I have a confession to make – I just turned 26, and I’ve never been in a serious relationship. I only say “confession” because it usually elicits a shocked face, followed by earnest reassurance. But I’m not shocked, and I don’t need reassurance.
I’m very happy to be single right now. In fact, I prefer it. I promise I’m not repressing any spinster sadness, or making a philosophical stand against relationships. For my personality and current circumstances, being single is ideal.
I’ve always been independent and a little introverted — I love spending time alone. But while I’ve never actually felt an acute need to be in a relationship, I spent a lot of my early 20s worrying about the lack of one.
Why I’m single and Why I’m happy being single are two different subjects. The former involves missteps and misunderstandings and the wrong thing said or, more likely, left unsaid. I can be hard to read, and, unfortunately, my default response to a crush is to freeze and act like I don’t even notice someone. Playing romance possum, basically.
I’m also a commitment-phobe who gets claustrophobic the second it seems like a guy wants to hang out with me too much, but whatever! We can discuss that some other time, preferably over tequila.
I moved to Charlotte three years ago, after having too much fun in college to worry about a relationship and living in Paris for a year as an au pair. I chose Charlotte for proximity to family and friends, but by all conventional measures it’s also a great place to date. Go out to any brewery and you’ll see legions of young, attractive people.
The problem I noticed immediately, though, was actually meeting those people.
I stand by it today that Charlotte guys rarely introduce themselves to girls they don’t know, and vice versa. I’ve had it confirmed by other Charlotteans, and even last weekend a friend visiting from Miami noticed. As she put it, “no one’s even looking at each other.”
Thus began my multi-year, ill-fated experiment with dating apps. I used Bumble and Hinge; Tinder seemed a bit sweaty. It was the same pattern every time. I’d match with guys who shared similar interests, we’d go out, and they were perfectly fine gentlemen, everything was perfectly fine, and by date three, I’d admit I felt nothing and put the kibosh on it.
The main problem I found with dating apps is that they can’t account for chemistry, and don’t really give you a grace period to decide if you’re attracted to a person before letting them take you out. That’s fine if you don’t have major anxiety about telling someone you don’t want to keep seeing them, but it made me a nervous wreck every time.
The second problem with dating apps was me.
See, even though I was using them consistently, I didn’t actually want a boyfriend. I was bored and directionless at a job I hated. I desperately missed Paris and college and I was looking for something exciting or even just unexpected. To use modern parlance, I was being a bit of a “f*ckboy”, although I’m way too lazy to play games. Dating was just a distraction. Even this long string of dead-end matches didn’t make me realize I needed to lean in to being single, though. A professional crisis did.
In late 2016, I began working at a startup that I was deeply passionate about. But startups are fickle, and when the ship was going down I had to walk away, heartbroken … and move back in with my parents. After a year with such a singular focus, unemployment and dependence on my parents (an immense privilege, of course) left me completely unmoored.
I felt so not an adult. I applied for endless jobs and ate ice cream at 11 a.m. and let my nap schedule be determined by our laziest dog. I was in limbo, and it felt weird and powerless.
When I finally found a job, I found my priorities had shifted after moving back to Charlotte and into my own place. I no longer worry in that abstract, fleeting way if I should be trying harder to date someone. Being a bit of a mess for a while threw into stark relief how passive I had been about goals, plans and the general shape of my life. Simply put, all I care about right now is getting my shit together, and finding out what I need to be happy. I’m committed to doing that for myself.
Getting to choose how I live my life is a privilege, and I want to revel in it. Relationships almost always require a sacrifice of choice; to ignore the breadth of your options, to halve your decisions to accommodate someone else’s. And that is lovely and noble if you love someone!
But right now, I want the whole spectrum. I want to get up at 5 a.m. and work out and go to bed early, then stay out way too late on Saturday. I want to get home from work and not feel obligated to hang out with anyone. I want to put on a murder podcast, plaster my face with these weird little flesh-colored Korean acne patches, and slick my hair back in a coconut oil mask that makes me look like Gollum. And then eat pizza in my bed.
Maybe in a few years I’ll want to move far away, on a whim. Maybe I’ll find myself back in Paris. Who knows? I like that all it would take is a suitcase.
So yeah, I’m not worried about my relationship status. This Valentine’s Day, I made tacos al pastor from a free HelloFresh box, and guess who got the second portion for lunch the next day? Bam, me. Another point for the singles.