12 Women On What It's Really Like Being Single In NYC

Every year, Match.com prepares its Singles In America (SIA) study. It’s an in-depth look at single people, how they date, and what’s important to them. In data prepared exclusively for Refinery29, Match.com compared its survey answers from single women living in metropolitan areas — such as New York City — to those living in suburban settings.  

The SIA study found all sorts of interesting things. For example, SIA says single urban women are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship — and they want their partner to make at least as much money as they do, have a similar education level as them, have a successful career, and be physically attractive.

Women in NYC may or may not agree with those assessments. But, SIA also points to something that certainly seems true: Single women — regardless of where they live in the U.S. — said they enjoy the flexibility and decision-making power that being single gives them. Ahead, 12 real women talk about what being single in New York City is really like.

Photographed by Winnie Au.
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Shani Silver
Age: 32
Occupation: social media and content director at Keep
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: Fort Worth, Texas
Moved to NYC: April 2013

How do you feel about being single right now?
“Right now is the best I've ever felt about it. At some point, I came to terms with the fact that if I hated my singleness, I'd hate a huge part of my life, and I didn't want to live that way.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
"[I brought] my iPhone 6, but more important is the Mophie Juice Pack it’s in. My phone lives in this case because when it dies, I can flip a switch and the case will charge my phone... I'm a social media director for a living, and my phone is essential to my work. There isn't a single day that I don't have to flip that switch. I brought it with me because my career is truthfully my main focus right now."

What’s something you want all single women to know?
"There is no ‘right way’ to be single. I feel like American culture treats single, straight women as if there are two kinds: The independent, ‘empowered,’ doesn't-need-a-man urban professional in a pantsuit and a bluetooth headset, or the pathetic, ice-cream-inhaling Cathy comic who cries her lonely self to sleep. I think it's okay to not love being single, but to learn to make the best of it anyway."
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Amanda Haynes
Age: 25
Occupation: publicist
Sexual orientation: heterosexual
Originally from: Trenton, NJ
Moved to NYC: Never moved into the city, but began working in the city at 18. Lives in Saddle Brook, NJ.

What kind of relationship do you have with yourself?
“I have a fun life. I have friends who love to travel and have fun. After my last relationship, I chose to be single so I could get to know me again. Being in a relationship for years — you eventually think and live for two. You neglect certain things about you in order to tend to the other person. I am still a hopeless romantic and plan to get married. But, for now, unless it feels right; I'll pass.” 

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“My iPad is a representation of my life. I work a lot, mainly because it doesn't feel like work, because I love it. The iPad is easy to travel with, but still big enough work on.” 

What’s the biggest misconception about single women in NYC?
“We are lonely and bitter man-haters.”  

Do you think women in NYC are looking for something in a partner that isn’t on that Match.com list?
“I believe in the 80/20 rule. I particularly don't date men who have kids, but if I met one who had many of the things I look for, I could entertain the thought.”
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Ivey Chestnut
Age: 24
Occupation: flight attendant
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: Atlanta, Georgia
Moved to NYC: August 2009

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How do you feel about being single right now?
“I’m pretty happy being single right now. I don’t feel as if I'm missing out on anything, and I like that I'm able to do what I want, when I want. I even went to Paris all by myself for a few days. It was so peaceful and amazing.”
Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“I brought my Manolo Blahnik shoes with me... When I was little, I was obsessed with shoes, and even wanted to design them. I’d make my grandmother take me to Neiman Marcus to look at the shoes, because for me it was like going to an art museum. I bought myself a pair of Manolos for my 24th birthday. After lusting after them for years, it feels awesome to finally own them.” 
Do you think women in NYC are looking for something in a partner that isn’t on that Match.com list?
“I always, always want to be with someone who will make me laugh. If you can’t make me crack up, then you basically don’t stand a chance with me.” 
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Jay M. Singleton
Age: 29
Occupation: TBD
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: NYC — conceived, born, and raised.

What’s your life like as a single woman?
“I’ve been single for a year now, and it’s been wonderful! It's been an incredibly eye-­opening, inspiring, and life-transforming journey. I reclaimed power over my life and choices...I realized, looking back, I wasn’t just leaving the relationship, I was shedding a piece of myself in order to wake up, grow up, and live my legend. I’m not the type to jump from one serious relationship to the other; I need time to heal myself, fall back in love with myself, and look forward to what’s happening next in all areas of my life. I enjoy the company of men, but I choose when to have them in my life. I don’t waste my own time for the sake of a free meal with random gentlemen. I’m all about that spark."

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“I brought my Jimmy Jane vibrator. It’s well-designed and powerful, just like me. It allows me the freedom to achieve my goal without anyone’s assistance, if you catch my drift. I’m all about being self­-sufficient. I was introduced to the Jimmy Jane by an old lover — someone I’m still extremely good friends with.”

What’s the biggest misconception about single women in NYC?
“That we’re on the search for a wealthy ex-­husband, that we want to be real housewives and are looking for a meal ticket, or that we're willing to sell our souls to anyone wearing a Rolex — for handbags and shoes. That we just want to benefit from the 'success' of men and have no value of our own. Truly, I think it’s men who are the ones with the real self­-worth issues.”

