I don’t like spending my Sundays alone,” a friend tells me.
“I like having a partner around the house, just doing nothing together,” says another.
I thought I went to sleep and woke up alone just fine.
How to say what is normal and what is not?
To be on the right side of a clump of statistics is to be normal. Being single at 39, this way nearly my entire life, and not by choice, puts me into the not normal clump. Identifying in the nots, is also not normal.
Is romantic love the world’s last overlooked basic need? We must have food, water and shelter to survive, but am I being deprived of a deeper basic need by being forever alone? If life is best shared with a companion, I’m like the Romanian orphan in its crib, with flies on my face, not lifting my arms to an adult passing by. I don’t have responses to what I don’t know.
“I almost gave up on the apps altogether. But then…I met him, and that one month of putting myself out there was all worth it,” she said.
In a tug-of-war with the dating app algorithms, I sift and sort the carousel of faces into funnels. In the palm of my hand, I find the masses of singlemen and women (and sometimes not so single) looking to find a match. I swipe right on one out of ten men, give or take. And of those, one out of ten I chat. One out of ten times that chat goes further than a simple hello. What is my conversion rate?
“Bumble is best.”
“Hinge is better.”
“OkCupid lets you express your personality.”
And Tinder is, hands down, the worst. Or so they say.
Of those with whom the chat continues, I might meet up with one out of ten in person, and one out of ten of those I care to see again. The people on the other sides of the rotating faces have their funnels, too, presumably. The product that oozes at the bottom of my pipeline has not stuck around for long for me.
If everything ends, what’s the point of mankind?
I want to unparadoxically meet a rando, who will just do, who will have some qualities I admire, and some I do not. He will be attractive enough to keep my interest. He will want to do some of the same things in life that I want to do…we’ll figure it out when we get there.
I also want to intertwine our finances, raise children and wipe each other’s asses when we’re old. But I’m trying not to say too much on the first date.
“Be more selective on who you swipe right on,” they say.
“Be less selective. Approach dating with curiosity and don’t write people off too quickly,” my therapist has said.
My relationship history is unique but not special. I’ve never heard of it being this way for anyone else, and therefore I cannot relate to the single and not single alike of this world.
I’ve heard the one about a friend of a friend who chose to be single and is loving it. This speech is irrelevant and, what’s worse, isolating. Even more isolating than my actual story, which, again, goes like this: I have been single for some 18 years, minus one relationship that lasted one year about 8 years ago. And those are the facts, and that is my story.
“What are you looking for on here?” they message me on the apps.
“Like-minded Christians,” I respond, this time on Pure, the app specifically designed for casual sex.
Friends mostly avoid confronting my story altogether. They divert, they advise, they offer uplifting verdicts for my future based on their knowledge of the universe and its powers.
But don’t protect me! Your thoughts and prayers aren’t helping me, they are pushing me further outside the actual universe of normal people. Neh, of rational people who know the truth.
I want friends to agree that if this were their story, they’d be devastated. They would all but die. But, I think they also know, somehow deep down, that it just wouldn’t be their story. They would not let the same fate befall them.
“When you stop trying, that’s when it happens,” says the girl who met her husband when she supposedly gave up.
“Be friends first, and that will make for a long-lasting relationship,” says the friend who didn’t hook up with her boyfriend for the first few weeks.
When the rest of the world becomes single, every so often re-entering the frenetic world of the uncoupled, they act like bees. They buzz from flower to flower, until something – someone – sticks, and they are calm again. They flutter away when one blossom closes, moving on to another then another then another. I barely blink before they are off the market again, accepting someone who has accepted them back.
I recounted my loveless story for the 50th time to the 50th person, beseeching her to feel what I feel and crumple in despair. All alone, decades, isolation, running out of time…you follow?
Instead, she said: “No! Don’t say that about yourself! You’re wonderful and you will meet someone! I know it.”
…But I wasn’t articulating anything wrong with me, I was stating the facts about me. I didn’t indicate that my having been single for so long meant that I was any less a person.
We never spoke again.
“Pain is pain. I’m single, so the relationships I’ve had weren’t successful, and being alone in a relationship is a special type of loneliness.”
“Would you erase those relationships, then, and trade your story with mine?” I inquire, waiting.
“No…because we learn something from all encounters.”
Bullshit. My story is worse.
Sadie Scotch grew up in New Hope, PA, and started her international traveling career at age 16 when she became a Rotary International exchange student to Belgium in the 11th grade, Paris in college and Brussels to work at NATO after college (Lehigh University). She got an MBA from the University of Cape Town after working around the African continent in a sales role and after a two-year backpacking stint in Asia. Her essays have been featured in The Smart Set and Fertility Road Magazine. You can follow her on Instagram at #lanvife or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!