Why Being Single Sucks: What No One Wants to Talk About

Spinster—the most talked-about book of the summer—celebrates the power and pleasures of solitary life, but skims over the toughest fact of solo-hood: loneliness. Briony Smith tackles the last single-lady taboo

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Once a week, I grab sushi takeout: green dragon roll, spicy salmon roll, miso soup. As the waiter finishes taking my order, I brace myself for the final question of the transaction: “How many chopsticks?” Right eye slightly a-twitch, I say, “Just one.” Sometimes I contemplate lying, “Oh, two, please!” because I’m so, so over the Sad Single Person Meal trope, but I never cave. It’s always “Just one, thanks.”

Are you thinking, Listen to this sad-sack bitch. Doesn’t she have anything better to do than mope about her chopsticks? Maybe he’s just asking because it’s enough food for two people. Maybe she’s fat and weird, and that’s why she’s single? Because there’s always a reason, right? But what if there isn’t?

I’m relatively delightful: sweet, fun, smart and outgoing. I’m cute enough. I have a job that pays me to watch TV and talk about movies and interview celebrities. I have a social life packed with besties and beloved co-workers. I’m on Tinder, OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. I go on dates. I am aware that, at 32, my eggs are jettisoning out of my dusty uterus at an alarming rate.

Related:
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The Perennially Single Bitch

Despite all this, I am a perennially single bitch (PSB), i.e., a non–cat lady with a full life who remains single. I have been alone for the past two years and, prior to my last boyfriend (we were together for seven months), for another three years—just like so many women in North America right now. In 1981, 26 percent of Canadians aged 25 to 29 were unmarried. In 2011 (the last year census numbers were gathered), that number skyrocketed to 73.1 percent. During that time, the percentage of unmarried women in their early 30s jumped from 10.5 to 43.4.

As a result, recent years have seen a rise in single-lady-friendly lit, with uplifting titles affirming the pleasures of life uncoupled, including the 2011 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg and Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own (Crown, $31) by Kate Bolick, author of the 2011 viral Atlantic article “All the Single Ladies.” I read Spinster and, while Bolick is a spectacular mind and first-rate writer, it gave me zero solace. I’d hoped to find war stories from a fellow PSB struggling with the garbage part of long-term singlehood: loneliness.

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The book is, rather, Bolick’s celebration of five historical spinsters who crafted exciting lives despite their lack of husbands, as well as an exploration of Bolick’s ambivalence toward the outdated idea of mandatory marriage. I called Bolick when I finished the book. “How do you reconcile having a rich life and being lonely?” I asked. She replied: “It’s about not organizing your life around another person—when you shut all the doors and prioritize the relationship above everything else. I like to have a balance, where my friendships are as important as my romantic relationship, which is as important as my work.” But what if there is no romantic relationship? Does my yearning for a mate make me lame? Bolick urges women to “make a life of one’s own.” Done. But I also want to make a life with someone else (and maybe a kid or three).

In It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single, a 2014 tome I found more comforting, author Sara Eckel points out that people are happy to write memoirs about eating disorders, crack addictions, cheating people out of their life savings, being Jenny McCarthy. But almost no tell-alls explore loneliness in depth. Even the word “lonely” feels ugly. I’ve dropped it in heart-to-hearts with everyone from my BFFs to my mother and watched their faces twist in embarrassment.

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This is because loneliness reads as weakness. Melanie Notkin, author of the 2014 book Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, believes our longing for companionship is often maligned because it doesn’t jibe with people’s ideas of boss bitchdom. “It doesn’t feel feminist, the wait for love: ‘If you really want to be a mother, go out and have a baby on your own.’ But that’s what feminism gives us, the ability to make choices that we didn’t have a generation ago, to have the love and the child with that love,” Notkin says. “The truth is that we are modern, independent women who yearn for traditional dating and romance. It’s not a non-feminist thing to say. It’s actually quite feminist to admit what you want.” Yet the persistent perception is that loneliness is something empowered women shouldn’t deign to suffer—something that can be fixed with yoga or a new dating app. Alternatively, it can appear like it’s our fault: we’re too picky, too selfish.

