A few weeks ago, one of my Italian friends posted a link to this article from Huffington Post Italy, which had been translated from this article; and it struck a chord with me. I was in the car when I read it, and immediately started writing down my reaction and feelings about what I’d just read. Until now I’ve been sitting on my notes, waiting for the right moment to flesh out my thoughts and write a proper post about it. After something that happened to me this morning, this is the right moment.
My initial reaction was that it was the same old story of woman chasing men, and not getting anywhere. Something I’ve seen a lot of over the years, but that I’ve experienced in a very different way to the woman who wrote the article. It was a different tale to the experience I’ve had in life. As far as I see it, there are two very distinct categories of single women – there are single women who date, and there are single women like me who don’t even get that far. And they are two very different lives. So I was seeing this article from a completely different point of view to the woman who wrote it. There’s a huge difference between men being ‘assholes’ because they demand sex or send explicit messages when they first contact women on dating sites, or ghost them further down the line; and men who are ‘assholes’ because they completely flat out ignore you, regardless of how hard you’re trying to impress them. Yes there’s the whole, ‘you’re better off without him’ thing. Which might well be true, but on a personal level, I wish I could’ve at least had the chance to find that out myself in the past. It’s easy to say that you’re ‘better off’ when you find out that the man you went on a date or multiple dates with wasn’t good for you for whatever reason, but when you didn’t even get the chance? It’s easy to villanise men, heck, it seems to be cool to do so on social media now. And up to a point, I have to say that I agree. Women have got sick of how a lot of men treat a lot of women. But not everyone is like that. I try to be rational, and not tar every man with the ‘trash’ brush; even though it’s something I’ve fallen into all-too-easily in the past. And if I can be rational about it when every single man I’ve wanted to date has rejected me, then… When you’re in your early thirties with only one very brief relationship behind you, it’s easy to see your ex as the one nice exception in a sea of bad people. Especially when the sea seems hell-bent on not proving you wrong.
So, for many it’s seen as ‘strength’ to be alone, but there’s a limit to that opinion. A line in the sand. Be single for too long and you’re not seen as being strong anymore. You’re seen as being strange. I’m fully aware that not having had any kind of relationship until the ripe old age of 27 is a massive red flag, even now. It’s not seen as strength, it’s seen as ‘there’s something really effing wrong with you’. Which isn’t necessarily always true, but it’s what society thinks. There are a lot of women out there who have been very unlucky. Because of my weight, because of my looks, because of my personality and interests – it wasn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, or at least, that’s what I like to tell myself. Yes, the other part was bad luck, or at least bad decisions on my part. But even people who date make bad decisions – as the article says. I’m not going to deny that having been that single for that long is a disadvantage in many ways, but it doesn’t make me any less deserving of love.
So, what happened this morning? After months of radio silence, instigated by myself, my ex sent me a message. A kind of update, if you will. And details I really didn’t need to know. After I broke up with him we’d stayed friends, mostly. Then about four months ago I broke contact with him because I was tired of him disappearing for days on end, without explanation. I’m too old for that kind of game. It might seem petty, but it’s happened to me too many times with too many people over the years, and I was so tired of it. This morning, strength would’ve been saying [expletive] that [expletive], and going back to bed. But the message made me so angry and so sad. I’d been coping with my long term single status so well recently, with a new-found state of acceptance and peace. It was a reminder of what I once had, what now feels like a different lifetime. It shook me deeply.
It’s difficult to be strong, in a world where you’re treated as not being as valid if you’re a single person. Where you’re judged for being alone for too long. Or for not trying to find someone. When storylines on TV or songs on the radio remind you that you crave affection, someone’s touch, and just a bit of company. When you don’t even want to go to sleep at night, because you can’t bear the thought of another night alone. But no, you have to push those thoughts away, back to the deeper recesses of your mind – otherwise life gets too difficult.
So I don’t see myself as being strong. Resilient, maybe. Someone who adapts well to change. I haven’t had the easiest of lives, it always seems that the slightest good thing I have always gets taken away from me, and I have to fight tooth and nail just to get something I’m satisfied with. I could easily use it as an excuse, that I’m strong enough to be on my own. But I’m not. I’m just used to it. At 31, I’ve only had a couple of months in a relationship. The people I went to school and uni with have settled down, and got married, and I’m still single. It still hurts to be alone, at this point in my life I can’t see a day arriving where I won’t feel some kind of pain thinking about what I don’t have, and what I haven’t had over the years. It hurts to see all my school and uni friends getting married, to have family friends talk to me about their children’s weddings – people who are, very often, younger than me. But there’s the pressure of always having appear to be strong, because nobody likes the single person who’s always moping and complaining about being alone. Nobody likes a killjoy. So I’m not left with much of a choice. I have to bury my feelings, appear strong, and get on with things. For my own sake, too.
But right now, I’m focusing on myself and what makes me happy, and no longer trying to full the hole left by by absence of someone in my life. I’ve accepted that, unless I drastically change my way of living life, it’s not going to happen. And maybe that makes me strong, who knows.