The Tale of a Single Woman

Last night ideas as I was trying to fall asleep, ideas started running around in my head for a blog post that I couldn’t get rid of. I didn’t make any notes, or write down that I’d simply had this idea for a post, but I decided that if I was still thinking about it this morning I’d write about it. And when I woke up earlier than when I needed to, it was still very much on my mind. It’s going to be a very personal post, but I think it’ll go some way towards explaining who I am and where I am in life; and also to some extent, one of the reasons behind the decision I made to leave Italy last year.

So. My name is Nerys, and except for a couple of months when I was 27, I have been single my entire life.

My constant single status is something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last couple of months, brought on by my 31st birthday at the end of March. In that sense, turning 31 was more difficult than turning 30. There’s just something that much more sad about being constantly single in your early thirties than when you’re 30. It’s something I’ve also become more open about recently, and started actually talking about to people, instead of avoiding the subject completely and pretending that everything was fine, when it really wasn’t. There’s still a huge stigma attached to having spent all or nearly all of your life single, and also to a lesser degree being single in your 30s – especially if you live in a rural area where I do.

If it weren’t so tragic, my bad luck in Italy would almost be funny. A blonde, blue-eyed foreign woman in Italy, we all know what the stereotypes are, the men should’ve been all over her. Right? It’s still difficult to look back on it all and not be incredibly bitter. Not that it’s a bad thing, but the fact that I hardly even got cat-called out there speaks volumes. There are a few examples that I can think of where I was flat out ignored by acquaintances or men I knew for pretty women they either knew or had never even met before. Nobody asked me out, nobody wanted to get to know me. It really felt like I was invisible. And many things happened out there were very detrimental to my self-esteem. I won’t start ranting yet again about the images of women on Italian TV; but on a more personal level my working life wasn’t easy. For the nearly seven and a half years I was at my job, and apart for a few months, I was the only single person in my team of foreigners. The others mostly had Italian partners, they had moved out there to be with them. I kept thinking, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t find an Italian boyfriend too? Some days I felt so excluded, as they talked about their other halves and how they’d go on days out with them, or out for meals. It was a club I wasn’t a part of. Thanks to a lot of different factors, I came back to the UK with my self-esteem and self-confidence completely destroyed, already resigned to the idea of growing old alone.

So the only relationship I’ve ever had was at the age of 27, nearly 4 years ago now. It was, well, complicated. I really don’t wish to insult the man I was with, the only one who’s ever shown the smallest amount of faith in me, the fault behind the complications was all mine. Getting into your first relationship at such a very late age is not easy, to say the least. I’d been used to living my life for me, not having to share it with anyone else in that way. Over the last few weeks I’ve been analysing it in a critical way that I’d never done before, and it’s taken me so long to realise that I shouldn’t have even got together with him. We should’ve just been friends, the attraction just wasn’t there on my part. He was a good man, generous, kind, intelligent, but I was never really attracted to him. I feel terrible saying it. And I think I’ve been in denial about that for a very long time. So why did I do it? Because he was actually nice to me, he flirted with me, he made me feel appreciated in a way that I’d never felt before. Finally someone was interested in me, I could do all the things I’d dreamed about ever since I was a teenager. If I didn’t take that chance, I might never get another one. And I haven’t since.

And I’ve tried, of course I’ve tried. Before I met him and afterwards. I’ve been on and off dating sites for about 6 years, but I’ve never got a single date from any of them. Since moving back to my hometown I’ve tried a few on three separate occasions, the most recent being last month. But nothing. I don’t even get any messages on something like OkCupid, and definitely no matches on Tinder. This is supposed to be the age of accessible dating, ‘hook-up culture’, where you can choose someone with the swipe of a finger. But when you’re not conventionally pretty, or thin, it all just passes you by.

