This story was originally published on January 12, 2017.
Right before Christmas of last year, I posted a personal essay called "I May Never Find Love — & That Has To Be Okay" about how I’m slowly, but surely, getting over my fear of dying alone. I never thought I’d get the response that I did. Hundreds of you took to the comments, pouring your hearts out about your own vulnerabilities and fears. I had people blowing up my DMs on Instagram and Twitter, sliding into my Facebook messages, and sending me email after email.
I read every single comment. And then I ugly-cried in my pajamas while pacing my apartment, gobsmacked by the beauty of it all. Then I read every single comment again. And that’s when I saw a theme appear: SO many of us feel alone because we’re the only single people in our friend group. It was something I saw commenters lament over and over again. There were dozens of women who claimed to feel alienated because their girlfriends were either in relationships or married.
It’s a feeling I know well. I have pretty much always been the token single girl among my friends. I entertain my coupled pals with tales of my Tinder dates, freely flirt with bartenders to get faster drinks for the group, and confidently show up to parties solo all the time. Most of the time, it’s great. But there are moments when it totally sucks: Like this past New Year’s eve, when I was at a party with all the twosomes and the clock struck midnight. Everyone around me started kissing, while I was left there awkwardly clutching my champagne until they unlocked lips. That stung a little.
The comments got me thinking: If there are so many single women out there with so many of the same fears and vulnerabilities, why aren’t we all getting drunk together and spilling our guts to one another? Why are we in a never-ending, vicious cycle of feeling alienated and alone because everyone around us is coupled up? Are we masochists, or just a little misguided?
I started thinking of my own experiences. The friend group I spend the majority of my time with lately is composed mainly of couples. In fact, up until a few months ago, I was the only single person in a sea of twosomes. It really happened by accident. I made a friend who soon found herself a boyfriend with whom I also got along, and through him I was introduced to the rest of the group. They all happened to be in relationships. Happens every day, right?
But then, an unwelcome thought bubbled up: I've chosen to be the only single person in my group because it’s safe. When I’m out with couples, I don’t actively seek out single men to talk to, and single dudes don’t actively hit on me. It’s like I’m being protected by a wall of twosomes. When I’m out with another single straight woman, I feel like it’s obvious that we’re on our own. It’s like I’m wearing a neon sign: "Currently looking for someone to give me orgasms three times a week and eat dim sum on my couch while watching Scientology documentaries. Please come up to me and offer me red wine."
My father has a theory that he’s picked up in his reading that I believe in very much: We avoid people who share similar unpleasant traits with ourselves, because it’s like looking in a mirror. I avoid single women because they remind me of me, and I don’t necessarily like myself all of the time when I’m single. Sitting next to a solo friend at a bar is like being in the scariest echo chamber of all time. We talk about how hopeless our situations are and we start to spiral. "I’m going to die alone!" we’ll cry. "If I don’t have a date to this wedding, I’m not going." Misery does love company, you know.
Surrounding myself with couples allows me to ignore these negative thoughts. It sometimes goes in the opposite direction, when the duos are overly positive about my dating life, which is frustrating. But it beats the hell out of realizing that the guy you’ve been flirting with on Bumble has been feeding the same lines to your bestie on The League. (This is a real-life thing that happened to me.)
The worst truth, though — the truth I hate to admit to myself — is that I see other women as competition. I see them as a yardstick to measure myself against. The bartender offered to buy me my next round, not her. So I win. The investment banker types at the other end of the party are staring at her, not me. So what is wrong with me? It’s a screwed up way of thinking, but it’s a line of thinking I feel as if I've basically been trained to follow, based on society's expectations of women.
Now this might just be my experience. But seeing as so many commenters expressed the same feelings of alienation and fear, I’m willing to bet there are some of you reading this who know, deep down, that this is why you’re feeling alone in your singledom. And what I’ve realized is that these feelings have very little to do with other people, and everything to do with me and my own insecurities.
From now on, I’m attempting to change my view on other single women. I'm going to make an effort to reach out to the ladies in my life who aren't coupled-up, instead of pushing them away. You all aren’t my competition — you’re my glorious support system. You’re mirror images of strength and perseverance, not desperation and loneliness. And in you, I see dozens of people who I can turn to when I’m feeling super shitty about myself. As much as I love my coupled-up gals, there’s certain situations you’re better at helping in, simply because we’re in this together.
Don’t you feel better already?
After being raised on a steady diet of Disney movies, I expected to meet someone and fall passionately in love — but wound up collapsing under the pressures of modern dating. Luckily, I eventually realized that there's no "right" way to date, and that I need to find happiness within myself, no partner needed. It’s Not You is where I write to calm the voices in my head — and hear from all of you. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.