is an episode of sex and the City Where girls go to engagement party. One of the guests asks Miranda if she is seeing “someone special” and she says, “No, but I am seeing complete strangers.” Carrie watches in confusion as Miranda delivers a handful of one-liners about the lack of momentum in her love life while the rest of the ladies laugh. Later, Carrie confronts Miranda about the conversation. Miranda confesses that it’s easier to make fun of her love life than to deal with their pity. It is an act of self-preservation.
When you’re single, it feels like you have an obligation to claim that as a major component of your personality. If you’re sufficiently aware of this perceived “flaw,” your friends won’t look as deeply, ask questions you don’t want to answer, or start speculating about your shortcomings. But in all likelihood, you have friends No Constant speculation on your deep-seated unhappiness (and if they are, you need new friends). Constantly wallowing in your loneliness is not only exhausting but it can negatively affect your self-worth and the quality of your friendships.
“Being lonely is not a disease. I hate the term ‘chronically single’. It is negative and harmful,” Shani Silver, TIC Toc creator and writer of A Revolution: Don’t Look for a Match, Light One, tells me on Zoom. “I find that seeing other people as chronically single – but most often myself – imparts negativity to loneliness, and also to how long you’ve been single, which can lead to increased feelings of devaluation and undeservingness. It reinforces a lot of negative things that I don’t think we deserve.
I hadn’t thought of the word that way. It was one I used often — maybe even proudly — to describe what it felt like to navigate my entire 20s into my early 30s without ever being in a relationship. Being single felt important to my identity; It alienated me from most of my friends. I wrote personal essay on the topicand even put together single woman in hollywood metrics to check How pop culture portrays single women on screen, It was easy to write about these things and process them in my own time, positioning myself as an expert on how to be alone. But real life remained challenging to navigate.
I told myself that I must be so wild, so broken, so complicated and so messy that no man would ever love me.
It’s so hard to answer questions about dating on the spot or know if I should tell my friends that I’ve met someone new. Chances are, the next time we speak, Mr. Someone new must have already gone. I could even feel my friends’ hesitation when popping questions about how the dating was going. They knew it was a sensitive subject, and more and more I found myself flirtatious and witty like Miranda, not wanting to ruin the vibe of the one occasion we were supposed to actually get drinks that month. There was a hollowness there, and I think we both could feel it: that we were just going through the motions. And of course, close friendships aside, any interaction with someone new, whether at a bachelorette party or work event, will bring up the dreaded question.
“are you seeing anyone?”
Do you want me to tell you about the guy I dated six months ago who keeps messaging me? Or do you want me to tell you how much I really love the life I’ve built for myself? Or do you want me to tell you that I sometimes feel so isolated and alone that I have to take a food item to turn my mind into a big, fluffy cloud instead of a constant thunderstorm? Or that my mortgage paperwork says “unmarried woman,” which makes me both very proud and deeply sad? Or how wonderful it is that I can say yes to plans without checking with anyone? Because they’re all true, by the way.
Why Does it feel so intimidating to talk about your romantic relationships (or lack thereof) with your friends, especially when we’re in completely different phases of life? that was the question i asked Lisa Naigley, Ph.D., is a licensed therapist who specializes in friendship therapy. “There can be pressure to provide an explanation for why you’re single, and there can be a burden to think about your life and your choices through the lens of being single,” she says. The idea that you’re somehow in a state of arrested development until you find a mate is a bias that persists even in the field of medicine, explains Knisely.
Constantly putting yourself in the “single” box drives an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends.
When I was in my “chronically single” era, a part of me clung to that label as a protective shield. I told myself that I must be so wild, so broken, so complicated and so messy that no man would ever love me. I buried myself in the depths of my loneliness, believing I was a sad person who didn’t deserve companionship. And I enjoy putting myself in that dark place, lighting all my candles, and watching Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice And drinking prosecco with raspberries in it and feeling the deep pangs of being all alone. I went to weddings without a plus-one, bearing all the expenses myself. I didn’t have anyone’s hand to gently squeeze during the vows. I handed my phone to a drunk bridesmaid to “swipe for me” because she “never got the apps experience!” I lay in my huge, pristine hotel bed knowing I’d have to get my own coffee the next morning.
After all, it doesn’t really matter whether you lean into your “spinsterhood” and go full-Bridget Jones with “Vodka and Chaka Khan” or if you go on five dates every week. You’re still the only friend.
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter.
Your friends are your friends, partners or not. I think a lot about Kniseley’s observation that we feel burdened to filter our lives through the lens of loneliness. Constantly putting yourself in the “single” box drives an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends. Referring to yourself as chronically single might seem like an understatement of power, but it’s also dangerously reinforcing the fear that you’re destined to be single. And it reduces you to a thing that you are not (romantically partnered with) instead of what you are (a million fun, complicated, exciting, annoying and delightful little qualities).
later in the aforesaid case sex and the City, Miranda meets a recently married friend. Without prompting, the friend starts listing the reasons why they can’t have kids yet. It’s the same pithy one-liners adjusted for the next stage of life. Miranda laughs along, understanding that speculations about your choices never completely go away—they just focus.
Lisa CPh.D., MSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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