- Why Single Is Not the Same as Lonely
- Marriage and Celibacy
- Nature of True Friendship
- Rich Indeed
- Being Single and Being Lonely Are Not the Same Thing
- 8 Reasons Being Single Is Better Than Being In A Mediocre Relationship
- Why Being Single Sucks: What No One Wants to Talk About
- The Perennially Single Bitch
- Loneliness is physical
- Welcome to the freak show
- Coupled BFFs just don’t understand
- I’m a monster, and other conspiracy theories
- Feral Cat Syndrome
- PSB PSA
- 10 Differences Between Being Alone and Being Lonely
Why Single Is Not the Same as Lonely
It was the kind of e-mail that breaks your heart.
A friend of mine, who lives too far away, contacted me to say he was struggling to understand how the cost of singleness as a Christian could possibly be worth it.
As far as he could see, an illicit relationship would be “the only possible way for me to enjoy the relational intimacy I’ve dreamt of my entire life.
” He concluded, “I cannot imagine the shell of a life I would live without somebody standing by my side.” In the light of this deficit of intimacy, could singleness ever be worth it?
My friend isn’t alone. In my own church family, one of the biggest causes of people drifting away from Christ has been entering into illicit relationships, especially single Christian women with unbelieving men. For many of them, the assumption was that life as a single just wasn’t viable. They needed intimacy.
It has become an unquestioned assumption today: Singleness (at least godly singleness) and intimacy are alternatives. A choice to be celibate is a choice to be alone. No wonder for so many this seems too much to bear. Can we really expect someone to live without romantic hope? It sounds so unfair.
Marriage and Celibacy
The Bible is clear that we choose between marriage and celibacy. In Matthew 19, Jesus upholds and expounds God’s blueprint for marriage found in Genesis 1 and 2: Marriage is between a man and a woman, and is designed to be for life.
The disciples balk a little at this: “If such is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). But Jesus responds by talking to them about the life of the eunuch.
The implication is plain: The only godly alternative to marriage is celibacy.
But the choice between marriage and celibacy is not the choice between intimacy and loneliness, or at least it shouldn’t be. We can manage without sex. We know this—Jesus himself lived as a celibate man. But we are not designed to live without intimacy. Marriage is not the sole answer to the observation “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
Our Western culture has so identified sex and intimacy that in popular thinking the two are virtually identical. We cannot conceive of intimacy occurring without it in some way being sexual. So when we hear how previous generations described friendship in such intimate terms, we roll our eyes and say, “Well they were obviously gay.” Any intimacy, we imagine, must ultimately be sexual.
Nature of True Friendship
But the Bible conceives of these things very differently. In Proverbs, friendship is far more than a verb for sharing your contact details on . A friend is someone who knows your soul. Someone who doesn’t just know lots about you, but knows you. And, Proverbs shows us, we cannot hope to live wisely in God’s world without such soul-to-soul friendships.
All of us need them, not just those who are single. I’ve seen more than one marriage run into difficulty because the couple had looked entirely to one another to meet all their friendship and intimacy needs and had not pursued good friendships alongside their marriage.
It’s not always easy to foster close friendships when you’re established as a family, but it’s a vital discipline to open up family life to others around you.
When we find we’re able to cultivate these Proverbs-type friendships, we find it’s possible to enjoy a huge amount of intimacy in life. To have people who know you at your sparkling best and utter worst, and to be deeply known and deeply loved—this is deep intimacy any of us can enjoy, and yet many around us never experience (even sadly at times in marriage).
For those of us who remain single, we might not experience the unique depth of intimacy with one person that a married friend might, but we can enjoy a unique breadth of intimacy with a number of close friends that comes from having greater opportunity and capacity than married people typically have to invest in close friendships.
Sex and intimacy are not the same. It’s possible to have a lot of sex and yet find no intimacy. Sex is designed to deepen and express intimacy that already exists; it cannot in itself create it. But it’s also possible to have a huge amount of godly, healthy intimacy without sex.
I think of the friendships that mean the most to me. Some have developed over many years; others have become very deep relatively quickly. Some are married; a couple of them are single.
It’s a gift to know there are a number of people out there who know me pretty much through and through and who (nevertheless!) love me very deeply. I also think of the tasters of parenthood Christian ministry has given me.
