One of the things I get DM’d/emailed/asked about the most is about life as a single gal in New York. I frequently get some version of this: “You’re so inspiring! I love how you show us it’s possible not to need a guy!” or something like that.
I don’t always know how to respond.
First of all, that’s super nice but I don’t find myself to be inspiring. Maybe that’s because I see myself in sweatpants/without makeup/with matted hair after watching 5 hours of Stranger Things. Maybe that’s normal – if you find yourself to be inspiring, you might have a problem? But also, the reality is that it’s not always easy. And I never planned on being this role model for single women… of course I’d like to be in a relationship! But, I also know I have a pretty great life and I don’t want to settle. And also: If there is anything I hate then it’s being thought of as sad or worthy of pity, so if I’m having a pity party I typically keep those negative thoughts to myself. There is nothing worse than hearing “Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone!” Ew, gross. I know I will. The in between part is just a bit annoying and hard.
Second, I keep my dating/personal life off the blog for a reason. Everyone is different, and a lot of bloggers work with their significant others on their blogs (something I really respect), but that’s not for me. When I get engaged or married, you’ll hear about that, but until then… it’s just off limits. A relationship is sacred and I also really like keeping work and personal life a little bit separate. If something pertains to just me, I’m an open book… I’ll tell you basically anything. But when it involves other people, it gets murky. For the same reason, I don’t really put my (non-blogger) friends on my social platforms either – we typically keep our phones out of site when we are hanging out and I am good with that.
I suspect meeting the right person just gets harder as you get older. I am 36 now and besides the fact that the pool is much more narrow, you have all these other factors. First of all, everyone has more emotional baggage at this age. When you are single in your mid-thirties, the chances are very likely that you’ve been in something serious that didn’t end well, so you’re a lot more cautious. You also have a stronger sense of who you are and a better idea of what you’re looking for. So basically, you’ve narrowed the pool, you’re more scared, AND your standards are higher. Lovely! It’s pretty much a recipe for dying alone. (I’m kidding, but really!)
But we are not here to complain about dating in New York (or any city, it’s hard everywhere!!) We are here to talk about being single. And how to do it. In my twenties, I literally only had serious or “serious-ish” boyfriends. Boyfriends seemed to just materialize through friends, through work, wherever! When I was 32, I got dumped. It was brutal. I had to move out of my ex’s apartment, and basically restart my whole life. I had no idea what to do and everything was so different (it was when Tinder had just become a mainstream thing.) Now, I have been single or “single-ish” (I haven’t dated anyone seriously for more than six months) for 4 years now so I like to think I’m a total expert on the subject.
I’m joking. I’m not an expert on anything except maybe cats, but these are my views which you are welcome to read, and (silently!) judge or (vocally!) agree with. 😉
First order of business! Examine your priorities. My number one priority is to live a life that makes me feel fulfilled. This means different things for everyone, but this should be your number one priority as well. I would say that my priority is to be happy but that’s lame.. fulfilled is a better word. I want to feel so many more things besides happy on a daily basis. I want to be challenged, excited, intrigued, motivated, and yes, happy – every day. Or at least 90% of days. Some days I just want to eat artificial cheese products and drink wine on the couch.
Here are some things that make me tick: Travel. My job. Art. My friends. My family. Film. Food. Figuring out how to make/do stuff on my own (this is everything from DIY projects like making jewelry or painting my floors, to figuring out how to make foods like ice cream, pasta, etc.) So even if I am alone, I am pretty much always busy. Maybe (as my parents maayyyyy have brought up), too busy. (And if I’m not actually busy, I am MORE than okay watching TV or reading a book.) That being said, when Mr. Right comes along, I will one thousand percent make room in my life for him. Until then? I am going to just keep on living my best life. And you should, too! If you are single, you should be doing all of the things that you want to do now. Don’t wait til you have someone else to do them with! You should absolutely be going on dates and making an effort to meet people, but you should also do THE THINGS you want to do now because once you are in a serious relationship, get married, have kids, it will be a lot harder to do THE THINGS. You won’t be able to just jaunt off on a solo trip, spend an afternoon wandering The Met, or just decide that string cheese and wine are an acceptable dinner and spend seven hours doing face masks and watching Gossip Girl reruns.
