“As women glide from their twenties to thirties, Shazzer argues, the balance of power subtly shifts. Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst: fears of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian.” – Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
Right now, I am single by choice. I am focusing on other things besides dating — my career, my health, learning how to get through life without the support of a partner. I am settling into the idea of living alone after exiting a string of long-term relationships and one short-term situation that ended because I found myself with someone out of the panicky fear that unless I made this relationship work, I would die alone. We live in a time where great anxiety builds over which toppings to choose for your chopped salad. The glut of choice, which seems like it surrounds every decision, is amplified when applied to relationships. Right now, being alone feels like the simplest/hardest choice I can make.
Single women are perceived as volatile, prone to crying jags, at turns desperate and slutty, and almost always the object of pity, at the receiving end of setups by well-meaning friends, foisting single men upon them like so many discarded sweaters. As we grow older, we are taught to define ourselves in the context of a partner. To be alone as a woman is scary because it implies uselessness, a sense of an ending before you had a chance to begin. If you have reached a certain age without having found a partner, you are an afterthought. You are irrelevant. Being single is a condition that’s foist upon us,but being alone is choice we make. So, don’t just tolerate your solitude, embrace it! Below are some tips for how to make the best of the time you choose to be with yourself:
1. Learn to do things for yourself. Learn how to reset your router. Figure out your Sunday routine. Reach a point where you are practically begging for someone, anyone to help you do something, and then work through it, and do it yourself. To choose to be alone means your every day is a process of reaching your breaking point, and then making it through. If you’re used to being with someone all the time, this process will be hard, but stay the course.
2. Do you. One of the best parts of being alone is not having to answer to anyone else’s needs, wants, or desires. Some may call this selfishness, but I call it doing you. As women, we are so often at the mercy of others’ wants and desires, be it at work, at the corner store, or just walking down the street. Choosing to be alone means that you have complete and total agency over your body and your choices. Do you feel like watching a marathon of “Top Gear” while eating celery stalks and picking at your cuticles? That’s your prerogative, and there isn’t a single person around you who can stop you. This feeling is powerful stuff. Harness the way you feel when you make decisions for yourself only, because it is a life force that will carry you through in so many other interactions.
3. Recognize that your choice to be alone is one made out of self-respect. Nobody wants to be in a relationship where they’re just phoning it in. It wastes your time and the other person’s time, and is one of the most unfulfilling experiences you can put yourself through. If you find yourself in a relationship only because you feel that underlying panic about dying alone, consider exiting gracefully. It is better to be alone and at peace than together and dissatisfied.
4. Your alone time is preparation. Spending time alone, despite what the television, Facebook or your Instagram feed will tell you, is the best way to prepare yourself for a relationship. All relationships at the start deserve the best version of yourself you have to offer, because that’s what you expect from someone else in return. Spending time alone and really getting to know yourself allows you to present your best self in your next relationship, if you choose to have one. Learn what you like, what you dislike, and what you can compromise on.
To get used to being alone is hard, but it’s doable. To be willfully alone is to take ownership of the one thing in the world that will always be there for you — your feelings, your mind, your free will. Once you’ve conquered that, there’s a lot you can do. Try it.