Younger men I’ve been able to encourage and have a role in spiritually forming and who still come to me for fatherly guidance; friends’ children I’ve been able to pray and share life with and become an honorary uncle to.
I may not have the security and constancy of a family unit—what one friend calls life’s “shock absorbers.” But when it comes to intimacy, I’m very rich indeed.
Being Single and Being Lonely Are Not the Same Thing
Loneliness will not brand the single as much as aloneness does
The following article is adapted from Michael Cobb’s Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled, out now from New York University Press.
Over the last few years of researching cultural tropes about singleness, I often recalled the snide description of correspondence from the lovelorn in Nathanael West’s 1933 novella, Miss Lonelyhearts, about an “Aunt Agony”-style columnist who reads letter after letter about social isolation: “And on most days he [Miss Lonelyhearts] received more than 30 letters, all of them a, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.” wise, the number of examples of lonely singles I’ve received from colleagues, friends, interlocutors, and strangers while I was doing my research is staggering—and although so many are fine examples, taken as a whole, they start to feel cookie-cut for easy consumption.
If it weren’t for West’s snide comment urging me to get beyond the topic of the loneliness of singles, I would have found it too daunting to think about how to approach the topic.
Would an exhaustive account of centuries of muscular American individualism be required? Singleness must be shaped by the legacies of Emerson and Thoreau (and countless others). There could have been numerous Walden-esque witticisms about the trials of a life “alone in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house” built by oneself.
Certainly being single is a variation on being individual. Even Thoreau had to keep reassuring us that he was not too lonely in the woods: “I am no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a bumble-bee.
” I’m not sure if he can prove or commit too many pathetic fallacies in these comparisons. Such rhetoric betrays a sense that the question of his loneliness is still very much open, and something about individualism must be thought about as we consider the single.
My quick reference to Thoreau helps me express a hunch about what has changed in how we think of individuals in our time: the individual is now usually marked as someone alone, suspiciously without a partner.
Thomas Dumm’s recent Loneliness as a Way of Life, a smart inquiry into what it means to be lonely, crescendos into heart-wrenching insights about grieving his wife’s death from lung cancer.
Here’s what he says, exquisitely, about what the death of his wife means to him:
My wife, as a thing, no longer exists, and hence is never again to be available for me, but through the fact of her irretrievable absence she is insistently, still sometimes overwhelmingly, available to me. Grief gives her a profound presence in my ongoing life; her ghost, even in its exhausted state, comforts me and frightens me.
This is how she is real to me. In my long nights she is silent, I cry to her, I follow her through bizarre dreamscapes, and allow myself to miss her.
As her presence as absence comes to be integrated into my life, I begin to lose her again; in her real absence she becomes a metaphor for my real loss of her—she becomes, as Emerson says, a part of my estate.
This is a beautiful passage, with important sentiments to express, and in no way could these feelings not be true. Yet the loneliness of being alone is so often framed by the intense, lyrical loss of a loved one—if not the loved one, a spouse.
Singleness marks being alone in a nearly paralyzingly profound manner—so much so that individualism, the value of aloneness, can barely be thought unless we strip away the pathologizing dynamics of coupledom that attach to the individual a bitter affect we might call loneliness. But what I’ve come to understand is crucial: Loneliness will not brand the single as much as aloneness does. The contemporary individual is not lonely, just single—but this is not culturally recognized.
I have serious misgivings about the miscasting of singleness as a terrible condition worth our pity and obfuscation.
As anyone who has thought seriously about single life already knows, the problem of the single is not the actual, lived experience of people who find themselves alone as much as the feelings that deliberately foreclose our understanding of singleness because singles are thought to be lonely—and loneliness, as we’re frequently reminded, has terrible consequences. To be blunt: I’m sick and tired of the single person being the avatar of the lonely crowd.
In John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick’s recent study Loneliness we are reminded, yet again, of scientific “findings” that make you want to run to the nearest available partner and pop the question:
Social isolation has an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, or smoking.
Our research in the past decade or so demonstrates that the culprit behind these dire statistics is not usually literally being alone, but subjective experience of loneliness.
Whether you are at home with your family, working in an office crowded with bright and attractive people, touring Disneyland, or sitting alone in a fleabag hotel on the working side of town, chronic feelings of loneliness can drive a cascade of physiological events that actually accelerates the aging process. Loneliness not only alters behavior but shows up in measurements of stress hormones, immune function, and cardiovascular function. Over time, these changes in physiology are compounded in ways that may be hastening millions of people to an early grave.
