Being Single In Your 20s

I am nearing 24 and am yet to have a serious monogamous relationship. Some would say I’m a late bloomer. I only have one close friend who also hasn’t had a ‘real’ relationship. Practically everyone else have been coupling off and disappearing in a haze of love-stupor, often in it’s wake altering the nature of our friendships.

It used to bother me that I have been perpetually single. By single, I mean the type of single where you aren’t even talking to anyone or sleeping around. You know those people that tell everybody how single they are but they’re actually going on dates or at least attempting to put themselves out there? Well I’m the type of single who hasn’t even been trying to do something about it. God forbid I’m not trying to ‘fix’ my problem. I’m the type of single where I haven’t been on a date or slept with anybody in years, let alone had a crush on someone.

(*side note – the concept of ‘dating’ has practically no inherent meaning anymore as a Gen Z. Is dating a FWB situation? It is exclusive? Non-exclusive? It’s ambiguous and a giant mystery to me.)

I used to take it so personally, because being single meant there was something wrong with me. Whether it was my weird quirks, shyness, being emotionally “too much”, or the fact I didn’t put out enough. In classic victim mode, I was constantly trying to pick apart what the difference was between me and them. We all know those magical people who seem to just fall into relationships wherever they go. The moment they say “I’m going to embrace my singleness” they coincidentally stumble into another relationship.

I can’t blame it all on me though. I grew up – along with most other women – on a diet of Disney movies and sexist rom-coms where the sole purpose and trajectory of the female protagonist is to get the guy and live happily ever after. It is so ingrained in the female psyche that we don’t even notice how subconsciously attached our worth is to male desirability. To end up being alone would be the worst thing in the world. Notice how the antagonist of so many films is an older single woman – the ‘crone’ or ‘hag’ – who is portrayed as sinister and calculating, too intelligent for her own good. Or the fact that celebrity gossip magazines won’t ever leave alone single women who have had an amazing career but haven’t got a man. “The secret behind why X can’t seem to hold a man down!

We hold a collective heteronormative assumption that everybody should want to get married and find ‘the one’. It’s packaged to us as the definition of what will make us happy. But the notion of ‘the one’ is a myth. There is no one single person you are destined to be with. There are lots of people on this planet you have the potential to fall in love with. They’ll all be very different kinds of love and relationships, but you could be equally satisfied with either one of them. To me, the process of ‘searching’ for someone feels laborious and draining. It’s precious energy I would rather place elsewhere.

I believe that we should be focused on making our lives as juicy and exciting as possible for ourselves. Because the way you feel about yourself is not going to automatically change once you get into a relationship. Sure, you might temporarily feel the high of new love and lust. But it fades quickly, and you’re suddenly facing all the baggage you thought you could leave in the past. My rose-tinted glasses on love has been deconstructed over the years watching those around me in relationships. I realised that there is little difference in happiness between me and them, and in fact sometimes I am the more emotionally stable and satisfied one.

The truth is, relationships take work. Painting it as some easy-breezy-Covergirl thing is a lie. There’s sacrifice and there’s compromise. As someone who thrives being independent and answering to nobody, it would be a hard adjustment for me to discuss with someone else before I make any big decision. Being single means I can be radically selfish. It means I can take up my entire bed. It means I eat what I want for dinner and buy what I want to buy.

I now realise that being single for most of my young adult life has actually been a blessing. I have learnt how to take care of myself and my needs, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have mastered the Art Of Being Alone, from traveling along, to eating alone, to going to concerts alone. I have learned to love my own company and incidentally ended up becoming best friends with myself. And I have also learned about different kinds of intimate love with my friendships, which in ways have taught me more about love than any weird ‘situationship’ I’ve had with men.

I ultimately know I’ve got my back and that I will always end up okay. It’s taken away any sense of fear around relationships or my singleness. It means that I have made peace with my life and that whatever happens, happens. If that includes marriage and kids *with the right person* then I’m excited for it. But if my life will entail being alone for my adult life I am also equally as excited. I don’t know what will happen so there’s no use trying to control it. It’s incredibly liberating; I no longer feel guilt and shame or the ‘need’ to be in a relationship.

Like Emma Watson so iconically said, I’m “self-partnered” and am completely at peace with my single relationship status. Shedding societal beliefs has empowered me to recognise that a life worth living will never be defined by whether I’m dating or not. Only I have the power to define it; the opinion I have about myself is really the only one that matters.

Cover image: Hayley Catherine

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