Must We Always Be Coupled?
Every time someone – usually an acquaintance – asks me if I’m “seeing someone special,” my stock answer is almost always “no.”
I’ve mastered the fine art of dodging this question at all costs.
“But Jimmy!” my interlocutor would say. “Why! Why are you single?”
If I knew exactly why I’m single, I wouldn't be single, right?
“But you’re smart! And cute! And funny!”
It's as if listing my better qualities is going to automatically snag me a significant other.
Finding someone isn’t the dating dilemma; it’s keeping them. More importantly, what if I don’t want to find someone? I’m happy, relatively healthy, have a wonderful family, and fantastic friends. I’m perfectly content (ecstatic even!) being alone. I’m often my own best company. It’s not a front, or even a matter of being defensive. I’ve just always felt uncomfortable when being half of a couple.
You know that old nugget, “Where’s your other half?” has always annoyed the shit out of me.
To be part of a couple entails (by definition) that you’re literally half of something; half of a relationship. It makes one feel incomplete alone if you use that path of reasoning. There’s always pressure to be in a relationship and the impeding pity-party that ensues if you’re not. Suddenly, the seeking of solitude makes you abnormal. Why is it so imperative to be in a relationship? Or better yet, to always be dating someone? Isn’t taking a breath between failed relationships important? As difficult as relationships are to cultivate, we've turned dating into a race; people clamoring, tripping over one another to find Mr./Mrs. Right/Right Now because single people are dismissed as defective.
I have a friend – we’ll call her Brianne – who is what I like to refer to as a “chronic speed dater.” She gets bored of people so quickly that I’m quite frankly surprised that she even recalls dating them in the first place. She’s always on the go – to the next city, the next country, the next dude, the next tofu parmigiana recipe. While she seemingly avoids any type of permanence, she’s equally afraid of being alone. I told her she should read Kristen Houghton's article for twodaymag, entitled: Are You Addicted to Men?
It’s not a matter of wanting to be with someone as much as it is that she has to be with someone. Brianne is a giver – if I mentioned that my favorite author is David Sedaris, she’d run to the nearest Borders, purchase his latest book, and have it gift wrapped for me. This kind of exchange is perfectly acceptable between friends, but a bit much in the beginnings of a relationship.
She’s beautiful, intelligent, and has the type of infectious personality that her suitors completely fall for. Within weeks, as perfect as her new relationship may appear to the outside world, she’s ready to move on; breaking someone’s heart comes as naturally to her as it is for most people to put on a new pair of underwear.
Brianne assumes that she won’t end up lonely by dating at the speed of a short-distance runner. I don’t necessarily believe that she’s trying to find the one as much as she’s just looking for someone.
Another friend of mine, Veronica, has similar dating troubles – or trilogies rather. But, as opposed to Brianne’s addiction to playing the field, Veronica has no qualms about actually staying in relationships; tumultuous, drawn-out, soap-opera-drama relationships with the biggest douchebags imaginable. She has no problem settling for jerks – you know the type: the first (and only) to laugh at his (unfunny) jokes, obnoxious, always “right,” even when he’s clearly not, beer guzzling, temper tantrum throwing, Jersey Shore reciting (fist pumping!), public-physical-fight-having good for nothings.
Veronica grew up without a father. (Lightbulb!) Although I’m not a therapist, I often wonder if her inability to tell the difference between a good guy versus a bad guy has to do with her father’s absence. Her loss and separation seems to fuel a desire to seek out dominant qualities and to find someone who she believes can protect her. In reality, the guys she stays in these relationships with are doing anything except protecting her. Because she’s always involved with someone, she’s not afforded much time to get to know herself. She wants someone with a stronger character than her own, hoping it will rub off, as if it’s contagious. This is a personality conflict, not a case of crabs.
For years, Ryan was surfing in boyfriendless waters, living the life of an eternal gay bachelor. “Living the life” is a bit of an understatement, as his ever-active, random (or often multiple) partnered sex life would make a red light district hooker blush. Everything came second (or third, or twentieth) to his never ending sex-capades and one night stands; the dishes could grow mold in the sink, the dirty laundry danced in the basement, used condoms always seemed to clog the toilet or serve as decoration in the corners of his bedroom. As long as he was getting laid, any form of propriety didn’t matter. I did my best to overlook his caustic and slovenly ways, because that’s what a good friend does. Several years, many dudes, and a couple of treatable STDs later, Ryan snagged himself a boyfriend, Don. For awhile, everything about Ryan changed for the better, and he seemed genuinely happy being in a committed relationship. Our group befriended Don, and it seemed like Ryan’s promiscuous days and ways were behind him.
After a year or so, Ryan and Don’s relationship turned into a dysfunctional reality show, replete with emotional and physical fighting, and Ryan reverted back to his old habits. Never a sucker for monogamy, Ryan cheated on Don more times than I can count on both hands; in his house when Don was working, in the basement at a party, in the bathroom at the bar. It put me in a tough position, because I was friends with the both of them. If I were to tell Don that Ryan was cheating on him, I was being a bad friend to Ryan. But if I didn’t tell Don, I was being a bad friend to him. Ryan repeatedly informed me that it “wasn’t my business,” but I considered it my business when these casual encounters were happening a room way. As opposed to Ryan, I actually had a conscience, and found it extremely difficult to look Don in the eye knowing what was going on behind his back. Eventually, they broke up, and my friendship with Ryan fizzled. His lying, victimizing, backstabbing, manipulating ways were far too much for me to handle. I found it as difficult to be in a friendship with Ryan as he found it to be in a relationship with, well, anyone.
I’m not a prude by any means, and I’m perfectly fine with casual (safe) sex; just not at such a rapid/successive pace, or when it’s hurting the people around you. I don’t know if Ryan’s excessive libido was a result of a super-ego, or the exact opposite. Maybe by sleeping with the entire city and proving to himself that he could get guys, made up for a lack of self-esteem. He slept around because he knew he could, not because he should.
There’s a lot of great, blissful couples out there. I applaud them. Maybe there’s an amazing person out there for me. I’m just not on the hunt, and I won’t settle for a chump. I’m not interested in convincing anybody to be in a relationship with me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what I want. I’ll go on dates – some will be good, some will be bad, and if something materializes, that’s great. If it doesn’t, my world won’t be shattered. Being paired with another isn’t my ultimate goal in life. I’m not single because I’m too picky, or too old, or too fat, or too fug-ly to meet someone. When a relationship is forced, tortured, and frayed, I think it feels lonelier than actually being alone. Us single (by choice) folk aren’t abnormal. Instead of society’s relentless pressure for us to be part of a pair, shouldn’t we be celebrated for solitude, independence, and fierce self-sufficiency?