“I hate buggin more than anything. It was nice meeting u tho, you’re cool as fuck n beautiful. If u ever feel like meeting up or talkin hit me up whenever. Or if you need a car I sell em. Text me anytime.”
Poor old “Maybe: Nick.” He was just tryin (sic) his best. I gave him my number, about a week ago, in a poorly-thought-out attempt to elicit a good tip from him after a bad tip day at work. That was a bad call. I knew it at the time, and I knew it again with every sad, poorly-worded text that he threw my way.
The problem is, I’m spectacularly good at making bad calls. Leading one egg-headed man on, and then failing to muster the courage to let him down gently, is only one very small case-in-point. In theory, I’ve been single long enough to have figured out how to navigate my way through life with minimal collateral; in reality, I still have no idea how to be nice enough, but not too-too nice, to men.
Figuring it out isn’t fun. In fact, at this point, I’d go as far as to say that I hate being single.
It’s not because I don’t like being alone; on the contrary, I love being alone. I love being alone so much that I voluntarily wake up before the sun rises just for an extra sweet, solitary hour or so before the day begins. I walk my dog with militant regularity, at least once a day every day , because it’s an hour spent untarnished by other people needing my attention. I permanently keep my phone on “do not disturb” because the incessant chatter of notifications makes me want to throw the damn thing under a bus. Being alone is my bread and butter. In fact, if I could sandwich myself between an invisibility cloak for half my life, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
So no, it’s not for a need for companionship that makes me hate being single. Far from it, in fact. When I say I hate being single, what I mean is that I hate being single because I hate dating.
And why do I hate dating? Because, much in the same way I hate ice-skating and recreational drugs: I’m not very good at it.
I got married at the tender age of twenty-two years old, after dating my college sweetheart for three years. At this point, we’ve technically been separated for a few weeks short of a year, but we were together for eight. It wasn’t a normal course of action for a young person, but it was what it was, and it worked fairly nicely for both of us until it didn’t. When we met, we were a pair of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed nineteen-year-olds with our whole lives ahead of us, as uncomplicated a pair as two people could be. We merged paths with a simplicity that, quite honestly, baffles me in hindsight. We had no idea how lucky we were at the time: to evolve, almost overnight, from separate people with separate lives to a combined unit whose biggest problems were trifles, at best.
Fast-forward a few years and a lot of progressively weighted squabbles, and now we aren’t together. It is what it is. As I’ve learnt, the problem with real life is that it has a way of throwing curveballs at people after the highly anticipated “happily ever after.” Life, it turns out, is not a rom-com. Shit happens after a ring is slipped on, and rings can also be slipped off.
What I wasn’t prepared for though, is that getting married at a young age fucks you up in infinite infinestemal ways that you can’t understand until you’re on the other side of it. Growing used to growing up with a partner – who, for better or worse, becomes your be-all-end-all all-in-one other half – and then suddenly dismembering the additional limb you’re accustomed to is, in short, a bloody nuisance. Accepting the protagonist role in my own life again has been invariably good for me, in many ways, but dating – wherein the goal is, ultimately, to find a pegleg for the lost extremity – has not been.
For starters, dating in 2019 in one’s late twenties is insurmountably different than dating as a young whippersnapper a decade ago. Two words best summarize this: dating apps. A few months into The Single Thing, I figured I might as well do what everyone else seemed to be doing and foray into the virtual dating landscape. I had no idea what I was doing, of course. I downloaded Tinder because it seemed like the thing that people did, and it took me a good few weeks of drunk-swiping to figure out exactly which way to flip my finger if I didn’t want to disappoint any more hapless cads with a good old-fashioned “I’m sorry, I swiped on you by accident!” After I retired my Tinder profile, Hinge proved a little more entertaining, but my tolerance for men opining on Hawaiian pizza and/or “The Office” only went so far. I occasionally log back in – always whilst under the influence, mind you – only to balk after the first ten call-to-arms for an “adventure buddy.” I don’t think dating apps will ever regain credibility as anything other than modern-day lonely hearts ads in my head. There’s something strangely tragic about marketing oneself on these platforms that I just can’t quite push past.