Over the last few years, I’ve been to two weddings. The one of my closest school friend, and that of my younger brother’s. A couple of memories have stuck in my head from both events, and they’ll probably never leave me. At my friend’s wedding (about a week after I broke up with my ex), there was a point during the evening where the bride, the other bridesmaid who was another childhood friend of ours, and I, were dancing to a song from when we were 16 which had a lot of very fond memories attached to it. After that came a love song. The bride went to dance with her new husband, the other bridesmaid with her husband, and I walked off the dancefloor alone, back to my seat. It may have seemed like something so insignificant to observe, but it broke my heart. I didn’t have someone special to share the event with, I was left on my own again, watching my friends dancing with their husbands. My brother’s wedding involved me seeing a lot of people for the first time in years, including a former neighbour and a friend of the family; who I probably hadn’t seen since leaving for university, and definitely not since having moved to Italy when I was 22. I arrived at the reception with the other bridesmaids, and he was waiting outside the venue. The first thing he said to me was not, ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’ or even ‘How are things in Italy?’, but ‘Where is your husband?’. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I don’t know how I managed to stutter, ‘I don’t have one’ without telling him where he could shove his insensitivity.

Social media can be detrimental to anyone’s well-being, never mind someone who is so unhappy with one aspect of their life. I’ve seen people getting married on Facebook for about 7 years now, wedding photos popping up, old school and uni friends’ surnames being changed. Last summer was particularly, well, extreme. No word of a lie, every single weekend either a friend or a friend of a friend was getting married, and I’d wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning to see photo after photo after photo… It was a constant reminder of something that I would probably never have, that I had never been that happy and more than likely never would. It was at that point that I decided to delete the app, and stop posting. I still check Facebook normally once a day, to see if anything particularly exciting has happened, and to ensure that I don’t miss out on anyone’s birthday. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that for my own sanity, I have to limit my exposure to certain things. Things such as people getting married and happy couples on Facebook, to certain films that I know will make me feel terrible for being alone, to certain songs on the radio. I’m aware of how strange that might sound, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about how important it is that I look after myself and my well-being. There’s no point doing something which will only remind myself about just how single I am, it’s just not productive.

I’ve had a lot of advice from people over the year of what to do. Dress like this, do your hair like that, get that kind of glasses, seem less intelligent (no word of a lie), do this activity or that activity, write this on your dating profile… Honestly, I’m tired of it all. Exhausted. I think there’s only so many times where you can reinvent and change yourself before you burn out of steam. I’ve heard so many times that I really have to do something like go hiking, when to be honest, I think I should be allowed to choose what I spend my free time doing. Yes, I know sound bitter, but I don’t want to spend hours doing an activity I wouldn’t enjoy and wouldn’t have chosen to do had my life turned out differently.

Part of the reason why I’m becoming more open about this aspect of my life is that I’m slowly making peace with it. It just seems that it’s not meant to be. It just doesn’t happen to everyone. After my experiment with OkCupid last month, I came to the realisation that I’m not in the right place for a relationship right now. I think I’ve finally got back to a point where my life is so full of hobbies and passions, that I don’t really have room for another person in my life. I’m not saying that it isn’t difficult going to sleep alone every night, but I know that where I am right now would require me having to compromise a lot and miss out on a lot of things in life that I love. And maybe that’s part of relationships in general, but I don’t really know much about how they work, do I? I’m also unemployed, and I have absolutely no desire to set myself back up on all the dating apps I used to be on and treat that like looking for a job too. I’m also not getting any younger, and I know that my chances of finding someone get slimmer with each day. Before anyone says it, yes, it might well happen one day. But realistically, unless I put the work into it and drastically change who I am, it probably won’t. The only relationship I had was very much a fluke, a blip in an otherwise completely single life.

So now you know. One of the things I was thinking about before re-launching my blog this past weekend was how personal I wanted it to be. I think that in order to understand who I am and what I write about, it’s important to understand an aspect of my life that’s very much shaped and moulded me into the person sitting in front of the computer right now. And now, I think the process of writing my blog is going to be much easier, instead of hiding a part of my life.