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It also sounds straight-up sad. That’s why I initially resisted writing this piece. I cringe when I imagine it going into print—and then onto the Internet for all eternity—for my exes to see and future dates to find lurking in my Google results.

But f-ck it. We’re all humans here, so I’ll do it: I’m coming out as lonely.

Loneliness is physical

It’s a dull sort of pain, like a poke in the eye or the slow ebb of cramps. Often I don’t feel it for a while; there’s a new crush, perhaps, a big project at work, springtime. But then I’ll experience a moment, most often when I am coming home from the cozy confines of dinner or a movie night at a couple’s house, that reminds me I am alone. The pain leaps suddenly, like the horrible surge of heat when you remember you forgot to do something important. Sometimes it spills out of me in tears that trickle down from behind my sunglasses as I sit on the streetcar on my way home from work, inching home toward another solitary meal, another night alone in bed. I burst into my apartment and cry and cry and cry, standing in the middle of the living room. It’s an involuntary physical reaction to the lack: of someone beside me on the streetcar, of someone waiting for me on the couch. And I let the pain flow through me, feel it race up and down and through the conductor of my body. Then I climb into bed and try not to think, How can I last another night in this same bed in this same room in this same loveless life and wake up alone and do it again the next day and the next and the next?

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Such freak-outs aren’t just painful (and mega-mortifying to admit publicly): they could be slowly killing me. In his 2009 book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, John T. Cacioppo, director of the Center of Cognitive & Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, reveals that feelings of isolation like mine can cause high blood pressure, increase stress hormones, impair immune function and accelerate aging, and, he says ominously, may be “hastening millions of people to an early grave.” I do have scary-high blood pressure, caused in part, I assume, by the stress of a high-intensity job—sans someone at home to provide soothing cuddles and reality-show commentary—and in part by the fact that I sometimes alleviate said stress with late-night junk-food bacchanals. While waiting for my post-bar Uber a few weeks ago, I overheard a bro refer to my 2 a.m. poutine as my “boyfriend for the night.”

Welcome to the freak show

It’s easy for PSBs to feel like freaks when the coupled world constantly reminds us of our single status. Bella DePaulo, author of 2006’s Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, calls this ghettoization “singlism.” Even the shoeshine guy at the airport recently opened with, “You married?” (When he heard my answer, he stuck out his tongue and made a face.) The older I get, the more party guest lists become standardized into 40 billion couples, a handful of fun gays and a pack of dolled-up PSBs. Friends badger me to lift the No Boyfriends Allowed, Goddamnit rule at my annual cottage weekend. Weddings are the most extreme torture of all. The answer to, “Will there be any single dudes there?” always results in some variation of, “No, but please do enjoy the quarantine pen set up at the back of the banquet hall with the spotty teen cousins and wizened old aunties.” (At one wedding I attended, the MC announced, “Don’t worry about getting too drunk. Briony is single. I’m sure she’ll… take care of you.”) We’re also denied the sweet financial bounty of tax breaks; double occupancy rates at hotels; engagement party, bridal shower and wedding presents; and sharing a down payment on a house. “Everyone is so mom-, love- and couples-focused that we’re ignored,” Notkin says. “No one hears us, understands us or acknowledges us.”

Coupled BFFs just don’t understand

The isolation intensifies as friends are—bless—often useless when it comes to offering support, simply because they eschew listening in favour of cheerleading and advice. “How can you be lonely?” they cry. “You are never alone! You have such a rich life! You don’t need a man to complete you!” Or, “Stop obsessing about finding a boyfriend. Just live your life and work out/smile/go out more, and he will come to you.” One pal insisted I had been concentrating too much on my job. “Career woman” is one of the most common—and most misogynist—cop-outs. No one uses the term “career man.” And the phrase reinforces a myth that PSBs prioritize work over finding a partner. I know many accomplished PSBs who work 60-plus hours a week: none of them have eschewed dating for career and, in fact, most of them work hard to carve out time to meet men. None of us are waking up one day and saying, “LOL I TOTALLY FORGOT TO DATE FOR 10 YEARS BETTER GET GOING BEFORE I’M BARREN.” We have been dating the whole time—we just haven’t found our matches.

