I am single. But that sentence alone doesn’t seem to really convey the enormity of my singledom: I am very, very much unattached. The most action I’ve gotten in the past six months was a text from a guy I ghosted a solid 18 months earlier that said something along the lines of, “Did you get home safe from the party last night?” He clearly had texted the wrong contact listed as “Blonde Girl - Bar.”
And I’m fine with it. Which, of course, is exactly what someone who isn’t fine with it would say, but I swear it’s the truth. I have an extended network of female friends (and, naturally, a healthy sprinkling of gay men) from college and high school across the country who I frequently rely on for brunch, mid-day gchat check-ins, and hours and hours of phone conversations about everything from careers to the Kardashians. I have one of those extended Southern families where arguing about who's related to whom and how is practically a hobby. As far as the other stuff that a boyfriend would provide, well, I’ll keep that part private, but I’m doing fine there, too, thankyouverymuch.
My work and social calendars stay pretty full, and I can’t bring myself to prioritize awkward Tinder dates or spending $12 on gin and tonics all night in hopes of meeting someone who just maybe won’t be so weird I have to sneak off to the bathroom to text my friends about it. Plus, I love getting to sprawl across the bed like a starfish.
I know it will probably change at some point, and then I’ll begrudgingly re-download Tinder, Bumble, and whatever other apps are hot in the distant future. (So-SoCupid? Fumbler?) Until then, all the times I have my single-ness shoved in my face (watching couples lovingly sway at concerts, or post on Instagram in honor of their first date or first couple’s STD testing), I just look on with a kind of bemused incomprehension, like watching a nature documentary.
But no one is perfect. There is one place that makes me feel truly, existentially alone, and it involves cookie butter.
The closest Trader Joe’s to me is underground, which feels appropriate, because, when I go, I am literally descending into hell. No matter what times of day it is, it feels like I’m entering the last grocery run before a hurricane, snowstorm, and final airlift out of Saigon, all mixed into one. Alone, with my little red basket, I say a quick prayer that there is still kale and that I will see the daylight again. It is then that I notice them: the couples.
And not just any couples. The types who have moved past the “Will she text me back?” phase well into the “It’s probably okay to pee with the door open” one. The kinds of unmarried people who use the word “partner” to refer to each other. Together, at Trader Joe’s, they are unstoppable. Like a well-oiled machine, one of them gets in the line while the other bobs and weaves, bringing back armfuls of orange chicken and Tarrazu medium dark roast coffee. Meanwhile, I, behind them, through necessity, have already done all my shopping. I hold my basket full of single-serving trays of Indian food and plastic clamshells of salad, remembering all the things I meant to get and didn’t.
Once, on Halloween, after checking every other grocery store and pumpkin display on the Upper West Side, I finally found the exact pumpkin I wanted for my roommate and my party (we put a bowl of queso in the pumpkin, it was all very Pinterest). But, because it was a holiday, somehow the lines managed to be even worse. People were lining up to even be let in the door, like it was a club or limited-edition Cronut release. I managed to only grab a pumpkin and a pound of butter before getting in line, miserable but unwilling to part with my perfect gourd.
I started talking to the man in front of me, who explained all he wanted was some nuts since he was running the marathon the next day. We complained about how crazy the line was, I showed him my pathetic pumpkin. Then his boyfriend showed up, bearing armfuls of dried fruit and granola bars.
“All she wanted was a pumpkin,” said my line friend to his boyfriend, and they both gave me a pitying look. They then proceeded to bicker over whether or not they really needed the granola bars, and the boyfriend disappeared back into the fray, looking for ice cream.
That, I realized with a sad pang, is what I want. Someone to fight over granola with. Someone who can go get the cookie butter while I trudge forward in the endless line. They were a team of two, and while I’m a member of a lot of teams, from family to friends, I don’t have that kind of partnership. Even my relationship with my roommate, which has spanned four years, two couches, countless overflowing toilets, and one carbon monoxide scare, feels more like a loose confederation of people than a twosome indivisible. We share eggs and flour, but most of our grocery shopping and meal planning is done alone. If we go to Trader Joe’s, it’s every woman for herself, and we typically endure it alone.
As much as I hate having the sheer magnitude of my unattached state shoved in my face as I wait in line to pay for my pork buns and mozzarella sticks (it's a totally legit meal served together!), maybe it's good that I'm reminded life as a duo can have it's perks. And maybe, just maybe, one day I can yell at someone for forgetting the chocolate-covered salted almonds as I guard our cart. Now that's love.
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