Being Single Can Suck, and It’s OK to Admit It

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ISABELLE DALBY

Being single is hard and it's okay to admit it.

By GILLIAN RUSSO, Arts and Culture Editor

My contribution to The Observer’s 2019 Valentine’s Day issue was a spineless, saccharine piece of word vomit in which I gushed about the merits of being single and ways to shower yourself and your friends with love instead. It sounds endearing on paper, but it’s also grossly disingenuous. I love a good ladies’ night as much as the next gal, but deeply appreciating others doesn’t change the fact that you might still be single.

And being single can tremendously suck.

For those who argue that it shouldn’t matter because Valentine’s Day is a made-up money grab that’s no different from any other day, you’re right. People date and flirt and canoodle publicly the other 364 days of the year, and being single still sucks on any given one of them. 

And I’m not talking about the dating-around, in-the-talking-phase or just-hooking-up types of single, though those all come with their own treasure troves of aggravations. I’m talking about the truly-alone, not-talking-to-anyone, not-even-one-viable-Tinder-match type of single. The type where you unwittingly wonder if you’re going to grow up into a cat lady even though you’re a dog person, and go wild if your Whole Foods cashier so much as kindly smiles at you or your Ram Van driver remembers your name.

In case you couldn’t tell, I know that type. I’ve been alive for a score and I still have yet to score. (No shame, no pity.) But I’ve always had a reason: For half my life I was too young, then I was busy questioning my sexuality, then I was just busy. Too busy putting my success first and making my own way in the world. I now recognize these “reasons” as a litany of excuses I don’t make anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still want to proffer them, especially around Valentine’s Day, because the confidence to face them doesn’t arise in a day.

When I bring this up to my friends, they rush to say, “Ah, you don’t need an S.O.” Which is true. Yet their sentence has an unspoken (well, sometimes spoken) ending: “for now.” As in, “It’s okay if you don’t have an S.O. for now, but surely you’re going to find one. Something will happen soon enough. You’ll figure something out.”

That is, frankly, the most unfulfilling response. It’s like telling an anxious person to just not be nervous. We as a generation are finally beginning to take emotional health seriously, but it seems the minute people express those feelings in the context of singlehood, they’re labeled desperate. Needy. Dare I say, pathetic, unless they have active plans to get out there and mingle.

You shouldn’t have to. Sometimes, you just need to say, “You know, being single sucks,” without being told you should be happy, or without being expected to attempt to solve the problem right away. It’s alright not to know how to do that. And you’re not an unsupportive friend if all you respond is, “You’re right.” Trust me, that can be a much more meaningful show of love than blindly promising someone a happily-ever-after that they can’t even fathom yet.

You might still call me desperate for professing my singlehood by writing this. You might say I’m self-deluded and wallowing. I’m not saying I’m willing to accept unhappy feelings forever, nor should you. I’m just acknowledging that empty optimism about someone’s future love life doesn’t cut it as being supportive, stepping outside your comfort zone is hard, and we need to recognize that. There’s a difference between self-pity and self-awareness, and expressing your emotions without blaming anyone for them is the latter.

Therefore, I’m still holding onto that mantra: Being single can suck. Fellow single people, say it with me: Being single can suck. Go on, it’s alright. It’s not desperation, it’s not an invitation for self-pity, nor is it a cry for someone to fill a void. It’s honesty. We singles are not voids, but whole bada–es who aren’t less so when we wish for a little affection.

You and I simply want a kind of love we don’t have yet. I wish you all the best in finding it in the vast wasteland that is the dating world — but in the meantime, cry if you need to and encourage your friends to do the same. Griping about the suckiness of singledom might not alleviate it, but perhaps you can bond over it. It’s a step in an ultimately positive direction.