It’s another consequence of the society within which we live: if you aren’t dating someone, seeing someone, or f***ing someone (excuse the profanity) then you’re doing something wrong. “Being single” is only OK for those having flings and the odd hook-up while they look for “the one”; but being single at 23, and having been single for most of one’s life, is a sad state of affairs that only ever attracts pity, empathy, and grossly irritating phrases such-as “you should put yourself out there more.”
…Yeah, thanks, no shit Sherlock. Maybe I’m single in the first place because – gosh, I don’t know – that’s what I struggle with…?
Sassy comebacks aside, I fit the above description: I’m nearing 23, I’m still a virgin, I’ve only ever had my first kiss, I can count the number of “relationships” I’ve been in on one hand, and of those relationships the longest was a couple of months. Note, however, that none of that is me wallowing. I don’t get invited on many double-dates, third-wheeling is quite normal, and I really don’t mind it.
To be honest, I haven’t much minded my relationship status – or lack there-of – until very recently. I think 22 years is a pretty decent time to go without getting bogged-down by butterflies and love-stuff, but I can’t help but pine for a little something more than hugs and handshakes. I guess I’m ready to explore intimacy, but not having really experienced it yet, I can’t be sure that I know what I really want at all.
Alas, my life isn’t what’s important here. I cringe at friends who fall prey to the idea that they need to judge their worth by whether they are able to flirt successfully or not. I kick myself (hard) when I see couples and think that I’m odd for being a 22-year-old who hasn’t had a proper relationship yet. What’s worse is that people will assure you that it’s fine to be a 20-something and still be a virgin, but the stigma around that stuff still weaves itself into one’s idea of oneself anyway. And it’s so, so, so wrong.
It’s an unhealed scar of our history that says we should find love at such a young age. It dates back to a time when one’s prospects didn’t extend much further than one’s village, or one’s 30s, but nowadays we have a lot more mobility and a lot more time to really find ourselves. Surely, then, relationships need not be rushed either?
It’s a thing of the past that we need to have kids as soon as we finish school, because life expectancy and life in general have increased and extended three-fold since a century ago. And yeah, I guess there’s some sort of weight behind the argument that one should have a few bad relationships before one commits to marriage, so that “the one” is really “the one” – and I realise that it’s a pessimistically bleak way to think about love, and I don’t agree that it’s a way to treat one’s first few relationships… but I do think that one should know what one doesn’t want as much as knowing what one wants. That’s fair, right?
However, I do believe that true love and first love can be one-and-the-same. Some people find their first relationship to be the one they carry through “till death do us part,” and that’s a beautiful, heart-warming thing. Not finding love until one’s 30s, though, can be as beautiful and as valuable in understanding what one wants from a relationship. After-all, if you can’t learn to love yourself, then you can’t truly love another either, and spending one’s 20s finding oneself is an important part of growing-up in the 21st century.
This all kind of leads up to asking, then, why everyone feels the need to be pressured into finding love – and it’s important to differentiate between carnal and societal influences here. It’s one thing to want a boyfriend because you want a partner, someone to cuddle, someone to care about… but it’s another thing to want someone by your side because Barbara and her hubby down the road think that being 40 and single is a strange and sad place in life to find yourself. You’re sick of accepting dinner invites to “get you out of the house more,” so you look for a man to prove them that you aren’t sad and alone.
That’s society’s doing, and I can’t help but think that it only makes things worse.
Firstly, you’re dragging another person down with you, someone who might be falling for you. This is straight up not fair on them, or on you.
Then, you’re getting yourself into something that’s built on very false foundations. The longer you let it play out, and the longer you keep up that facade of convincing yourself that you really do fancy this person, the more difficult it gets down the line to separate what’s a real feeling and what’s a rehearsed feeling.
Thirdly, it’s easy to see when you’re in it for the “look” of being in a relationship, and you’re not actually helping yourself look less sad and less lonely to those around you. If anything, people think you’ve “settled” for something out of desperation, and that will bite you even harder than previous remarks.
Lastly, though, it’s a matter of screwing up your chances at a genuine relationship. Blinding yourself to true love by drawing the veils of facades and “Look, I can do it too!” could mean you walk straight past the person who would suit you. It comes down to accepting that you just haven’t met the right person yet, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to look for them. Ever heard that saying that says you never find what you’re looking for, but it appears the minute you stop? Yeah, this applies here.
So don’t judge you’re self-worth by what your Facebook relationship status says, and don’t get caught-up in the flood of wedding photos and baby showers that you scroll past through tears. It’s not a reflection of who you are if you aren’t in a relationship, not by any measure, and people who have something to say about it are then dealing with their own insecurities. Don’t take them too seriously.
Enjoy your time, enjoy your friends, and enjoy meeting new people. Don’t have a relationship constantly lingering in the back of your mind, and just let things happen as they do. When you meet someone, you’ll know. I’ve had to accept this, and although I’m speaking as someone who hasn’t actually been in love before, I really have taken these lines of advice to heart.
I may be ready to accept love, but I’m not going to force myself to receive it. And society can suck on that – nice, and long, and hard.
Feature image Michal Rzepecki / Huffington Post Creative Labs