Next, repeat after me: A significant other is JUST THE ICING ON THE CAKE. I’m not saying this as a man hater. I love men. I love dating. I get so excited after a good first date and nothing beats that feeling. But you guys. Please remember. You don’t actually need a bf/gf. I feel really strongly that society makes us feel like something is missing if we’re not coupled off and that is just plain wrong. I don’t think we’re meant to be alone or lonely, but there is this whole myth that you won’t be happy until you find “the one,” and I think that’s really dangerous! Contrary to what the movies say, I don’t think another person should “complete” us. The whole “you complete me” myth is dumb because that assumes you aren’t already a whole person. If you aren’t whole and happy on your own, it’s going to be really hard for you to be a good partner to someone else. Your significant other should complement you perfectly… lifting you up and making you better but they don’t complete you. Work on yourself first and the rest will follow.
Get some interests. When I got out of a serious relationship four years ago, I went a little crazy with this one. It was hard because while we were together I stopped doing a lot of the things I loved (traveling alone, going to art museums and galleries). I didn’t realize this til years later. So I did a lot of things. I’d do a new art gallery or museum every week, I signed up for French lessons, and I went to Tulum by myself for a week. (As an aside, if you find yourself newly single and you have the means, I can’t recommend a trip enough.)
Find yourself some cool single friends that are in the same boat as you. This can be tricky especially if you don’t live in a big city, so if you are single in your thirties and live in a really small town, you should probably move. JUST KIDDING but it will be harder.
One of my best friends was just an acquaintance from work when I was with my ex, but she went through the same sort of breakup six months before me and took me under her wing. She was one of those people I knew I really liked, but we never really got to know each other until then. It really helped me to see someone who had gone through what I was going through and had successfully turned the corner. What started as coffee turned into drinks and then suddenly we were planning trips together and hanging out all the time. Four years later, she is one of my best friends ever and now lives upstairs from me.
If you are single and all of your friends are coupled off, it’s time to make some new friends. I mean, don’t ditch your married friends (make new friends but keep the old!?), but make some new ones. If you are in the market for new friends, read the comments on this post, sign up for a group activity (the obvious choice here is to join a sports team but I have a friend who takes a weekly pottery class and that sounds way more appealing to me), join a book club (that’s how I met all my close girlfriends when I first moved to New York), or consider just inviting someone who seems cool (a work acquaintance, coworker, etc) out on a friend date. I’ve done that last one a lot with great results!
Last but not least, do not feel bad about being single. This can be hard. I have had mornings where I wake up and scroll through Facebook and see nothing but cute kids, weddings, engagements, and couple photos and feel like a total piece of garbage. I no longer have Facebook on my phone for this very reason but I really believe each of us have our own path and things happen (in different orders for everyone) for a reason. I think it’s also important to remember that everyone has their own battles and no one is perfect. Your friends with the seemingly perfect partners and lives are dealing with their own stuff. This sounds depressing but I don’t mean for it to be: Life is hard regardless of your relationship status.
Oh and also, while I still have you as a (hopefully) captive audience! This part is for everyone: DO NOT ASK SOMEONE WHY THEY ARE SINGLE! Ever! I feel very passionately about this.
These are some compliments that are not actually compliments:
- To your friend. “you’re so (insert positive adjectives: smart, pretty, amazing, talented) – I don’t know why you’re single!!”
- To an acquaintance. “oh my god how are you single, I need to set you up!!!” (Set them up! Just don’t say that first part!)
- On a date… < touches boy’s arm… > “how are you single!?!”
- To your friends… “I’m so glad I’m not single. I mean, if YOU’RE single, then I just don’t even know what I would do.”
You get the point. It may feel like you are paying them a compliment but you’re actually not. Because then they will start thinking about why they are single. (If you’re curious about my answer to the question, I think about this a lot because I get asked the question a lot: It’s because of all the things I mentioned at the top of this post but also: I’m too picky, I work and travel too much, I get bored easily, and I still have a little bit of a thing for the bad boys which I blame on watching entirely too much 90210 in my teenage years. Ugh Dylan McKay. Loved him.) I’ve thought about answering the question honestly and seeing what people say.
I’m working on these things though. And as for you, I hope this is helpful and if it isn’t, I hope it’s at least mildly entertaining. I selfishly wrote this post so that I can stop writing some version of this very long blog post on email + direct message and just link to this post. I know I write with a slightly snarky (and hopefully somewhat funny) tone but it’s coming from a good place. And also, if you’re coupled off, send it to your single friends. Spread the word. 😉