Related: I’m in Love, But I Think My Single Friends Hate Me

I’m a monster, and other conspiracy theories

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Slogging along solo for ages has made me doubt my sanity as life starts to feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone. At first, I thought, I’m bangable. Fun. I have enough dates and flings and past boyfriends to confirm that I’m not a complete monstrosity. But as the months of singledom slip into years, doubt rears. If I was a lovable human, logically, I would have love, no? I imagine a third-act twist where cleaning out my parents’ filing cabinets would unearth paperwork revealing I am actually the beneficiary of the top-secret make-work program Societal Integration for Chuds and Other Undesirables, which states that I’m allowed to have a cool job and extensive social circle, but I should under no circumstances be allowed to breed.

I’ve tumbled many times into the crevasse between self-love and self-loathing, eyeball to eyeball with my flaws and wondering which of those pernicious little bastards is driving away potential husbands. Is it my oft-messy apartment? My loud laugh? My strong opinions? If I fixed these things, would I have more luck? This obsession with dating success by way of self-improvement is a by-product of western society’s can-do ideal, according to Eckel: “Any problem you have, you can solve it. You’re the master of your own destiny. The flip side to that, however, is that if you’re going through a hard time, it’s your fault.” I tried, for a long time, to eradicate my undesirable bits. Some changes made me a better person, like going to the gym and softening my bitchy resting face. But other things I did to placate dudes—like switching out boner-killing fashion in favour of dressing down in jeans and sneaks—I eventually gave up. There’s only so much of myself I can change before there’s nothing left. “Maybe the reason these women are single isn’t that there’s something wrong with them,” says Eckel. “It’s that there’s something right with them.”

It takes strength to hold out for a person who loves you just the way you are. I’m asked on dates by so-so guys that I politely decline. I don’t frantically prolong fizzling flings. I could have married my lovely ex years ago. Not having someone is hard, but settling for just anyone is harder.

Feral Cat Syndrome

There is an upside to our noble refusal to settle; PSBs do indeed enjoy giddying freedom and wide-open swaths of time and space to pursue adventure and wonderment. But I also spend a lot of time with the same damn person: myself. Just as Bolick warned against disappearing into a relationship, you can also disappear into yourself. This is what I call Feral Cat Syndrome. I become too wild, too unused to human contact, too worn down by dating. I favour Broad City over yet another book launch or synth-pop show or house party where I hope there will be someone vaguely hittable. I let my OkCupid matches pile up, sick of composing witty openers. My body aches for snuggles. I debate sleeping with a ripped 22-year-old Tinder jock just to make sure my vagina still works. My bad habits flare up, whether it’s drunken belligerence or skipping eye makeup.

Related:
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Why Daniel Radcliffe Thinks “Being Single Is Sh-t”
How Can I Curb My Tinder Rejection Sads?

Dating really is a nefarious little game, isn’t it? If you want to stop dating, you have to keep dating to find the partner who will take you out of the running. All the exhausting gym-going and smiling and battling Feral Cat Syndrome and Tindering won’t guarantee a boyfriend—whether I meet my dream piece or not comes down to chance. It’s maddening. That’s what PSBs must make peace with every day: uncertainty. Want a kid? A house? In most cases, it’s only realistic if you couple up. Until then, I’m in limbo.

PSB PSA

PSBs already know that all we can do while waiting for the right partner is to live a life of meaning, of love for family and friends, of passion and pursuit of beauty. We got it. All we need—in addition to your hot friend’s number—is a little empathy for the pain, the isolation, the frustration, the exhaustion, the helplessness, the loneliness. (And all those bloody weddings.) If a PSB tells you she is sick of singledom, if she is brave enough to tell you she is lonely, don’t rush into offering advice or compliments or strategies. Just say, “That must be hard. How are you doing?”

Share the burden and end the shame. I may be lonely, but I am not alone.

