On Being Single — And Not Looking
(Note: The last thing the world needs is another thing about dating, but this is a piece about not dating. Specifically it’s about consciously making that decision. And it’s about what not to say to people who are single, “of a certain age”, and not dating — by choice or by default, it doesn’t matter. For me it is by choice.)
I’ll be 34 soon. I’m single. And 9 or so months ago I decided to stop dating. I’ve never been happier.
I made this decision when I realized I was already satisfied, already happy, and already content with my my life. I have an amazing family, a roommate I love, the greatest friends a woman could ask for, and a job that pays me reasonably well with good benefits— not much could make my life better. I mean, I could use like $100K, a free personal trainer and chef, and maybe a cute bra that both fits comfortably and makes my boobs look good, but these things are true for most women I know. And having a man wouldn’t make me nearly as happy as having that bra.
From a practical standpoint, this decision hasn’t actually changed much in my life. I wasn’t going on that many dates in the first place. Occasionally I’d meet a non-terrible man at a bar where we were both watching a game of some sort and we’d meet up another time (and exactly one other time). Even more occasionally, given that I invested approximately 5 minutes per month of effort into online dating, I’d set up a “date” with someone I met there (OKCupid only, I’ve never used Tinder, Bumble, Match, eHarmony, Coffee Meets Bagel, Happn, Hinge, The League, Suitr (how is that a real name?), Dapper, Whim, FarmersOnly, BlackPeopleMeet, ChristianMingle, or any of the other creepily specific dating apps one can get involved in these days). Even more occasionally than that, I would actually keep said online date and not cancel by telling the guy that I had a cold, or that my roommate got locked out, or that I had to stay late at work (or, if I really wasn’t into it, the old fallbacks, “I have to do laundry/wash my hair”), thereby giving into my deep desire to stay home in loungewear and watch an episode of “Archer”, “The Sopranos”, or “Silicon Valley” for the 54th time.
Since the latter happened so often, people who know me well weren’t super surprised by my decision to stop dating. I hate dating. I loathe it with every fiber of my being. I find my monthly bikini waxes more pleasurable — at least I know the conversation with my aesthetician will be interesting. I hate dating because for better or for worse, I know within minutes of meeting someone if I am interested in knowing them better or if I will be attracted to them, and 99/100 times I am not. (In the entirety of my thirties, I have gone out with exactly one person I was actually captivated by. For the record, it was my very first — and then second — OKCupid date ever. It’s all been downhill from there.) Every minute after that realization is a waste of both of our time. But since we are not yet to a point as a society where it’s okay to say, “Well this 3.5 minutes of conversation has been illuminating — I’m gonna pass. Thanks, good luck, and I have an excellent life!”, there we are on a date, sticking it out with grace and good manners. And because I am a well-socialized human woman who, due to years of working in retail and customer service can pleasantly carry on a conversation with a brick wall if necessary, frequently the man I am on the date with thinks it went really well, when in all likelihood I simply carried the conversational burden, the way women so often do. And then because he thinks the date was a good one, I have to let him know (directly or indirectly, I am not above ghosting, it’s 2016) that no, I don’t want to see him again. And then because again I am a socialized human woman, I feel guilty about that.
It’s exhausting. And it’s nothing like anything approaching enjoyable. So I literally woke up one day and thought, “Why am I doing this? Is a relationship — or, hell, consistent sex — really worth it?”
And I realized it wasn’t.
I like my life just how it is. I truly, honestly don’t want a relationship. Not now. Maybe not ever. Sure, consistent(ly good) sex would be nice, but since that’s not a given when dating, and hadn’t been presenting itself in recent memory anyway, I wasn’t giving up much on that front either. So I just stopped.
I am not dating because I fucking despise it as an activity, and the only reason to do an activity you loathe is to reap the benefits of doing so. I do burpees to get ripped, not cause they’re fun. I go to work to get a paycheck, not because I love my job. I date … because I want a relationship? Except I don’t. So I don’t date. Either you enjoy the means of doing something, or you do it because you desire the end. If neither of those things are true, you’re wasting your time. I’m too damn old and life’s too damn short to be wasting my time. And I am a lot happier for having realized this.
In fact, the one thing that has not made me happier is the nearly-universal reaction from people when I tell them I don’t date. No, I have to tell them, I’m not seeing anyone. “Nope, I haven’t been on any interesting dates lately. Actually not a single date in months. Oh, no need to be sorry, I’m not trying to. No, don’t worry, everything’s fine, I just don’t want to.” Nine times out of ten, the response to this kind of conversation is some version of a cheerful, “Well, when you’re least expecting it, that’s when it’ll happen for you!” Or, “As soon as I stopped looking that’s when I met so-and-so!” “Well, that’s the best time to meet someone, when you’re not trying!”
Please, non-single-people, stop telling me that. The idea that people meet “that special someone” (and seriously, screw you if you use that phrase) when they’re least expecting it/not trying to, actually translates to telling people, “just stop putting in effort and everything will work out for you!” which is true of literally nothing in the world. If your trainer told you, “Stop exercising, that’s when you’ll really see results!” you’d fire them. I am not “trying” not-dating because I want to meet someone. Just like I am not trying not-shaving my legs because I want my leg hair to fall out. That’s not how shit works — much as I wish it did. (Note: I am not actually not-shaving my legs. That was an analogy. I like my legs smooth.) Plus, telling someone that they will Officially Meet Someone — now or ever — is a real conversation-killer. The only socially acceptable answer to that is, “I hope you’re right” … and I don’t hope you’re right. But “I hope you’re wrong!” is kind of an asshole thing to say.
Anyway, here’s a good rule to live by, one I should have learned before this life revelation of mine, but didn’t: any instance of telling a single person that someday they’ll meet their person is probably a bad idea. I’m guilty of having done it. And I shouldn’t have. Because saying that is, whether that person is looking or not, at best a pointless myth, for me an irritating platitude, and in some cases (for people who are single and desperately don’t want to be) a hurtful cliche. Don’t say things you don’t know for sure to be true. And don’t wish something on someone that you don’t know for sure they wish for themselves.