Sometimes being single really sucks, and it's okay to admit that

By Maya Khamala

It doesn't make you a "bad feminist."

If you’re single, or have been single as an adult for any significant length of time, you’ve heard all about the hidden “blessings” of being alone, available, and free to be. You know all about living a rich and fulfilling life full of friends, maybe family, a meaningful career, etc. Maybe you’ve even gotten really good at one or more of these. Maybe you even go through phases of unapologetic promiscuity—because you can. Maybe you’ve created an incredibly fulfilling life all on your own, and feel as though shedding any tears over the “on your own” part is read as weak, and anti-feminist (even though you do shed those tears, in private). After all, we’re supposed to drink of the Tinder-flavoured kool-aid and bear it, right?

“Why are you single?” asks the guy on the dating app, as though it’s a compliment, as though it means I’m hot so there must be something else wrong with me. That’s the implication, anyway. 

Singledom and stigma 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not setting out to boost the power of #firstworldproblems. The thing is, if you’re single, and “loneliness” is a word you dare utter to others in your quest to stay honest and upfront about how you’re feeling to those closest to you, you’re likely familiar with the look. The pity rather than empathy look. The look that feels bad you feel bad, but doubts the fundamental validity of the feeling to begin with. Loneliness, how pathetic, am I right? Especially if you’re straight: what kind of independent woman needs a man, anyway, right? Except that being made to feel weak for desiring anything “traditional” is most definitely a thing. 

Sometimes being alone means feeling lonely, and loneliness ain’t good for you 

So much so that earlier this year, the UK announced they were appointing a Minister of Loneliness to tackle the problem of social isolation, including the unprecedented number of single people. American researchers analyzed the data from some 90 previous studies, which included about 500 million people, and compared the risk of mortality for singles from those studies—defined as those who never married—to that of a married group, excluding the divorced or widowed. They found the risk of death was 32% higher across a lifetime for single men and 23% higher for women. Basically, single people may just die up to a decade earlier. Don’t kill the messenger. 

A 2014 Pew Report estimates that by the time today’s young adults reach 50, about one in four of them will never have married. While it’s true in many ways that this epic rise in singledom is redefining concepts of home, family, and community for the better, this may just be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In my world, it’s the confines of inflexible tradition that suck, ie., sexist gender roles (not so much the love and commitment part). 

So, even though being single is wonderful and blah blah blah, let’s just take one moment to admit our worst fears about living and dying alone, shall we? All we need is a little empathy. Still not convinced?

Here are some nice concrete reasons for ya (and I’m not talking about familial pressure or the desire to have babies).

1. We’re relatively broke ass 

Single people aren’t just relegated to interminable masturbation and a lack of cuddles. We’re also denied tax breaks; we pay way higher occupancy rates at hotels and on vacations; we’re denied engagement parties, bridal showers, and wedding presents, and we’re less likely to ever be able to afford a down payment on a house—especially women, who make 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. Just saying.

2. It can be harder to travel 

If you’re not a man, that is. Let’s face it: most of the world isn’t so safe for women or anyone who’s not a guy to traipse around alone without being on some level of alert. Hell, I wouldn’t even walk around alone in many North American cities, especially at night. In spite of all humanity’s clever and progressive ideas, we still very much inhabit a man’s world. Yes, there’s always travel with a friend, but when you’re like me and have no single friends left, let alone babyless friends, you best guess again.

3. “Skin hunger” 

We live in an increasingly technology-focused, socially disconnected world, and we're touching each other much less. Psychologists have coined the term "skin hunger,” to refer to the need for physical human contact. Although many try to sex it away, it’s not actually a sexual need. Researchers have shown that touch can communicate a range of emotions: a simple hug can reduce your level of the stress hormone cortisol. Satisfying your skin hunger requires you to have meaningful physical contact with another person, and failing this can have profound emotional, or even physical, consequences. And while yes, you can have this with a friend or family member, you know and I know that the limitations and feelings are just different.

4. Dating (often) sucks 

The online dating landscape is a battlefield, an emotional wasteland. There are only so many charming/witty/original openers one can concoct to greet strangers on a screen, after all. And there’s only so much motivation one can drum up to meet said strangers—especially if you live in a place with winter. But regardless of how you meet people (even in the “real world”), the dating climate can be impersonal, awkward, exhausting, and downright depressing. And this coming from someone who knows someone who met their soulmate on Tinder (actual true story). But for most of us, it’s a slog. Up hill. In a windstorm.

Just as being in a relationship isn’t for everyone, neither is being single. I don’t go around telling my coupled friends not to complain about their relationships because they should be happy they’re in a relationship. That would be a bit single-minded, don’t you think? But the bottom line for me, as a perennially single 37-year old woman, is that we have no choice but to feel it, simply. The only way out is through, and all that jazz. And although I used to try to romp the pain away, I’ve been boycotting that approach for some time now. Maybe I’ll go back to it again, maybe I won’t. But my truth is this: no matter how lonely being single can be, I’m not afraid to be alone, and I refuse to settle.


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