Musings on the single life

I previously mentioned in passing that I might write a post about my current lack of desire for a relationship. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realised there’s a lot I’d like to say about it, so this is that post. It also seems quite fitting to be posting it on International Women’s Day, though it’s just a happy coincidence.

First off I’d like to note that I’m quite weird. I’ve always been quite weird. I’ve always been aware that I’m quite weird. I’ve always embraced being quite weird. Being normal is boring. Yet I still feel quite self-conscious about my weirdness in the relationship/dating type territory. This blog post is partly an attempt to confront that and just put it all out there. So, how weird am I? Well, in my 37 years to date, I’ve only really fancied 6 people (excluding celebrities and fictional characters!). Plus a couple of those are barely worth noting. And a couple of them also turned out to be gay, so were never really viable dating options. I’ve always marvelled at people who can get out of one relationship and into another really quickly. I’m also amused whenever people on shows like First Dates say how they’ve been single for 6 months and see it as some ridiculously long period of time. Yet I’ve increasingly realised that this is the more ‘normal’ way of looking at things. Not that I feel like a total freak – I have naturally gravitated towards other people with similar dating ambivalence, so at least have a small group of friends who can relate.

My one actual relationship lasted almost five years, so wasn’t too shabby. In the four years since we split up, I’ve gone on dates with four different people (pleasingly one per calendar year, though that hasn’t been intentional), but none of them have led to anything. Like I said, it’s incredibly rare that I actually fancy anyone, so it’s no real reflection on them (although one of them was a little creepy, so it is slightly a reflection on him!). I partly date so infrequently as I feel quite guilty when there’s no chemistry – like it’s somehow my fault. They’re probably not even that bothered, but I find it emotionally exhausting. This is largely due to my introversion and issues with anxiety, though I’m also aware that gender plays a part here too. Not that I’m saying men can’t have those issues, but it is more socially drilled into women that their needs should be subservient to men’s, so even though I logically know my feelings and needs are just as valid as theirs, I still struggle to fully believe that at times, which shows how well ingrained these attitudes are.

Yes, I’m going to talk about feminism now. I will try not to rant, but I can’t promise anything… I feel like my understanding, appreciation and passion for feminism has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 4 or 5 years, particularly. This has largely been helped by social media, especially Twitter, plus obviously the recent campaigns such as #MeToo and Time’s Up. Growing up in the ’90s, I never felt like gender inequality was really a big issue – I didn’t personally feel disadvantaged or witness to any obvious discrimination. It’s only since I’ve become more educated about it that I’ve been able to reflect on all the myriad ways in which sexism is embedded within societal norms and stereotypes. I now see it everywhere and it’s incredibly obvious. I’m reluctant to use the word ‘woke’, as find it slightly cringy as a word, but it’s become popular for a reason and it is accurate here. I realise that a lot of men (plus some women) are still quite blind to this (what’s the opposite of woke? Sleep?), which I totally get, but what I’ve really got no time for is the people who are remaining willfully ignorant. It’s fine to be shocked and surprised when most women are saying they’ve been subject to some form of sexual harassment, but to claim that they’re lying/exaggerating/on some kind of witch hunt? Just no. Stop it. You are part of the problem and I have no time for you. Feminism isn’t anti-men, despite what some people think, but I am personally anti-men-who-are-anti-feminist. And as a woman who is generally attracted to men (on the rare occasions I’m attracted towards anyone), I’m aware that this awakening and intolerance has further shrunken my personal dating pool. In fact it’s starting to feel more like a dating puddle at this stage.

I do feel optimistic about this recent tide change though. It feels like women collectively have just had enough and aren’t going to accept certain behaviours any more. It’s empowering. I also find it really interesting to look back at how much things have already changed within my lifetime. As a ’90s teenager, I have very fond memories and strong nostalgia for that period of time – it’s when most of my favourite music and TV programmes were born and when a lot of my identity was forged. The TV programmes particularly provide a real portal back in time. With Friends recently being added to Netflix, a lot has already been said about that show and how millennials have supposedly been shocked by some of the outdated attitudes and storylines in it. I’m skeptical as to whether this shock actually exists, or whether it’s just a media construct (the whole millennials = snowflakes narrative they seem desperate to perpetuate), but either way it’s been on my mind as I’ve been rewatching the show. Personally I don’t think it’s dated that badly – there are other shows from that period that are far more jarring to watch now. I recently rewatched some episodes of The Thin Blue Line and was shocked by the level of casual homophobia in it. Even though the episodes are promoting tolerance and have some really strong, liberal messages, they’re still shockingly dated by today’s standards. But that’s what’s great about rewatching things like that, as you can clearly see how much progress has been made in 20 years. Back to Friends though… The one element of the show that has really changed for me is the Ross/Rachel relationship. Back when the show originally aired, I was totally a sucker for that relationship – I remember the excitement when they finally kissed – I totally bought into it, particularly in those first few seasons. I remember then feeling like the show jumped the shark around the time of the London episodes. The thing that bothered me most was how they suddenly seemed to change Ross from being a sweet, nice guy into an easily-angered cartoonishly ridiculous guy. The whole thing with his rage over someone eating his sandwich?! What was that? It was so ridiculous and seemed so out of character that it bothered me an unnatural amount. Plus he then becomes quite annoying and over the top in general – the whole pivot thing? I’m with Chandler when he says ‘shut up, shut up, shut uuuuuup’ (also a side note that Chandler was always my favourite – that hasn’t really changed). Anyway, rewatching the show now, I actually find the version of Ross in the first few seasons to be the far more annoying one – specifically because he’s not meant to be. The portrayal of him as the ‘nice guy’ when he’s constantly being possessive, entitled, untrusting and whiny? Ughhh. At least Sandwich Rage Ross is deliberately ridiculous. It’s more honest. The fact that I’d previously bought into the notion of Ross as the ‘nice guy’? That at the time his behaviour seemed quite normal and acceptable and like the kind of person I’d be happy to date? That’s what I now find interesting/disturbing. That’s how I can see how much my own perceptions have changed for the better.