Reading these writers, I can’t help but think of a scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary in which Bridget, asked why so many women are still single “these days,” offers this famous response: “Because we may seem normal to you but underneath our clothes we’re covered in scales.
” Now’s not the time to quibble with the rhetoric and findings of these researchers, especially since they’ve been finding their conclusions for so long.
And I give them credit: they’re careful to make sure that we understand that loneliness is not the same thing as aloneness; they’re right to soon point out that “being miserably lonely in a marriage has been a literary staple from Madame Bovary to The Sopranos” (actually a literary staple for much, much longer than that).
But they can’t resist prefacing their remarks with a prevailing notion that is considered axiomatic: “Married people, on average, are less lonely than unmarried people.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.
The truth doesn’t matter because what we’re rhetorically left with is a sense that social connection is absolutely necessary; that a menacing, debilitating feeling of loneliness lurks everywhere; and that, despite examples to the contrary, married people might be experiencing social connection more regularly, more healthfully.
In the quickest of phrases, by describing marriage as an average, if not the average, experience of social connection, the researchers highlight the unmarried—and here I think Cacioppo and Patrick mean “single” rather than those who can’t or won’t be married even if they’re coupled—as a heightened instance of alienation.
And they recast marriage and coupledom, however obliquely, as kinds of relations that offer the greater chance of escape from the early grave of loneliness, a loneliness that is crowding us each time we look at our smart phones.
They’re hardly alone in this assessment. Despite all the novelty of new social networks, there’s still a very old-fashioned sense of what grounds people as social actors.
For all the inventiveness of technology, it’s strikingly hard to imagine the smooth functioning, if not the goods, of the social world without imagining the couple.
This imagination, in turn, presents a powerful, if not compulsory, logic that dominates the manner in which we begin to even consider social interaction and connection, in any of its public forms (in old and new media; online or in physical, less virtual spaces where people gather).
Moreover, this logic’s corrosive effects play out in realms quite beyond the physiological or psychological impact at the level of the individual. Being single is not merely an individual’s psychological or physical plight. There are huge political, social, and cultural stakes in dividing people up into those who are single and those who are not.
Those stakes belong to what is currently a very familiar terrain of family politics. I wrote a book on the religious right and homophobic hate speech in the mid-2000s, so the nebulous category of “values voters” has been on my mind for some time.
The cause of these voters was even further strengthened by the controversy and outrage over same-sex marriage—the plea for participation in state-sanctioned coupledom.
“Values voters” are, for the most part, conservative Christians or political opportunists (even if they are not named as such) who profit, in many senses of the term, from patrolling and excluding those who can enter into official and state-sanctioned forms of intimate couple relating.
Marriage, and same-sex marriage in particular, is serious political and cultural business, along with the other “values votes” issues that continue to have substantial clout in the United States (under any presidency, Democratic or Republican)—abortion, stem-cell research, affirmative action, health care reform. These are not wedge issues but central biopolitical concerns that ferociously animate our present and future politics.
8 Reasons Being Single Is Better Than Being In A Mediocre Relationship
Being coupled up should not be the end goal of your personal life: Being truly happy, regardless of what your relationship status is, should always be the priority.
In fact, you'll ly be a whole lot happier single than you would be if you chose to stay in the wrong relationship. Below, relationship experts offer eight convincing reasons why.
1. Not all relationships are created equally.
Relationship aren't always mutually fulfilling. If you are deeply unhappy with each other, being on your own is probably the preferable option, said therapist Heather Gray.
“Having a person in your life doesn’t mean you have real love,” she said. “When you lie to yourself and pretend your relationship is something that it isn’t, you’re hurting yourself.
That lie is embarrassing and shaming. It can make you feel weak and pathetic when you don’t even believe the story you’re telling.
Your truth, even the painful one that this relationship isn’t right for you, frees you of that.”
2. Confidence and independence are traits honed on your own.
There's a big difference between being alone and being lonely. When you truly embrace single life, you'll start to enjoy your own company, said Neely Steinberg, a dating coach and personal image consultant. (Plus, getting to sleep diagonally across the bed is pretty damn blissful.)
