Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Why / how are you single?!"

I'm a 30 year old middle class white male. Take away the unseen mental health issues and, really, I have nothing for society to pin me down on – except that I'm single.

I mean long-term single. Last time I was in a serious relationship John Howard was PM. I've yet to enjoy regular sex in a liberated Australia.

We are a misunderstood group, us happy singles. Yes, “happy singles”! So many people don’t seem to realise the two words can even go together. Society doesn’t just pin us down, but beats us repeatedly across the face with expectations that we take every opportunity to get out there and find a partner – just find somebody!

A work colleague today asked if I was going out tonight. When I said no, he asked, “But you’re single right?”

Well yeah, but also I can’t be fucked going out tonight to make awkward small talk (we’ve covered this, yeah?) and try to pick up. I have better things to do. And I don’t even know what they are yet, but they don’t involve leaving the house. 

So I’d like to wish all my single friends a happy Valentines Day.

The rest of you can get fucked – indeed many of you will, so don’t take it to heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be in a serious relationship again – sooner rather than later preferably. But I’ve learnt a lot in my five years of singledom, which has been peppered with all kinds of – if not regular – dates and dalliances. Most importantly, I learnt I had to want to be in a relationship rather than need to be in one. That took a while. I spent many years seeing it as some kind of panacea to my mental health issues, which was harmful to potential relationships and prevented me helping myself for too long.

That whole “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else” thing always seemed like pithy, clich├ęd bullshit to me. Why couldn’t I love someone else while hating myself? It makes perfect sense if I see most people as better than me, right?! Well sure, but it’ll destroy a relationship.

I’ve focused the last couple of years on exploring my own happiness (not a euphemism) and passions. And, despite increasing concern of friends looking to set me up, I really have never been happier. Truly. After all, during my six-year relationship I was horribly anxious and depressed (not because of her!).

Relationships and love amazing, wonderful, energising things. But I refuse to be desperate for it – it’s not conducive to happiness, it’s unattractive and it’s counter-productive, and each of these things feed into each other.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has expressed bemusement at my ongoing sabbatical I could buy roses (at Valentines prices) for ALL the women today – I’m not blowing smoke up my own arse, but I am a catch ladies.

It’s a well intentioned, heartfelt and flattering sentiment, and yes I do appreciate friends keeping an eye out for a potential mate, but I do get a little tired of them being far more stressed about it than I am. It’s a little presumptuous and dismissive of my mindset, not to mention the fact someone can find happiness in a different way to you.

Marriage is held up as this ultimate goal of life, yet so many people are unhappy. And yes, I would like to get married – sorry, no, I would like to be with someone I want to marry. But it often just plays into another one of these all-consuming social expectations of what relationships are.

If and when I get married, I won’t buy into this “better half” bullshit. The most functional couple I know are two fully independent individuals choosing to spend the most important aspects of their life together. Outside observers have expressed curiosity to me that it is "a bit odd", and bemusement that they would spend regular nights out apart, even travel separately. Well apart from what the fuck business is it of yours anyway, why should a couple be tethered and tied. If you want to do the same thing, fantastic; if you don’t and drag each other around you just fuel frustration. Maintaining individual identity and passions is so important in my opinion; otherwise you lose what attracted you to each other in the first place.

I won’t succumb to the expectations of others when I know what makes me happy - I've spent the best part of 30 years figuring it out and it ain't been easy, so I deserve a little self-determination, thanks.

If I have a problem in this area aside from my sometimes crippling introversion, it is that I know exactly what I'm after. I've felt it – fleetingly – before. I’ve felt that amazing feeling of somebody who just understands you in an absurd way and challenges you and inspires you. It’s a blessing and a curse. I struggle to commit myself to any relationship that doesn’t meet that benchmark.

But I’m happy with my life as it is at the moment. Happier than a lot of people who today are sending flowers, going out for romantic dinners and writing on each others Facebook walls; not as happy as some of the genuine couples doing things their way – the ones I admire, and, I admit, do get a little bit jealous of sometimes.

What matters is I have lots to keep me occupied, interested in and excited by life at the moment, including a wide group of great – close friends who are male and female, single and attached, who are my inspiration, my support, my entertainment, my reason to live. They can’t give me everything a relationship would, but they come pretty close.

Happy Valentines Day to them. 

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