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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Erin Dahl
Age: 26
Occupation: editor, HiP Paris Blog; client service expert, Haven in Paris 
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: Clifton Park, NY
Moved to NYC: fall 2007, for college at Fordham University 

How do you feel about being single right now?
“In short, I love it. It's taught me to relish my alone time. I've become a bit addicted to my independence, and it's invigorating. I've been single for about a year and a half, and in that time I've moved into my very own apartment in Bed-Stuy, started a travel website called Carry On To with a girlfriend, been to Paris twice for several-month stints, taught myself to sew, taken an Italian class, rekindled friendships that I'd let fade...the list goes on.” 

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“I brought my passport. It represents my freedom to live my life the way I choose, independent of external pressures or expectations. I travel to Paris a few months out of the year for work, and while this is certainly possible with a significant other, it is far more difficult. Now, I can jet off whenever I please, for however long I please — in theory — and I don’t long to be home as I would if I'd left a boyfriend behind. I’ve also been dedicating a great deal of my free time to Carry On To. It’s been a total pleasure and wonderful creative outlet, and I am thankful that I've had the time to build and nurture something of my own.”

The Match.com study says single, urban females are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship. Do you agree?
“Crazy talk! I think it’s the opposite. I’ve met far more independent, strong, happily single women in the city than elsewhere. I believe this comes back to a lag in 'settling down'...in your 20s or 30s...single is more of an accepted norm [here].”
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Grace A. Lin
Age: 29
Occupation: blogger (girlacne.net), web producer
Sexual orientation: not sure
Originally from: Knoxville, TN
Moved to NYC: 2010

How do you feel about being single right now?
“I’m pretty stoked... It’s part of my identity at this point. But, I do feel like a late bloomer — like a teenage girl discovering the meaning of 'boy-crazy' for the first time. Only when I moved to NYC in my mid-20s did I really start to come out of my shell, romantically. I have a LOT of catching up to do."

What are the most important things to you in life?
"Music, people, experiences."

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“I brought my headphones. Music was a huge source of solace when I was a very lonely teenager. It seems trite, but the things you cling onto during your coming-of-age do have the power to influence you well into adulthood... Music expresses what's beautiful and what's grotesque in a very raw and emotional way that I don't get out of normal interactions. Vignettes of romance and heartbreak, of adventure and isolation — these are the experiences I want out of life, and I want as many of them as possible."

What’s something you want all single women to know?
“Play it by ear.”
Photographed by Winnie Au.
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Naya V.
Age: 30
Occupation: media finance coordinator
Sexual orientation: human- or earthling-dater
Originally from: Bronx, NY
How do you feel about being single right now?
"I enjoy my single life; I live my life on my own terms. That’s not to say that being in a relationship will take away from that, but being single has allowed me the time to get to know myself on so many levels — spiritually, emotionally, mentally. It’s something I value, because now I can be fully prepared to meet ‘the one’ simply because I love ME more than anything.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
"I brought my journal that says 'be the change' on the front cover, and my pencil. I like to write (poems and spoken-word pieces) and journal my thoughts every chance I get. My journal is probably the autobiography that I will leave for my children! The pencil is symbolic of my love for writing and implanting my image of the world on paper. A pencil leaves a mark, but it isn’t permanent, and neither is my point of view on life; it’s ever-changing and grows as much as I do."

What’s the biggest misconception about single women in NYC?
"That we can’t be in a steady relationship because we’re too caught up in our careers and too invested in trying to surpass men. (Can you blame us? We still don’t make as much as men do!)"

Do you think women in NYC are looking for something in a partner that isn’t on that Match.com list?
"As single women, we spend so much time investing in and improving ourselves... It's only right to date someone who's completely on your level. If I had to add anything to that list, it would [be that] we're looking for someone who's spent time with themselves. Without self-love, there's no point."
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Michelle Sarzaba
Age: 34
Occupation: physical therapist
Sexual orientation: lesbian
Originally from: Manila, Philippines
Moved to NYC: October 2007

How do you feel about being single right now? 
“I’m just taking my time. I don’t want to jump into a new relationship. I actually enjoy being single at the moment. I just realized there are a lot of things I still need to do — like traveling, learning how to cook, challenging myself, trying a new hobby, trying a new restaurant, learning how to drive and parallel park, getting fit, volunteering, doing something crazy and wonderful, and getting to know myself.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today. 
“A sketch pad. I wanted to be an artist growing up. I would do a lot of charcoal painting before. I actually brought it with me when I moved to New York almost eight years ago.” 

Do you think women in NYC are looking for something in a partner that isn’t on that Match.com list?
“Yes: being genuine, funny, stable, and a lover of life.”

