One night a year or so ago, I came home from the city to visit my Parents for dinner. As I sat across from my Dad at the dinner table, I noticed he was being curiously quiet as he nudged his food around the plate with his fork.
I inherited my relentlessly chatty, verbose nature from him, so to watch him (seemingly) mull over words in his head in silence, was slightly off-putting. Finally, he took a bite and cleared his throat, looking over at me to ask, “So…have you been on any dates lately?” His voice trailed off for a moment before he continued, “Any guys… Any girls?”
The painfully casual manner in which my Dad slipped this very pointed question into our dinner conversation was as surprising as it was hilarious. I immediately tried to muffle a burst of laughter, covering my hand over my mouth while I focused on not inhaling any food down my windpipe. My Dad stared at me, discomfort spreading across his face in the most adorable way, while my Mom looked between both of us in silent confusion and, perhaps, horror.
Once I got my laughing fit under control, I looked back up to him, “Dad, you realize the fact that I’m 23 years old and have been single for a while doesn’t automatically qualify me as a lesbian, right?”
Bless his heart for being the loving, supportive and open-minded soul that he is in regards to my sexual orientation, but this was the third time in the past 6 months that he had suggested I might be a lesbian because I was ‘still’ single. A few months prior he had, in similar fashion, casually slipped this question into conversation — “Lauren, it’s important you have your finances together, if you ever get married… you know, to a man or a woman”.
To be fair, many of my friends are gay (they lovingly refer to me as their ‘token straight friend’ ). I frequently go with them to local gay bars, Pride events and even on a vacation last year — which might have influenced my Parent’s question in some small way, but being the painfully honest person I am (I am a truly, terrible liar) if I were gay, there’s no question that they would have known about it years ago.
The reality is, somewhere along the line, drawn out periods of singledom became reason for concern or social speculation. Millennials are frequently touted as the commitment-phobic generation and yet, we still face an onslaught of questions at family functions if we show up sans date, or find ourselves wondering why that attractive, seemingly sane person on Tinder or Bumble is still single. We start to run the familiar script in our minds, “They must be a player” … “They must be fresh out of a relationship”… “Maybe they’re crazy, or maybe they’re bad in bed”.
Why else would they be single? Right?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself seated across from a potential suitor, only to answer that exact question.
And you know what? I have a great answer. I haven’t spent the last 4 years outside of a committed relationship because I’m mentally or emotionally unhinged. It’s not because I’m commitment-phobic, and it doesn’t mean I’m not going on dates or establishing potential intimate connections with other people, either. And to answer my Parent’s question… I am, in fact, still straight.
I’ve been single because I have come to learn that my identity is deeply tied to my independence, and my sense of independence (which I’ve cultivated over these last few years), has allowed me to be unapologetically selective in my romantic endeavours. I’ve spent the last few years laser-focused on my career while taking my time to navigate the potential relationships which come my way, never content to settle into a relationship that isn’t genuinely the right fit. Simply put, I’m not looking to fill a void, I’m only interested in a partner whom I am truly compatible with, and I don’t expect that person to always be one or two swipes away on Tinder. I am able to appreciate being single just as I appreciate being in a relationship, and I am well aware of the different dynamics and positive aspects of both sides of that equation. This doesn’t mean I don’t have certain baggage or emotional barriers — we all do. And it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been moments where I felt slighted or lonely. But at the end of the day, my single status has never really bothered me, and it shouldn’t bother you either. And if you ask me, we should never have to constantly explain ourselves as if being single is some taboo concept.
Not to mention, the social assumption that women are always seeking out a relationship is entirely misinformed and outdated. A single woman in the city is not necessarily a casualty of a commitment-phobic culture, unable to nail down the elusive relationship-oriented man in a sea of hook-ups and one night stands. Perhaps, she’s just content doing her own thing, for now.
And let’s be frank here, dating in the Millennial age is quite often a sh*t storm. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about it all the time. So there’s nothing wrong with taking some added time to figure it all out, and navigate it all at a pace that doesn’t give us romantic whiplash. Being single isn’t a concept you should have to defend against your dating potential, and I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face… there is nothing unusual or ‘wrong’ with taking some time to yourself in your twenties or thirties.
Ultimately, being single is not some blinking, cautionary neon sign hovering above your head at all times. And to any concerned loved ones or friends, I promise you, I’m not spending my nights decked out in a sweatsuit while sobbing incoherently into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, pinning wedding ideas onto a Pinterest board and watching the Notebook on Netflix (however I have shed a few tears over This is Us, if I’m being honest).
After all, it’s important to remember that being single doesn’t mean you are undesired, not having sex or not enjoying companionship and making connections. There are a number of explanations that don’t change the simple fact that if you are happy and content with your relationship status, everyone else should be too.
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