The slim smiley model graced the cover effortlessly, as if the big bold words printed next to her meant nothing: “the happy singleton is a lie”. It was 15 days after my four-year relationship ended that a magazine informed me I was doomed.
Each article explained just how, I would spend Christmases alone, my friends would get married and buy houses and I would be forced to going on endless first dates with grubby men that would end in soggy kisses and heartbreak. Any advantages of going through life as a lone traveller would pale in the isolation and humiliation of being a ‘singleton’.
Offended, I binned the magazine, unaware how its harsh words would slowly poison me. When I watched the sunset from Byron Bay I laughed triumphantly, here I was alone on the other side of the world, the happiest I had ever been. Unhappy singleton, who? Yet a year later, while couples swayed at a Christmas ceilidh, the bathroom proved to be the only spot to escape my overwhelming grieve. The words rang true; the happy singleton was a lie.
I would swing like a pendulum, actively dating for months to spend consecutive seasons celibately. While I felt the happiest single, I could not deny the wave of relief I felt whenever I was dating. When people would inquire about my romantic life, I could say I was performing in line with societal standards. My relationship status was proof of sanity, I was chosen, I was not alone.
And then the pandemic came. Dating was no longer favourable of expected but deemed risky, celibacy was now ethical and admirable. My pendulum stopped.
For the first time in nearly five years, I was excused from I game I hated to play. I was no longer a happy or unhappy singleton. I was just a person struggling through a worldwide pandemic.
And that is the thing, I am a whole person. I am constructed out of contradictions, passions, fears and loves. I am not merely a singleton, I am a friend, a daughter, a colleague, a jokester and perhaps in time a girlfriend. By focussing on the lack of partnership, I was blinded to all I could claim as mine.
That ceilidh that ushered me into the bathroom contained only one couples dance, the rest of the night I barged across the dancefloor twirling from friend to friend. The dinners I spent among couples, were not merely confronting my solo status but meals shared with those I love.
Whenever you focus on the lack in your life, hurt will follow. This is not exclusive to romance, nor singletons. Ironically, the year that was dominated by so much loss gave me one of the most valuable gifts, to count my blessings.
Since for now, I am happy and a singleton.