“It's really important to have some time in your life to discover how to be single, how to be alone and how to get validation from yourself instead of from your relationship status,” Steinberg said. “When you've had time to explore your independence, you learn to be comfortable in your own skin.”
3. Time spent in a bad relationship is time wasted finding the right one.
Not sold on the whole “being on your own is actually awesome” argument? Think of it this way, then: You can’t find the love you deserve if you're giving attention to a dead-end relationship.
“You have to get yourself in the right place to find the person who’s right for you,” Gray said. “That won't happen when you’re accepting less than you deserve [from the wrong person.]”
4. Dating around can be fun if you give it a chance.
Swiping right and actually making a real connection — or finding Mr. Wrong and regaling your friends with details from your nightmare date — can be fun, said divorce coach Kira Gould.
“After my own divorce, I wasn’t sure what I wanted in a relationship and I dated all sorts of 'wrong' men — and I have to say, I loved it,” Gould told us. “Mind you I wouldn’t enter into a relationship with any of them; I just enjoyed the chance to explore, and 'try them on' so to speak.”
5. Being single gives you the chance to figure out what you want — and absolutely don't want — in a relationship.
You probably don't want to date someone just your ex — so what do you want in your next partner? Being single gives you the rare opportunity to answer that question with a clear mind, Gould said.
“You can't assume you know what you want. As life changes, so do we, and so do our priorities, desires, and needs,” she said. “Being single in today’s landscape gives us many opportunities to date, and to explore what sorts of qualities we or dis in a partner.”
6. That newfound independence makes you more attractive to potential partners.
Nothing is sexier than a person who can handle their life, said relationship coach Lisa Schmidt.
“Learning to accept and love who you are without a man or woman in your life makes you more desirable to partners,” Schmidt said.
7. Staying in the wrong relationship is a recipe for sadness.
“There is nothing more painful than to feel lonely while in the same room as the person you’re with,” said Gray.
8. Because ultimately, relationships don't guarantee happiness.
Happiness lies within yourself, not in any would-be soulmate, said Steinberg.
“The truth is, a relationship will never bring you happiness if you're not already happy with who you are and your life,” she said. “The best part of being single is that you get to explore life on your own time and your own terms. You get to figure out what makes you happy in life.”
10 Quotes Every Newly Single Person Should Read
Why Being Single Sucks: What No One Wants to Talk About
Once a week, I grab sushi takeout: green dragon roll, spicy salmon roll, miso soup.
As the waiter finishes taking my order, I brace myself for the final question of the transaction: “How many chopsticks?” Right eye slightly a-twitch, I say, “Just one.
” Sometimes I contemplate lying, “Oh, two, please!” because I’m so, so over the Sad Single Person Meal trope, but I never cave. It’s always “Just one, thanks.”
Are you thinking, Listen to this sad-sack bitch. Doesn’t she have anything better to do than mope about her chopsticks? Maybe he’s just asking because it’s enough food for two people. Maybe she’s fat and weird, and that’s why she’s single? Because there’s always a reason, right? But what if there isn’t?
I’m relatively delightful: sweet, fun, smart and outgoing. I’m cute enough. I have a job that pays me to watch TV and talk about movies and interview celebrities. I have a social life packed with besties and beloved co-workers. I’m on Tinder, OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. I go on dates. I am aware that, at 32, my eggs are jettisoning my dusty uterus at an alarming rate.
The Perennially Single Bitch
Despite all this, I am a perennially single bitch (PSB), i.e., a non–cat lady with a full life who remains single.
I have been alone for the past two years and, prior to my last boyfriend (we were together for seven months), for another three years—just so many women in North America right now. In 1981, 26 percent of Canadians aged 25 to 29 were unmarried.
In 2016 (the last year census numbers were gathered), that number skyrocketed to 57 percent. During that time, the percentage of unmarried women in their early 30s jumped from 10 to 34 percent.
As a result, recent years have seen a rise in single-lady-friendly lit, with uplifting titles affirming the pleasures of life uncoupled, including the 2011 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg and Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own (Crown, $20) by Kate Bolick, author of the 2011 viral Atlantic article “All the Single Ladies.” I read Spinster and, while Bolick is a spectacular mind and first-rate writer, it gave me zero solace. I’d hoped to find war stories from a fellow PSB struggling with the garbage part of long-term singlehood: loneliness.