Follow Briony Smith on Twitter at @brionycwsmith, and use #PerenniallySingleBitch to share your best (/worst) single-lady war stories!

 

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95 comments on “Why Being Single Sucks: What No One Wants to Talk About

  1. Shockingly, and frighteningly on point. It’s a very difficult reality for a HUGE percent of women, and all we are left with is hope that it will change. Unfortunately there are a lot of days when the sadness wins.

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    • It’s breaking my hard how true and on the point this is. From crying in the living room at night, to the self-doubts, the so-so guys and to friends who wanna help but just can’t understand… I feel you. Lonely, but not alone. Keep it up!

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  2. I’ve never read a funnier, more satisfying, more perfectly wrought piece on this subject. From one newly turned out PSB to a veteran just know the other side of the coin can be just as lonely. Basically, finding someone to love can take a lifetime to get right but it’s still worth fighting back Feral Cat Syndrome to leave a tiny claw-shaped space to get there.

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  3. Well written. Thank you.

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  4. Sing it, sister!

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  5. One of the best articles I’ve read on Flare. Ms Smith writes like a novelist and sheds awkwardness from truth.
    Well done on a brave and clearly very personal piece.

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  6. I hear you! Well-written, and thanks for being so honest about it all. I was single for years with only FBs or short-lived romantic relationships. Everything you described about the self-doubt & loneliness hits home. I used to occasionally be honest with my cheerleading siblings and experience that awkward uncomfortable moment when I would say it out loud (“I’m lonely, and it’s hard”) instead of pretending I was happier that way. My worst nights were the times when I would start guessing the hours/days until someone might notice (since I worked mostly at home) if I fell & hit my head in the shower. Dark thoughts. Holding out for the right person is worth it, but it isn’t easy.

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  7. YES. Thank you for voicing something many of us have felt in our bones.

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  8. Yes! Yes! Yes! Great, well-written post. Thank you!

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  9. Nailed it!!!

    Thank you for sharing- amazing to have someone capture the situation so perfectly!

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  10. Amazing piece! Thank you for being so brave, so honest, and for validating the experience of so many of us. The hardest part about being single for me is definitely the loneliness and you’re right that people don’t want to hear that. There is a *shocking* lack of sympathy for the single girl who wants to be coupled. Being single, especially in this society, is HARD. It’s lonely, it feels isolating, it feels demoralizing and it frankly scares the hell out of me – that things will never change – now that it’s been several years. It hurts emotionally, financially and socially. I can’t understand why there isn’t more understanding around this… hopefully your article will help shed some light!

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  11. “Maybe she’s fat and weird, and that’s why she’s single? Because there’s always a reason, right?”

    Maybe you’re a fat-phobic judgemental a–hole and THAT’S why?

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    • She’s not being fat-phobic, she’s confessing what she feels when she thinks “Why am I still single?”. We are often our own worst critic and the voices in our head will say things like “Too fat”, “Too skinny”, “Works too much”, “Too successful” based on either past experiences or what society views as desirable. I’ve been called “weird” for being single at 36, and I’ve gotten many more “Too fat” comments than “You’re beautiful” comments and the insults stick more than compliments. When I am feeling lonely in bed at night and my mind’s at its most vulnerable state, I don’t hear “You’re beautiful”, I hear one horrible voice that says “You’re a fat b!tch that no one will ever love”. It’s not that I believe all fat women are unworthy of love, it’s what I feel about myself when I’m most vulnerable and I feel the writer can relate. I don’t feel that she’s thrown me under the bus, I feel she understands being hit by the bus and has come out to confess “This is what I think, this is how I feel.”

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      • I think it’s because people always assume there’s a reason or it’s a choice. I’ve often heard you’re so pretty, i don’t understand. Doesn’t really make it easier. Now when people ask, I say they don’t sell them at the mall. Sounds silly, but it answers the demeaning question. It’s funny to me. Culturally we can feel so sorry for women that can’t have babies the natural way. These days, we have the choice from making babies in a petri dish to adopting. For women who have been single forever, it’s not culturally accepted to understand rather pity to them.

