Last week, one of my friends, “Mike”, asked me if I had any Valentine’s Day plans. I didn’t, so he asked me if I wanted to go out to a nice restaurant that day.
I wasn’t opposed to the restaurant, although it was somewhat expensive. But I wasn’t sure what his intentions were: was this a platonic, hey we’re both single so might as well do something situation, or was he hoping for something more? While Mike was a nice dude, I wasn’t interested in getting involved in anything romantic with anybody at the moment.
My friends unanimously voted that this was a romantic scenario. “It’s Valentine’s Day, and that restaurant has three dollar signs,” one of them said. She had a good point.
I considered texting Mike, “Yes, let’s do it! I’ll invite our mutual friend Bob too” or showing up while leaning hard into the plausible deniability of “I thought this was just a friend hangout!” But that was just delaying the inevitable conversation where he’d make his interest clear and I would have to turn him down. And didn’t I owe Mike the courtesy of straightforwardness? Wouldn’t it be better if he had a chance to spend Valentine’s Day with somebody on the same wavelength?
“Let’s meet up in person and talk about it,” I messaged him. The next day, we walked along the Charles River, winter sunshine warm atop our heads, as I monologued. Look, Mike, I think you’re a great guy, but I just got out of a relationship and I really want to focus on my classes this semester. I’m not interested in dating anyone right now. I’m so flattered and I seriously appreciate our friendship … It sounded so cliché, but it was all true.
Mike nodded. “Cool, I got you.” The entire conversation only lasted the length of the walk from Hayden Library to the intersection between Massachusetts Avenue and dorm row—maybe five minutes.
The following morning, our dynamic was exactly the same as before: we joked around in the Banana Lounge, we struggled through a problem set, we sat next to each other in lecture. Any awkwardness I’d feared had easily dissipated into the February chill.
Today is the first February 14th in years that I haven’t spent with someone in a romantic context. I was in class until 1:30 pm, then I hit the gym, and after dinner I baked chocolate desserts with friends from WILG (my living group).
I don’t know if there’s a way to say I like being single without sounding like cope, especially on Valentine’s Day, but I like being single.
I haven’t truly been single in years. I became accustomed to all the broad strokes of a relationship—being attuned to someone else’s needs, adjusting to their quirks and habits, creating a shared language of inside jokes and collective memories. I cherish the trust and safety cultivated within these relationships. So much of life feels like estrangement—there’s always this untranslatable distance between people, and isn’t that quite lonely?
But I also adore a wide-open schedule, getting to watch whatever I want on Hulu (Abbott Elementary, anyone?), and focusing on my own career and friends. This past month, I spent hours coding a house management website for WILG, and it occurred to me that this almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t single. Maybe some of you are fantastic at compartmentalization, but I’m not, and I don’t think I would’ve gathered the time or focus to build something new while also pouring energy into somebody else.
In the last week of January, I visited my younger brother in Los Angeles, and our parents flew down from Oregon. During the trip, my mom and I spoke about having kids, since I’m not sure when I should start a family. (It is so unfair that women are expected to choose between career and children, but that’s for a different post …)
“Once you’re a mother, you’re always a mother, and you’ll always be tethered to somebody whose needs you place above your own,” she said. “Why rush into that? You’re so young. You haven’t even graduated from college yet.”
Being in a serious romantic relationship and raising kids aren’t the same, of course, but the principle remains. I’m still young, and there’s so much I want to do for myself. I want to say yes to social invites without fretting about how my partner might feel about it, and I want to spend my evenings reading or studying or anything else I might like. Hell, I refuse to even adopt a cat, even though I absolutely adore them, and several other girls in WILG have cats, because I don’t want any disruption to my personal space or sleep schedule, or to anchor myself to a years-long commitment.
I suppose all this is to say—being single is unexpectedly kind of awesome. Maybe this arises from luck of circumstance, as I’m comfortable with myself and the obstacles in my life are not so insurmountable that I can’t defeat them alone. I’m not dunking on people who aren’t single, or who are actively searching for a partner. And I’m not dissing my exes, as they are really cool people. But maybe solitude is underrated.
Happy Singles Awareness Day!
Cross-posted on Substack here.