The study also says single, urban females are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship. Do you agree?
“Most of the women I've dated in NYC would look for long-term dating, but they’re never really ready for a committed relationship.” 
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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Fotini S.
Age: 32
Occupation: jack-of-all-trades, intuitive medium, artist, friend
Sexual orientation: humans
Originally from: Astoria, Queens

What’s your life like as a single woman?
“I'm single now because I'm going through a divorce. I hate and love it.  I'm super happy with my freedom. I have been single for a year and a half. It's an empowering thing to be single, but it's only empowering if you love yourself first. I had to learn that the hard way, but I'd rather learn it than not learn it at all.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“It’s my rose quartz pendant. After my divorce, I was a mess. I had to learn to like myself without my husband... You rely so much on the other person, and I think sometimes it can become co-dependent. This is about relying on me. Rose quartz is about love. It made me love myself more. I'm not Kate Moss. I don't have a tiny, little body. But you know what? I have a big ass, and I like myself. I’m not thin, but I’m beautiful. I love everything about me, and that’s what people need to do. Once you love yourself, people see that and will be attracted to that.”

The study says single, urban females are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship. How well does that statement describe your personal situation?
“When I first got divorced, I thought, ‘I just want a boyfriend.’ Now, I don't want to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in one. Do I want kids? Absolutely. But, I’m so thankful I don’t have any right now. I have the freedom to do whatever I want, whatever that is.”

What’s something you want all single women to know?
“I have this theory that everybody's a cup. My cup is always full — but maybe not to the top. If a relationship is two cups, and my partner's cup is half [full] or empty? That's just energy they're putting in. But, the only person who can fill your cup is you. Two full cups is a good relationship."
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Elasea Douglas
Age: 30
Occupation: singer for Acute Inflections
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: Queens
How do you feel about being single right now?
"I’m kind of in the middle. I like it now because there’s no threat to my personal goals — the music and the brand we have... I know it’s going to be difficult meeting a guy who understands the product and isn’t insecure about it.”

What kind of relationship do you have with yourself?
“I'm still getting to know myself and trying to find more time and more ways to enjoy my own company. I feel like I have a good routine. I do things that are fun for me. I’m more settled in accepting things...than when I was in my 20s.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today. 
“My microphone. Music has made me ambitious. It’s made me not date, sometimes, in order to pursue that goal. I’m not gonna not do this in order to have someone.”

The study says single, urban females are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship. How well does that statement describe your personal situation? 
“Not well at all. If  I wanted that, I would move. Everyone knows that.”

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Photographed by Winnie Au.
Natalie H.
Age: 26
Occupation: furniture designer
Sexual orientation: straight
Originally from: Philadelphia
Moved to NYC: 2011

What kind of relationship do you have with yourself?
“I’m super independent... I really value my alone time and need a lot of it. So, it's sometimes difficult for me to imagine being in a super serious relationship, because there’s so much togetherness that comes with that...[it] means giving up time for myself.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“My tape measure. I'm a furniture designer. Something I've always stood by is having a really fulfilling career life. I kind of lost my way a little bit for a while and recently went back to doing design work, so I think that symbolizes something that’s very important to me.”

What’s the biggest misconception about single women in NYC? 
“There's a lot. That single women in NYC are crazy. That we all want to be Carrie Bradshaw. Then, there’s that woman, the Princeton Mom, who wrote about single girls not trying to meet a man. Trying looks different on a lot of people.”

Do you think women in NYC are looking for something in a partner that isn’t on that Match.com list? 
“Physical compatibility. Finding someone you can have good sex with is not always as easy as it seems. I personally don't think I’ve ever cared about how much money someone I date makes. Maybe I want to be the breadwinner. I don’t know.”

Photographed by Winnie Au.
Marielle H.
Age: 31
Occupation: communications, sustainable business
Sexual orientation: lesbian
Where you’re from originally: New Canaan, CT
When you moved to NYC: an inconsistent mistress for 12 years
How do you feel about being single right now?
“As a free-spirited Aries and life enthusiast, I relish my independence. I love having time for personal and professional [endeavors]. My tender heart is my greatest asset and most prized possession. Relationships are my priority, so I do find myself wanting to have somebody. I’m not the intimacy-avoidance type. I thrive on my social and romantic interactions. I crave them and am endlessly inspired by them. To me, the purpose of being alive is to love and be loved.”

Tell me about the object you brought with you today.
“Spirituality is delicious to me. My yoga is my sanctuary and a grounding, revitalizing practice that I cherish and couldn’t live without.”

What about NYC makes it better or worse to be single here?
“The gay scene is small here... It’s heavily femme-saturated. I’m on this Holy Grail, needle-in-a-haystack pursuit where I have a specific type. I like pretty tomboys, and they’re not as numerous here as they are...say, [on] the West Coast. I’m a bit at a loss between the lack of accountability of online dating and then just not meeting people I like.”

The study also says single urban females are slightly more likely to be actively seeking a committed relationship. How well does that statement describe your personal situation?
“No. It’s like fucking Disney World here. I think people are happy to have other people on the back burners but focus on their careers or their social lives or whatever they’re doing. They’re obsessed with that and prioritize that. And, you can get away with that here. There’s just Peter Pan syndrome here. That’s the beauty of the city.”

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