Age – even a mere decade – also milks the innocence from dating as an enjoyable endeavor. I’ve been jolted forward into a world where people (myself very much included) come bearing emotional baggage and trust issues and side hoes and obligations and – woe of woes – schedules that don’t match. Gone are the days of “I like you/you like me/let’s see where this goes” – as someone on the wrong side of 25, there are too many people to choose from, too many loose ends, too many irritating obstacles, and far too many skeletons in the closet. My own (admittedly brusque) approach to this problem is to lay all the cards on the table from the get-go. As it happens, that doesn’t work in a world where being cool is social currency. Without realizing it, on an emotional level I aged in retrograde, which becomes more and more problematic the older I get. I crave simplicity, but things get progressively less simple the further into adulthood I traverse.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that I actually don’t like most people *that* much. I was fortunate enough, in my marriage, to find that delightful sweet spot with another person where – for a while, at least – we were Just Right. Now, on the flipside, the problem I run into with men is that precious few interpersonal relationships I form with them also end up in that same teeny-tiny midpoint of our mutual Venn diagram. I make no secret of the fact I have a goldfish-esque emotional attention span; I get bored of people very quickly, for an array of pedantic reasons. I’ve backpedalled away from guys for everything from their shaving habits to their overuse of exclamation marks. My dad always used the phrase “your mother has a bee in her bonnet” to describe my mum’s rampant conniptions with people, and – unfortunately for my dating life – I developed the very same tendency when it comes to stepping outside the friend zone. Once a petty grudge metastasizes in my head, it never evaporates. It’s not to say there’s actually anything wrong with the people I mentally discard, I just don’t like them well enough to expend any emotional energy on them.
This is probably fortuitous for the dudes in question, who seldom realize quickly enough that the adorable British girl they’re pursuing is actually a grouchy old battleaxe in a young woman’s body. They don’t understand that there’s a very established curmudgeon hiding behind the niceties. Once we’re over the “hot girl with an accent” threshold – which only happens after a person is carefully vetted for falling into the same trap as “Maybe: Nick” and being blinded by politeness and a solid 7/10 physical appearance – they very quickly realize I have a slew of cons. This includes, but is not limited to, a full-on nicotine addiction, casual alcoholism, an unerring inclination towards solitude, obsessive-compulsive tics, and an alarmingly vicious (read: suppressed) hatred of almost everything. I’m actually quite despicable, in a lot of ways. It tends to shock the more innocent men of this world – the ones who thought they were getting a dimepiece when, in fact, I’m slightly more of a dinged-up British 10-pence coin. Men tend to crave meekness. I don’t fit that mold, but I’m superficially pleasant enough to come across as such.
Once a person sees this, the given solution materializes: Fix Her. The problem is, I don’t see myself as a problem to be solved. I quite like existing exactly as I do, and no man is going to be the person to change that. I was spoilt, at a young age, to find a relationship with someone who really didn’t want to change me, and now that we aren’t together, I can only hope to stumble along in my newfound, much-craved state of lonesomeness until someone comes along who doesn’t bore me in two seconds flat. I’m also not in the business of trying to change anyone else. I am not a manic pixie dream girl, and – at long last – I don’t expect a relative stranger to play the male equivalent of that role in my life. He either fits around me, or he does not. More often than not, he does not. So – much like “Maybe: Nick” – he goes straight into the “no” pile. I’d expect only the same treatment toward myself.
But then, the problem with erratically ditching people is that it hurts their feelings, and – despite my smoldering hatred of mostly everyone – I never developed the capacity to be comfortable with upsetting others. This is probably the biggest issue I have with dating. Batting people away is an inherently hurtful thing to do, and there’s no nice way to do it. Honesty is a good policy, in theory, but in practice you can’t tell a person that they smell funky/pluck their eyebrows too much/don’t kiss right/etc, so the answer is always the same: nothing’s wrong with you as a person, you’re just not my sort of person. That answer rarely suffices. Ergo, dating stinks because – for the weak of character at least – it calls self-worth into question, and that’s no fun for anyone.
Initially, I decided that texting “Maybe: Nick” back wasn’t worth the additional stress on my thumbs, but after a day spent recharging my batteries (that is, spent alone in bed with a book), I decided to exercise good manners and reply, if only to tell him I “probably wouldn’t” hit him up any time soon. I didn’t mention that his general appearance reminded me of the “lager louts” my sister and I made fun of as kids, nor did I tell him that the fact he couldn’t type a full “y-o-u” made my toes curl. I simply told him I wasn’t dating currently.
He took it well. Or, at least, he was polite back. Turns out, Nick doesn’t suck as much as I’d originally thought. I certainly won’t ever see him again, but hey – you’ve got to have a healthy level of respect for a man who doesn’t throw a fit as soon as the “closed for business” sign goes up.
For the time being, I’ve elected to learn from my mistakes – to not dole out my digits to every Tom, Nick and Harry, for starters – and to opt out of the dating pool altogether. Maybe I’ll figure it out, one day, but for the time being I’m quite content as a lonely young bag lady. “Happily single” might not be an ever-after, but gifting myself the simplicity of solitude for the foreseeable future sure feels like a good call. At least I won’t have to live with the embarrassment of festering in someone’s inbox as “Maybe: Amy.” I guess I could pick up some hobbies along the way, too.
Just not ice skating and recreational drugs. Fuck those forever.