I was 25 the first time I took myself out on a “date.” It was a Friday night in January. I’d gone on a dinner date the night before that was a bit of bust (I did, however, get a really good story from it, but I’ll save that for a different time). A movie I really wanted to see had just come to my favorite second-run theater in SE Portland and none of my friends were available to come with me. So I went alone. I bought myself a ticket, a slice of pizza, and a pint of beer. It was the very first time I’d ever gone to a movie theater alone and I had a great night.
Being single is not always as picturesque as a pint and a slice and an enjoyable movie. It’s not a constant stream of horrific dates (though I’ve gone on quite a few of those), nor is it a life of constant partying and sexual adventures (of course that might just be my experience). It is, however, a life choice that tends to be undervalued, particularly if you’re female and older than, say 25? 27? For some reason, it’s acceptable to be a bachelor ’till you are middle-aged but there’s still a stigma against women choosing to be alone. I’ve been essentially single for the past seven years and at this point, I’ve developed some pretty strong opinions about it. Now, before I get any further, let me define what I mean when I say I’ve been “essentially single for the past seven years.” I mean I haven’t been in any serious relationships… like the type where both people involved are positive influences in each other’s lives and are in a position to be capable of committing to/wanting to be in a long-term relationship. You know, the type. I’ve definitely dated. I’ve even had guys whom I’ve called my “boyfriend” and allowed to call me their “girlfriend,” but never for longer than three months at a time. As I’ve once been so infamously quoted, “I like my leases month to month… just like my men.”
Being single has been both an amazing part of my life and a horrific part of my life. It’s grown to feel like it’s part of my identity, which is a big 180 from my past dating habits. I’d been a serial monogamist for basically a decade. I was in four longer relationships with next to no break between them, started from my freshman year of high school through the age of 24. Bouts of loneliness suck and they happen even when you’re super happy being single. But they don’t suck as much as the way people talk to me about being single: Like I need to be in a constant state of trying to “find a husband” or I’m somehow flawed or failing in life because I haven’t paired off with someone and gotten married. Our society still holds marriage as this all important goal in life and ostracizes women who prioritize careers over relationships. It often feels like society wants you to fit into this trope for single women: the “Bridget Jones” type, desperate to be with a man (or woman, if that’s your thing).
I don’t identify with this stereotype and particularly hate being lumped in as the desperate for love type. I’m not a failure at love; I’m self-sufficient, okay with being by myself, and choose to date guys with zero long-term potential (seems weird I know, but I’ve actually dumped a guy cause I started to get the feeling he was long-term material. I didn’t feel I was ready yet). I’ve accomplished so many of my life goals by the age of 30 and have being single to thank for a lot of that. For example, if I wasn’t single, I never would have packed up my life and moved abroad with only a couple months notice (for those who don’t know, I moved to China for a year to work for the Walt Disney Company). I’ve had so many amazing life experiences that I love and value, and I know I probably wouldn’t have experienced any of that if I had been in a relationship. It’s not that I couldn’t have done things like music festivals and world travel if I had been in a relationship. But being single let’s me decide to take advantage of opportunities as they come and be flexible and adventurous without needing to take a life-partner’s preferences or goals into account.
When I was a young adult picturing the future, I definitely thought I’d have met and be living with the love of my life by the time I was 25. While I’m sure if that had happened, I’d have plenty of things I’d love about it; I nevertheless have zero regrets about my life turning out differently. I’d even go as far as to say I’m thankful it didn’t turn out that way. For all the loneliness and all the fuck-boys I’ve dealt with, the opportunities I’ve had because I live my life solo have vastly out weighed the sad times. I am enough on my own. I’ll admit it took a long time for me to learn that. It took me many years to realize that people who say things to make me feel like less of a worthy human because I’m single are wrong (and their comments are probably coming from a place that has nothing to do with me at all). Someday I might want to settle down. And that’s okay. But if I don’t? I know that’s okay too, even if society or friends haven’t quite accepted that yet.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.