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  12. Like, really. Thanks for *almost* getting the point, and in the first paragraph reinforcing the “fat women are weirdos and not worthy of love” misogynist bullshit that’s made me, and every other GENUINELY lovely fat woman I know just give up entirely. I so want to like this and agree with it but I can’t because you threw me under the damn bus just so you don’t have to be on the perceived lowest rung. LIKE EVERY DOUCHEY BRO EVER. Bravo writer. Bravo.

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    • So true. Was about to laud this, then realized what the above poster is saying is correct. Even if the point was exaggeration, a writer should always carefully consider her words and what she’s saying. We get that you ‘went to the gym’ and put on makeup and whatever else you felt you needed to do to win love, but what about those who ARE ‘weird’ or ‘fat’ or whatever category you want to put them into? Are they not deserving of love, too? Of course they are. Get with the program. You ask for empathy — maybe start by giving it.

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  13. Great read, and easy to empathize with the author. Just remember, the grass is always greener … you long for a partner and then, when you get one, you long for the level of freedom and independence you had as a single. Chris Rock, of all people, I think, said it best: There are two states in life. Single and lonely, or married and bored.

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  14. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that so accurately sums up how I feel. Thank you so much for articulating this. Good luck to us both.

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  15. Thank you so much for your courage to write this piece…to publicly acknowledge what so many of us feel, and yet what no one wants to acknowledge…that loneliness is devastating. The quote I just can’t take anymore from those already in couples is, “you have to love yourself before anyone can love you.” Seriously? While I acknowledge that this IS an important component of a healthy relationship, are you telling me that all of the billions of people who have found love and are currently in relationships, truly love themselves in this way? It just adds to the shame…to the belief that somehow we are completely responsible for our predicament, instead of acknowledging that timing and luck and so many other mysterious factors play a role. It’s just a vicious cycle…one I haven’t (yet) been able to escape. Stories like this help. Thank you!

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  16. This was really super.

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  17. The only cure for loneliness is solitude.

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  18. On point, great thoughts, sorry you’re lonely, and you’re right you’re not alone Craving intimacing is part of being human. If you know how to love, it’s normal to want to be loved. Luckily for me (4 very short relationships of about 1-3 months each in a span of …8 years eek!), when the feeling creeps up, ok fine I’ll say it, when I feel lonely, it lasts for a bit till….I hear of some poor woman stuck in a terrible relationship or I myself see examples of the bad ones, and I’m reminded of a girlfriend’s pearls of wisdom: “Better alone than badly accompanied.”
    Till the right person comes along, I’d rather be alone by myself than lonely in a relationship! Thanks for sharing the pain that many MANY people feel, both men and women, and some even within the confines of their own relationships.

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  19. No one wants to talk about it? I would beg to differ. I’m a generation older than you, so maybe that’s where our differences are, but that’s about all I hear about is how people think being single sucks, but the data tell a different story, that many of us are actually happy and if you aren’t happy, it is highly unlikely that being in a relationship will make you happy. One study that followed people through time showed that right after marriage, there is a sort of honeymoon stage where happiness goes up, but then it goes back to whatever the level was before the person married. For me personally, I have to say in all honesty that the times I have felt loneliest and most unhappy was when I was in bad relationships. And yes, people are beginning to write about this now. Sorry if you have a hard time with that, but as someone who has been stereotyped and stigmatized for many years, I find it a refreshing change that people are now saying. Yes, I’m single and I’m happy single and prefer it to being in a relationship rather than people just assuming that we’re miserable. You’re still young though. I’d be interested to see how you feel 20 years from now if you’re still single. Good luck.