I feel like these cultural shifts, combined with my getting older (as we’re all prone to doing), plus my reflections on my past relationship, have all been coming together and helping me get to a point whereby I’m much more aware of what I do and don’t want in any future relationships. I feel stronger in my sense of self and a lot less willing to tolerate any crap. I’m also starting/trying to be more accepting and forgiving of my own weaknesses. And to be less forgiving of people who perceive them as ‘flaws’. I could probably write a book about the numerous ways in which introverts are made to feel bad or broken for being introverted. Throw in a level of shyness and a tendency towards social anxiety and it’s suddenly very easy to be made to feel defective and inadequate. From teachers complaining that you don’t raise your hand in lessons, to friends/partners who come up with incredibly patronising ways to try and get you to talk more – it grinds you down, in the same way that everyday sexism grinds you down – just constant small enforcements that you’re in some way failing and not as good as other people. Well, fuck that. If someone doesn’t accept and appreciate me for who I am, that’s their problem. I’m awesome. This is the mantra I’m trying to instill in myself, though it’s an ongoing process. I think I’m partly scared to get into a new relationship as I worry I’d just revert to being submissive and apologetic and too easily manipulated. Hopefully not though. It just takes meeting the right person, right? A potentially non-existent right person, but hey, I’m generally an optimist – I’ve always felt like there’s someone out there, somewhere – if it’s just idealistic delusion, I’m kind of fine with that. Better to be hopeful than defeatist. Although I don’t feel a particular desire to be in a relationship right now, I would still like another one at some point. I remember the rush of falling in love and the comfort of the companionship and I do miss it at times. I might try to at least maintain my one-new-date-per-calendar-year habit and force myself to endure the dating sites at some point during 2018. Probably much later on in the year…

Maybe I could start linking prospective dates to this blog post, to help scare off the crap ones… I’ve probably talked too much about the things I don’t want though. What about the qualities I’m actually looking for? I feel like these are mostly the predictable things that everyone surely looks for – someone with a decent amount of shared interests and shared perspectives, with a decent amount of intelligence, a good sense of humour, plus a general feeling that they’re on my wavelength. Ok, some other things too, like a good level of honesty and trustworthiness, but again that’s surely what everyone wants? I think I personally tend to struggle with finding someone who’s the right mix of indie, geeky and conventional. I’m not sure if ‘conventional’ is the right word to describe what I mean, but I don’t want someone who’s too hipstery or judgemental – they need to also have a family-friendly quality. Like, they’re at home in a mosh pit, but I also know my Mum will like them. They might suggest watching a David Lynch film, but will also suggest getting dressed up for a nice meal out. They might be nerdy about a TV show, but not to the extent to which they’re lacking in social skills and emotional intelligence. And I need to fancy them, obviously. Is that an unrealistic expectation? I guess time will tell.

I’m not really sure how to end this post now. As a summary (or a TL;DR version), I guess what I’m saying is: I’m only willing to date people who genuinely treat me as an equal and who I feel some kind of connection with. Historically this happens incredibly rarely, so thank goodness I enjoy my own company. Oh and Ross is The Worst (though I feel I should give props to David Schwimmer for the That’s Harassment and Ask More Of Him campaigns). Be more Schwimmer than Gellar. Basically, as Adam Hills would say, just don’t be a dick.

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One Response to Musings on the single life

  1. Crashing Elliptical says:

    This is a fantastic piece of writing. You put into words a lot of what I feel about this type of thing. Your expectations are absolutely not unrealistic by the way, if you’re potentially going to make this person an important part of your life then it’s completely right that they have to tick certain boxes, otherwise you’re not really being honest with yourself as much as anything.

    I thought the part about gender was really interesting too. You’re correct about the expectation amongst some that women’s needs are subservient to men’s, although thankfully I think this is slowly starting to change a little. It is interesting how we’re expected to fall into these stereotypical roles though. As a man, I think there’s still an expectation amongst many that I should take the lead when it comes to dating (being the one doing the ‘asking out’ so to speak). As a shy and awkward guy with somewhat low self-esteem, that’s realistically never going to happen, and that can seem like quite a lonely landscape sometimes, so I’ve come to accept my singledom (is that a word?) and am somewhat content with it. Not saying that will never change, but I think it’s pragmatic to be realistic about it.

    You’re completely right too about those who are calling people who have come forward about sexual assault etc liars. It takes a lot of courage to bring something like that up, especially amongst those who have power and influence, so how dare people then attempt to discredit or belittle those individuals? I’m a fairly laid back individual, but that makes me really angry.

    Sorry, for the long rambly comment, but I did really want to mention how good I thought this post was.

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