and, since most men over 18 work, it’s tough finding a boyfriend who only needs to work two months a year. Or you want to be alone (you are happier alone), or you have found a combination of things that fill you up and a romantic relationship doesn’t happen to be in the mix, or you feel that unless you are really crazy in love its not worthwasting your time.
There are so many reasons you may be single. The popular culture narrative around being single is so narrow, a bunch of sad tropes about loneliness and loss: necking a bottle of wine alone on a Friday night while cry-singing to Adele, staring at your phone, hoping he’ll text, crying on Valentine’s Day, having many cats that all hate you, developing carpal tunnel syndrome after repetitively swiping right. You’re muttering “death cab for Cupid” and telling people that in medieval times St Valentine was actually executed by sword – which is NOT romantic at all.
There is, in all those tropes, the presumption that if you are single your life is empty.
There is this rom-com I want to see but I don’t think it has been made yet. It goes something like this: there is a single chick and she has many best friends – men and women – and the occasional lover, and a heap of crushes, and she moves through the world, meeting men in bars or on trains, or on the internet or in bookstores in ways sweet and wild and spontaneous and there is eros and love all around her, but no regrets and no cats. She is happy. Mostly. Just like everyone else.
There are the gaps between what is our lived experience and the way we are told we should be living. In these gaps – if you are lucky enough – there is a load of love. It doesn’t look like the love on the Valentine’s Day cards – but it feels like love, nonetheless. And maybe that is why you are single.