I am fast approaching my four-year anniversary of becoming single.
(I don’t actually remember the exact date anymore, which is both a revelation and a relief for someone like me who remembers and dwells upon every significant date she’s ever had in her diary.)
In this time, I have learned an awful lot. I’ve learned that doing things like going to the cinema or dinner alone is liberating and often less stressful; that you will always have a ‘side of the bed’ even if you have the whole thing to yourself; and, most importantly for what I am about to write about, you will always have to categorise your relationship status for the sake of others.
We all know that the world loves to label things to better understand them, and this seems to extend to your single status, too. In my experience, if you don’t fit into one of two categories, you’re apparently doing the whole single thing wrong.
First, we have Actively Looking. They’re the ones with all the apps and dating site profiles. They’re going on dates three or four times a week if they can, attending parties and networking events for the potential of meeting someone. They want to find their next big love; they want to be in their next relationship or to meet their next fling or ONS. Not completely against spending time alone, they would always rather be part of a pair. You rarely see them single for longer than a year if they have anything to say on the matter.
Then we have Happily Single. They’re confident about their independence, and they know that they want space from seriously dating for a while, at least. Sure, they might meet people – flirt, date, kiss and sleep with them – but this satisfies their needs without landing themselves in the hot water of a new, proper relationship. They are probably more focused on working themselves out, giving more time to their career, traveling, hobbies or just time to recover from their past loves. You know better than to ask them if they’re seeing anyone.
Bear with me; I know these are stereotypes, and I am aware things might be a little cliche here, but the general divide between these two is quite clear to me; if not in everyday life, then in the media. It’s an obvious one, but it’s the classic Samantha vs Charlotte situation. There’s no right or wrong; neither is better than the other; it’s all personal preference.
But what if you don’t fit into these categories? What if you are neither Actively Looking nor Happily Single?
I often get asked by family and friends whether I am seeing anyone at the moment; with my sister newly married, 95% of my family and friends in relationships, and with at least three weddings coming up in the next five months, I do feel like the odd one out.
“No, I’m not with anyone. Well, actually I’m not really dating. I mean, I would like to meet someone, but I’m not really looking, as such. Yes, I get lonely. Yes, it would be nice to find someone as nice as my sister’s husband. No, I’m not on Tinder/Bumble/POF.”
Trying to explain that I am neither Actively Looking or Happily Single is hard. I mean, even I don’t know what I’m doing, or what I’m looking for. How can I put it into words when I’m just as confused as everyone else?
The fact is, I love my own company; after almost four years of being alone (but not lonely, mind! Well, not all the time…) I have become accustomed to doing what I want when I want. I think, in fact, I’m so used to it, I would struggle to lose some of that control when I eventually do have to make the little sacrifices when it comes to a relationship. This is one of a number of elements that probably put me off Actively Looking.
However, I am also somewhat of a one-man woman. I have tried dating more than one guy at the same time and failed. Once I like someone, I like someone, and I can’t do flings or One Night Stands; which makes dating that much more of a commitment.
I am also a Hopeless Romantic. I anticipate love around every corner. I may not be Actively Looking, but I will always walk into a cafe wondering if someone lovely will be inside; I long for commute-based meet cutes (hello, Beautiful Bus Stop Boy), and go to weddings wondering who may catch my eye. I’m a sucker for the potential of romance (in fact, so much so, I wrote a poem about it).
And that’s the thing. I am somewhere in the middle; caught between those tick boxes of Single and Looking. There are things holding me back from committing totally to either category. It’s hard to explain…but then, do I even have to?
I am open to the opportunity of meeting someone, and I put myself out there in as much as I am active in my community, but I’m not Dating with a capital D.
I love my single life so much; and yet I also love Love, too. I want to meet someone; but I also don’t (not for the sake of it, anyway).
Can we just accept that?
Next time you tell your single friend to ‘get out there’, consider how, maybe, they just might not want to. They don’t have to sign up to Tinder or Bumble to prove that they’re open to love, just as much as those who are swiping left and right are not always open to relationships (a friend of mine recently described Tinder as ‘feral’; I’ll just leave that there for you. I don’t disagree).
Here’s to those of us who are neither Actively Looking nor Happily Single. Here’s to those of us who are somewhere in between; who are open to finding someone special, but who aren’t in any particular rush.
Here’s to those of us in the Love-Life Limbo.
Come and join me up on the fence; it’s surprisingly comfortable.