After my friend’s boyfriend broke up with her recently, I asked what I could do to help.
“You could push me into oncoming traffic,” she said.
“Come on. Being single isn’t that bad,” I said. “Of course, given the option I’d rather be with a girl I’m in love with who is great for me, but until that works out there’s no point in focusing on how excellent I’ll feel if and when that ever happens.”
I’ve been in two serious relationships in 25 years. The longest lasted seven months and ended four-and-a-half years ago, and I’ve become a sort of poster child for singleness in the interim. I’ve defended the merits of single life to my taken friends, and preached silver linings to my newly solo pals.
I wrote this list, culled from my own experiences, to show to friends who have been in relationships for so long they forget there are worse things than being alone, and that one of those things is not making the best of an opportunistic situation.
1. You get to sleep alone more often than not.
I advocate for cuddling in bed, because it’s fun, intimate and a better way to watch a movie than with your hand down your own shorts. (This is, like every other thing I’m about to list, arguable.)
But as a light sleeper used to my engineered bedroom surroundings (cold temperature, feet sticking out the end of the covers, fan on high for noise), I sometimes find it difficult to sleep with another person. The transition from cuddling into slumber is a tough one. And I always feel badly, like the person will think I’m averse to them because I’ve broken my embrace and rolled over, when really I just want to get a few solid hours’ rest. I don’t want to wake you up a bunch of times by kicking you while I’m unconsciously stretching out, or for my arm to fall asleep, or for your warm body to settle against mine and make me sweat the night away all over both of us.
2. You don’t have to care about someone else’s cell phone.
I talk daily to many female platonic friends. (I relate to women because I have too much estrogen in my system. I wish this were a joke.) For many in a relationship, something like this is difficult to accept. I know that when I have a girlfriend, it’s difficult not to be wary of dudes she talks to, because you don’t know what the other person’s motives may be. Or whether they would hesitate to homewreck a stranger. You should obviously be able to trust your better half, but it’s unsettling to think other people are in love with her and potentially trying to sabotage your bliss.
3. You can slack on self-maintenance.
I can grow my pubes long enough to braid them and nobody can chastise me for it because a) not just anybody gains access to Scott’s Downstairs Erect-a-Set and b) if they do, they don’t have any say in whether I should manscape my junk or not.
And, if I’m bushed out and I do luck out with a girl, it’s testament to them that a) you weren’t banking on getting laid that night and b) you probably haven’t been sleeping with anybody for an extensive period of time.
4. Going out can be more fun and carefree when you’re accountable for only yourself.
It’s been years since someone has said “Don’t get too drunk tonight” and I’ve felt like I should listen. I usually just laugh dismissively and wonder aloud if bouncers will let me into bars with 12 flasks attached to my body as long as I tell them I’m Booze Traveler.
There’s nothing wrong with going out with some arm candy and knowing you will both be leaving together at the end of the night. But sometimes I like to go out and get really, really drunk, like I’m trying to win some sort of public humiliation contest. Then I wake up at 3:38 a.m. on a subway station bench.
You can’t always do things like that when you have a girlfriend. Sometimes you have to make sure your girl comes home with you without fighting one of those friends who sent you some text messages earlier in the day (more phone drama!), and other times you have to quit binging early because your plus-one needs her hair held back because she drank two shots of Firewater in rapid succession and is out of commission as a functioning human being for the next 15 hours, during which she will take up all the space in your bed and complain about how she is, like, totally hung over.
Things like this don’t happen when you’re single.
5. You dress however you like.
Personal style can be an important thing. The more comfortable you feel, the more confident you’ll appear. Sometimes, when you’re dating somebody, they’ll gradually try and edge their style preferences into your wardrobe. Before you know it, you’re wearing Ed Hardy shirts and sequined skinny jeans, and turning in your calculator watch for one that only tells time. And then you’ll have to bust out your cell phone to figure out the tip after a meal, at which point she’ll grill you about which girl who is a friend has texted you during dinner.
The phone stuff never ends, by the way.
6. There’s no couple-fueled indecisiveness.
When I’m out with a girl, I feel like I refer to myself often as an indecisive individual, but I don’t really think I am. I always decide quickly what I want to eat and where I want to go if I’m alone or with people I don’t want to see naked, but most of the time I don’t care because it doesn’t really matter all that much, and I would rather just do something that the other person is going to enjoy.
The other half on a date also tends to employ this attitude, whether it’s genuine or not, and so I often end up spending way too much time before or during dates deciding what to do.
But maybe I am just indecisive. I’m not sure.
7. Life decisions are made based on what’s best for you.
Millions of relationships have died because people have followed their life’s dreams, and vice-versa. When I was in high school, I dated a girl who wanted to go to college in Arizona. But to stay near my dumb ass – who decided to stay in Pennsylvania to play Division III college basketball – she offered to go to a Keystone State school.
We broke up before she made a decision (partially because a girl suggesting she not follow her dreams to be with you is really daunting), and she hasn’t moved back East since. Had we stayed together and had she gone to school here, we probably would have broken up. If not, she would have still resented me, at least in some vague way.
As it is, we’re best friends, I don’t have to shave my pubes every week and I don’t give a fuck what she does with her cell phone.
8. You attend zero awkward family dinners or other functions.
If you’ve ever been dating someone and they want you to come hang out with their extended family for the first time for some holiday celebration and you say you were really excited to attend, you’re either a liar or a weirdo.
9. You eat whatever you want.
When I asked my friend Heather if she had any input on the benefits of being single, she said she was fond of being able to eat sour cream and cheddar potato chips without having to worry about kissing anybody with bad breath.*
*Heather, if you’re reading, I don’t care what you eat. I would still totally make out with you.
That’s an underrated plus: You can choose to eat whatever you want whenever you want without having to account for someone else’s preferences. If I dated somebody who didn’t like Chinese food or having breakfast for dinner I would probably wither away to nothing.
How could anyone not like brinner?
10. You save money.
I haven’t had to buy a girlfriend a birthday present this year, and unless something really crazy happens I’ll avoid doing the same for Christmas or Hanukkah. I can use this money along with the rest of the funds I’ve saved to acquire and care for a puppy, who will never leave me and will himself serve as a girl magnet.
11. You learn to be alone.
I have friends who go from one relationship straight into the other and never take the time to understand that being single isn’t the end of the world, that masturbation is fine and you don’t always have to have a mate.
My aunt and I were talking about my perpetual singleness one day, and she said it’s important to have single times so you can work on self-improvement and not have to rely solely on someone else for happiness.
“You get the chance to become the best gift you can be for someone else,” she said.
If you never take the time to be happy on your own, you’ll just keep forcing yourself into dependence on other people, and this is bound to backfire on you at least once.
See you all in 2013. Thank you so much for reading this year.
(This is Scott’s last piece before FlipCollective’s hiatus, which ends in January, 2013.)
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