The book is, rather, Bolick’s celebration of five historical spinsters who crafted exciting lives despite their lack of husbands, as well as an exploration of Bolick’s ambivalence toward the outdated idea of mandatory marriage. I called Bolick when I finished the book.
“How do you reconcile having a rich life and being lonely?” I asked. She replied: “It’s about not organizing your life around another person—when you shut all the doors and prioritize the relationship above everything else.
I to have a balance, where my friendships are as important as my romantic relationship, which is as important as my work.” But what if there is no romantic relationship? Does my yearning for a mate make me lame? Bolick urges women to “make a life of one’s own.” Done.
But I also want to make a life with someone else (and maybe a kid or three).
In It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single, a 2014 tome I found more comforting, author Sara Eckel points out that people are happy to write memoirs about eating disorders, crack addictions, cheating people their life savings, being Jenny McCarthy. But almost no tell-alls explore loneliness in depth. Even the word “lonely” feels ugly. I’ve dropped it in heart-to-hearts with everyone from my BFFs to my mother and watched their faces twist in embarrassment.
This is because loneliness reads as weakness. Melanie Notkin, author of the 2014 book Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, believes our longing for companionship is often maligned because it doesn’t jibe with people’s ideas of boss bitchdom.
“It doesn’t feel feminist, the wait for love: ‘If you really want to be a mother, go out and have a baby on your own.’ But that’s what feminism gives us, the ability to make choices that we didn’t have a generation ago, to have the love and the child with that love,” Notkin says.
“The truth is that we are modern, independent women who yearn for traditional dating and romance. It’s not a non-feminist thing to say. It’s actually quite feminist to admit what you want.
” Yet the persistent perception is that loneliness is something empowered women shouldn’t deign to suffer—something that can be fixed with yoga or a new dating app. Alternatively, it can appear it’s our fault: we’re too picky, too selfish.
It also sounds straight-up sad. That’s why I initially resisted writing this piece. I cringe when I imagine it going into print—and then onto the Internet for all eternity—for my exes to see and future dates to find lurking in my Google results.
But f-ck it. We’re all humans here, so I’ll do it: I’m coming out as lonely.
Loneliness is physical
It’s a dull sort of pain, a poke in the eye or the slow ebb of cramps. Often I don’t feel it for a while; there’s a new crush, perhaps, a big project at work, springtime. But then I’ll experience a moment, most often when I am coming home from the cozy confines of dinner or a movie night at a couple’s house, that reminds me I am alone.
The pain leaps suddenly, the horrible surge of heat when you remember you forgot to do something important. Sometimes it spills me in tears that trickle down from behind my sunglasses as I sit on the streetcar on my way home from work, inching home toward another solitary meal, another night alone in bed.
I burst into my apartment and cry and cry and cry, standing in the middle of the living room. It’s an involuntary physical reaction to the lack: of someone beside me on the streetcar, of someone waiting for me on the couch. And I let the pain flow through me, feel it race up and down and through the conductor of my body.
Then I climb into bed and try not to think, How can I last another night in this same bed in this same room in this same loveless life and wake up alone and do it again the next day and the next and the next?
Such freak-outs aren’t just painful (and mega-mortifying to admit publicly): they could be slowly killing me. In his 2009 book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, John T.
Cacioppo, director of the Center of Cognitive & Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, reveals that feelings of isolation mine can cause high blood pressure, increase stress hormones, impair immune function and accelerate aging, and, he says ominously, may be “hastening millions of people to an early grave.” I do have scary-high blood pressure, caused in part, I assume, by the stress of a high-intensity job—sans someone at home to provide soothing cuddles and reality-show commentary—and in part by the fact that I sometimes alleviate said stress with late-night junk-food bacchanals. While waiting for my post-bar Uber a few weeks ago, I overheard a bro refer to my 2 a.m. poutine as my “boyfriend for the night.”
Welcome to the freak show
It’s easy for PSBs to feel freaks when the coupled world constantly reminds us of our single status. Bella DePaulo, author of 2006’s Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, calls this ghettoization “singlism.
” Even the shoeshine guy at the airport recently opened with, “You married?” (When he heard my answer, he stuck out his tongue and made a face.) The older I get, the more party guest lists become standardized into 40 billion couples, a handful of fun gays and a pack of dolled-up PSBs.