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9 thoughts on “The Tale of a Single Woman

  1. Oh Nerys! This is quite sad indeed. The problem is that society “requires” that you are part of a couple and, I think, it is worse nowadays. It’s brave of you to put this post up and I feel for you – especially those points in your life where something is said or done, not in a bad way, that makes you feel so bad about it.
    I’m glad that you are “coming to terms” with it and with yourself but, like anything else, it will still hit from time to time.
    Sending you virtual hugs. I wish I’d got to know you when you were in Milan and sorry now that I didn’t take the time out to do so. Maybe I could have helped or maybe not – but I should have made an effort. We never realise how lonely it can get – even at a party!

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    1. Thanks Andy, I really appreciate your words. It wasn’t easy to write, but it’s such a huge part of what makes me who I am. You’re absolutely right about the pressure from society, and it’s something I instantly regretted not dealing with in the post more clearly. It’s so easy to feel like a failure when you’re still single past a certain age. And yes, it’s a shame we never met in Milan, but maybe one day.

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      1. Yes, I can imagine it would be easy to feel like a failure. The same way as if you don’t have a job, etc. And it seems society has become less caring about the people who don’t tick all the boxes. This is not a good thing, I think.
        I do hope we shall meet one day. Take care, Nerys, and look after yourself.

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      2. Thanks Andy, you too.

        I completely agree about what you say about society becoming less caring about certain people. I’ve been thinking about that recently with the elections going on here – the political parties only seem to care about ‘families’ and not individual people.

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  2. Wow, that´s really personal. Thank you for sharing your feelings in this post.
    While reading, two thoughts popped up.

    1. I really can´t understand why nobody seems to be interested in you. Really. See, some years (?) ago I came across your other blog. I think google got me there, while I looked up some information on italian behavior. First, I found the blog incredibly useful. Than I fell in love with your style of writing – very elaborate, witty, with an ironic tone in it. I think I read your whole blog, and while reading I came to the conclusion the writer must be a strong, independent and witty person. We only met two times, but I enjoyed every moment, despite the fact that meeting people from the internet is always a bit akward at first. I experienced you as a very interesting woman. You really are witty, intelligent and independent. You love to read! You are speaking several languages! AND, despite what you may think, you are not bad looking. I will never forget how gorgeous you looked in this summer dress on that warm afternoon in Milan. You are everything a man can dream of – an intelligent woman, not depending on a man and not defining herself via her husband. So, what´s wrong with the world? Which brings me to thought 2:

    2. Some people, it seems, cannot have what every other person on this planet regards as perfectly normal. Some person are not destined for what everybody else has. I regard myself as one of these persons. A family on my own was denied to me the hard way, and finally I made peace with that and chose the path of being alone. I cannot recommend this path to anyone, but I made my peace with it, and with the knowledge that some people are denied even the basics of life.

    OK, so this became a rather long an personal comment to a very personal post. I just wanted to say “Thank you” for your post and let you know that it is a pleasure to know you, and that I think the world is treating you highly unfair.

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    1. Thank you. That’s very appreciated. I got very emotional reading that! As terrible as it sounds, unfortunately my experience has been that men in general don’t want an independent woman, one who reads and speaks different languages. At least the Italian men didn’t, which is one of the reasons I had to get out of Italy, I was tired of feeling defective. But I can’t compromise who I am, especially when it’s got me nowhere in the past.

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  3. You never should hide who you are, especially not with what you are gifted. Being independent, being able to make your points and stand your ground in discussions, having a free mind and being able to use this mind – that´s what one can dream of finding in a partner. And its something which keeps the partner interesting for a log time.

    I know, many man are just going for the looks. But looks wither, while the mind is becoming more developed over the years. So that´s something to build on.

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    1. Unfortunately I haven’t seen much difference between the way men in general behave in their 30s and how they treated me when I was about 16, but I guess that’s just my personal experience. It doesn’t matter, anyway, I’m coming to terms with spending the rest of my life alone. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, and not necessarily in a bad way. I just can’t sit around waiting for someone for the rest of my life, and compromise on what I enjoy doing because it’s not seen as being interesting or attractive.

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