Chapter 32: You are single?

Name me one movie that does not feature a romantic love story.

Suggest me one book that does not write about two people falling in love with each other.

The other day, I decided to watch a murder mystery with a friend. We expected to get entertained by spooky crime and unsolvable riddles, yet, some unrelated love story snuck in between bloody bodies and eerie tension. This is no different to flipping through the pages of waiting room magazines, where you cannot escape the picture of romantic intimacy. Even an object as innocent as a candle throws the dating mandate right into your face because it was branded ‘date night’ (an orange, clove, and moss scent).

The glorification of romantic relationships rains on us from everywhere. The sight of romance really tickles your nerves wherever you go. Media, social media, advertisement, and news  – they all stitch affectionate love into their plots, knowing that it will likely boost their selling success. While the idea of a happy relationship certainly resonates well in our ears, the constant, both subtle and stumpy, injection of coupling ingrains the notion that one cannot be without a partner. Romantic relationships get portrayed as if they counted among life’s essentials, right behind the air we need to breathe. Through this portrayal, we are enforced to feel bad about being single. Being single gets equated with being unlucky in love and life.

How come you are still single? I can’t believe you are still single! How old were you again? Your clock is ticking. You must be lonely. Don’t worry, you’ll find somebody, just keep looking – oh yeah, but what if I didn’t want to date right now?

The presumption that everybody must always be longing for a partner is smuggled into our everyday conversations and interactions. Additionally, singles receive drills from their environment to feel empty and incomplete without a significant other. As a result, a feeling of need, an urge for a relationship, is reinforced.

If we carry the badge of singleness, society expects us to be actively looking for a new date. The pursuit of love seems like a sport we were all signed up for, even if the single-player mode may fit our life’s tournament better. With such societal pressure nagging on us, it is understandable that we enter a vortex of discomfort as soon as we pause from the dating world.

I have been thinking about the way society treats the status of being a single a lot lately. In my opinion, the decision against dating, no matter if it is a temporary or a constant one, is insufficiently endorsed. The active choice of living as a single who engages in no form of dating is oftentimes not even considered a possibility. Frowning perplexity appears as the default reaction when somebody has been single for longer than a pregnancy, and the frown deepens the older you become.

Being single and retiring from the hunt for a love interest represents as valid a choice as searching for a significant other. I understand the doubts and anxieties about going abstinent from romance, about quitting the dating game. Since a relationship promises intimacy, attention, being cared for, and happiness, it is natural that love appeals to the heart so much. There is nothing wrong with seeking such affection. As a matter of fact, we are biologically designed to crave love. But we should not dip into the erroneous belief that the single life will make us automatically less happy and fulfilled. Maintaining no romantic love in one’s life does not mean to be unloved, not at all.

Many of the emotional gifts that relationships shower us with – the warmth, the care, the attention – can be harvested from friendships as well. I have noticed how causally friends are underestimated for the love, this serene melody of the soul, they give. Mind how amazingly friends harbour your heart, fondly nourishing it with the fruits of belonging. As an alternative to a lover’s devotion, we can soak in our friends’ affection, their compliments, words of affirmation, their soothing touch, and stable presence. Although friends will not provide sexual love, they will offer you a feeling of love which is balanced and reliable. Thus, while being single, one can feel as complete, fulfilled, and loved as any person in a relationship.

Moulded by a romance-oriented society, it takes confidence to steadfastly refrain from dating, to be oneself enough. This is why I am prompting you to critically reflect on the social norm of dating. Running life free from dates and lovers does not align with each personality, and that is totally fair. However, we should critically revise the conviction that every human must be wishing for romantic love at all times in life. We should respect the decision against dating as much as we support coupling. It would be great to see more portrayals of happy and successful singles in the media, and it would be fantastic if we could abolish the patronising language which implicates how incomplete and miserable singles must feel.

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