Friends badger me to lift the No Boyfriends Allowed, Goddamnit rule at my annual cottage weekend. Weddings are the most extreme torture of all.
The answer to, “Will there be any single dudes there?” always results in some variation of, “No, but please do enjoy the quarantine pen set up at the back of the banquet hall with the spotty teen cousins and wizened old aunties.” (At one wedding I attended, the MC announced, “Don’t worry about getting too drunk. Briony is single.
I’m sure she’ll… take care of you.”) We’re also denied the sweet financial bounty of tax breaks; double occupancy rates at hotels; engagement party, bridal shower and wedding presents; and sharing a down payment on a house. “Everyone is so mom-, love- and couples-focused that we’re ignored,” Notkin says. “No one hears us, understands us or acknowledges us.”
Coupled BFFs just don’t understand
The isolation intensifies as friends are—bless—often useless when it comes to offering support, simply because they eschew listening in favour of cheerleading and advice. “How can you be lonely?” they cry. “You are never alone! You have such a rich life! You don’t need a man to complete you!” Or, “Stop obsessing about finding a boyfriend.
Just live your life and work out/smile/go out more, and he will come to you.” One pal insisted I had been concentrating too much on my job. “Career woman” is one of the most common—and most misogynist—cop-outs. No one uses the term “career man.” And the phrase reinforces a myth that PSBs prioritize work over finding a partner.
I know many accomplished PSBs who work 60-plus hours a week: none of them have eschewed dating for career and, in fact, most of them work hard to carve out time to meet men. None of us are waking up one day and saying, “LOL I TOTALLY FORGOT TO DATE FOR 10 YEARS BETTER GET GOING BEFORE I’M BARREN.
” We have been dating the whole time—we just haven’t found our matches.
I’m a monster, and other conspiracy theories
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Slogging along solo for ages has made me doubt my sanity as life starts to feel an episode of The Twilight Zone. At first, I thought, I’m bangable. Fun.
I have enough dates and flings and past boyfriends to confirm that I’m not a complete monstrosity. But as the months of singledom slip into years, doubt rears.
If I was a lovable human, logically, I would have love, no? I imagine a third-act twist where cleaning out my parents’ filing cabinets would unearth paperwork revealing I am actually the beneficiary of the top-secret make-work program Societal Integration for Chuds and Other Undesirables, which states that I’m allowed to have a cool job and extensive social circle, but I should under no circumstances be allowed to breed.
I’ve tumbled many times into the crevasse between self-love and self-loathing, eyeball to eyeball with my flaws and wondering which of those pernicious little bastards is driving away potential husbands.
Is it my oft-messy apartment? My loud laugh? My strong opinions? If I fixed these things, would I have more luck? This obsession with dating success by way of self-improvement is a by-product of western society’s can-do ideal, according to Eckel: “Any problem you have, you can solve it. You’re the master of your own destiny.
The flip side to that, however, is that if you’re going through a hard time, it’s your fault.” I tried, for a long time, to eradicate my undesirable bits. Some changes made me a better person, going to the gym and softening my bitchy resting face.
But other things I did to placate dudes— switching out boner-killing fashion in favour of dressing down in jeans and sneaks—I eventually gave up. There’s only so much of myself I can change before there’s nothing left. “Maybe the reason these women are single isn’t that there’s something wrong with them,” says Eckel. “It’s that there’s something right with them.”
It takes strength to hold out for a person who loves you just the way you are. I’m asked on dates by so-so guys that I politely decline. I don’t frantically prolong fizzling flings. I could have married my lovely ex years ago. Not having someone is hard, but settling for just anyone is harder.
Feral Cat Syndrome
There is an upside to our noble refusal to settle; PSBs do indeed enjoy giddying freedom and wide-open swaths of time and space to pursue adventure and wonderment. But I also spend a lot of time with the same damn person: myself.
Just as Bolick warned against disappearing into a relationship, you can also disappear into yourself. This is what I call Feral Cat Syndrome. I become too wild, too unused to human contact, too worn down by dating.
I favour Broad City over yet another book launch or synth-pop show or house party where I hope there will be someone vaguely hittable. I let my OkCupid matches pile up, sick of composing witty openers. My body aches for snuggles.
I debate sleeping with a ripped 22-year-old Tinder jock just to make sure my vagina still works. My bad habits flare up, whether it’s drunken belligerence or skipping eye makeup.
Dating really is a nefarious little game, isn’t it? If you want to stop dating, you have to keep dating to find the partner who will take you the running.
All the exhausting gym-going and smiling and battling Feral Cat Syndrome and Tindering won’t guarantee a boyfriend—whether I meet my dream piece or not comes down to chance. It’s maddening. That’s what PSBs must make peace with every day: uncertainty.
Want a kid? A house? In most cases, it’s only realistic if you couple up. Until then, I’m in limbo.
PSBs already know that all we can do while waiting for the right partner is to live a life of meaning, of love for family and friends, of passion and pursuit of beauty. We got it.
All we need—in addition to your hot friend’s number—is a little empathy for the pain, the isolation, the frustration, the exhaustion, the helplessness, the loneliness. (And all those bloody weddings.
) If a PSB tells you she is sick of singledom, if she is brave enough to tell you she is lonely, don’t rush into offering advice or compliments or strategies. Just say, “That must be hard. How are you doing?”
Share the burden and end the shame. I may be lonely, but I am not alone.
This article was originally published in May 2015.
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FILED UNDER: February 2017
10 Differences Between Being Alone and Being Lonely
Now that I am single and sixty, I spend more time alone than I used to when I was married. However, I spend less time being lonely. I was always lonely in my marriage, not as a mother but as a wife. I was almost never alone but was always lonely.
Here are 10 subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two and a few suggestions on how to turn loneliness around.
1. You can be happy while you are alone. The same can’t be said for being lonely.
2. Sitting in a football stadium full of people, you can be lonely. It is not a question of numbers, but of emotions. If you are watching the football game at home by yourself, well you get it, you are just alone.
3. Some things are preferable when you are alone reading. You might prefer to read when alone. It is great to nap while you are alone. On the other hand, if you are feeling lonely, a Saturday date-night movie by yourself might not be the best time to venture out.
4. Sometimes being lonely might make you try something new to get over the loneliness. You might join a group or class that will allow you to learn a new skill or improve on an old hobby.
The sheer making the arrangements can go a long way in helping with loneliness. And, you will meet new people and maybe form some new friendships.
It feels great to take control in improving your situation, and the worst thing that can happen is that you still feel lonely. What have you got to lose? You can still be alone anytime.
5. Laughter is great for loneliness and also for when you are alone. It is hard to feel lonely when you are laughing, try it. And, it is wonderful to be alone when you want to laugh out loud.
6. On special occasions, to avoid loneliness, nothing replaces planning. If you know you are going to be lonely for Christmas, plan ahead. Do everything you can to make it better before it comes up.
Let’s face it, nothing makes up for not being with loved ones, or not having loved ones around on family holidays but you can work on it.
Last year I planned a movie with a friend for Christmas morning because neither of us had any plans until later in the day and it kept me from feeling so blue on the first Christmas morning in my life when I wouldn’t be with my children. I was alone when I woke up but had plans that kept me from being lonely.
7. If you want to watch a big game but it feels so lonely to do it by yourself at home, go to a nearby restaurant or bar and watch for a while. Much of the fun is just being around other people to cheer on your team. It might take care of your loneliness. But, if you want to watch alone, no shame in that either.
8. Speaking of bars and restaurants, if you want to have a drink when you are alone, well that’s up to you. If you want to have a drink when you are lonely…don’t do it. It is nothing but a slippery slope that will just make you feel worse.
9. I hate to put this in, but cleaning makes me feel less lonely. I think because I start thinking about how great my place will look when someone comes to see it. How much all of this organization will make me happy when I finish. And, of course, I must do it while I am alone.
10. Being lonely makes me tired, in a sad sort of way. Draggy. I find that exercise helps, as much as I hate to admit it. If I exercise and I am tired, I deserve to be. Being alone does not make me tired.
Of course, much of this is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s rooted in my experiences over my 60 years. I have to trick myself a lot in order not to feel lonely. I hope I won’t always have to do that. I don’t treat loneliness lightly, though.
If you feel lonely, but you feel that it will pass or diminish over time, then that seems a healthy attitude to me.
However, if you are living under a dark cloud that never seems to go away, that probably needs help from the outside, whatever that looks to you.