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    • Just heard the author on CBC Radio this morning which brought me here – I’m with you Monica – I have been very happily single, never married (never wanted kiddies either, so that made it a might easier I would imagine), since my last relationship almost 20 years ago. I’ve never, ever felt lonely, and with that said, find it difficult to understand the pain and angst these young ladies feel…. I think you hit the nail on the head to be honest…. if these gals are feeling unfulfilled on their own, often to the point of making them physically ill, then I suspect the bubble will burst when they find themselves feeling much the same way once the search is over and they find that ‘someone’ they’ve been longing for. Like you, though, I am at least a generation older – I’ve become immune to those that look at me as a bit of an oddity (and with pity!) because I’m single and I love it. They simply refuse to accept it as a possibility, particularly as I’m told I’m attractive, fit, and well-adjusted – I deserve someone, right? So, WHERE IS HE, they demand? It never fails to make me chuckle… Still, I can only wish all these lovely, lonely ladies well in their pursuit of happiness, however they manage to get there.

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  20. What I don’t understand, is that I know a whole slew of men who feel the exact same way, including myself. If there’s a huge percentage of men that would love to find that person, and a huge percentage of women who love to find that person, what is happening?

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    • Have you listened to the way some guys talk? They all think they should have a Kim Kardashian or Victoria Secret clone on their arms when, in fact, they are just average guys complete with balding heads and the start of bulging bellies. They are dismissive of women who don’t meet their porn fantasy image … and so everyone misses out.

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      • True, there are a lot of pigs, rapists and losers out there.

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      • Your statement could not be any less true. I have never encountered a single man who is dismissive of women in the way you’ve described. Furthermore, Kim Kardashian and Victoria Secret models are just average women. Get over it…men and women are a lot more alike than you would believe. The vast majority of those who find someone have “settled” and that includes many couples who are deeply in love.

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    • Where do you guys all hang out? Please tell us the secrets.

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    • They’re fighting for the 25 year olds. Everyone wants what’s a challenge for them to have, people don’t want other people that are easily available to them.

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  21. Thanks for being brave and writing about this subject. What you wrote caused me to nod my head in agreement. Here’s to finding that special someone one day!

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  22. I don’t know what tax breaks you think married couples get. We saved $9 dollars this year and had to go through hell to get it.

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  23. Sorry, but we are empowered, strong single women nowadays. No need for patriarchal relationships and servitude. The author needs to get right with a dose of feminism and toe the line of our new modern world. Sheesh!

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    • I hope this was meant to be satirical.

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  24. Some of us LOVE being single! Who’s got time to be lonely? I like my own company and have way too much to do.

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  25. “No one uses the term ‘career man.'”

    Oh no? I guess that’s why Google returned 140,000 results in 0.31 seconds for that very phrase – one that’s been in existence since the 50s, or whenever it was that Western men started differentiating between careers and jobs.

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  26. You are coming out as lonely? Good for you. No one wants to come out as being alone. Maybe that’s the next frontier. This one not is exclusive to single people.

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  27. A well written article, and I am very sorry that you feel lonely, but frankly this article left a bad taste in my mouth and I just disagree so intensely with a handful of its primary points.

    “The isolation intensifies as friends are—bless—often useless when it comes to offering support, simply because they eschew listening in favour of cheerleading and advice.”

    It isn’t fair to expect people to just sit silently and embody a mindless and emotionless sounding board for your whiny internal dialogue. These apparently aren’t issues your friends are able to help with – you said it yourself – so why are you lashing out at them when they fail?

    “It takes strength to hold out for a person who loves you just the way you are. I’m asked on dates by so-so guys that I politely decline. I don’t frantically prolong fizzling flings. I could have married my lovely ex years ago. Not having someone is hard, but settling for just anyone is harder.”

    Okay, so… this is problematic. You are being asked on dates. Point number one. That is a massive improvement from the lives of other single people. You then go on to talk about these men as “so-so guys.” Wait, what? They are “so-so” in what way? I can’t toootally tell here, but you are starting to come off as kind of judgemental. Maybe if you didn’t judge these guys on first glance and actually took them up on the kind offer of a date, you would have the boyfriend you so ardently desire. But hey, that’s just me.

    “My bad habits flare up, whether it’s drunken belligerence or skipping eye makeup.”

    I hope that this is tongue-in-cheek, but I kinda think “drunken belligerence” might also top the list of reasons-why-you’re-single.

    “All the exhausting gym-going and smiling and battling Feral Cat Syndrome and Tindering won’t guarantee a boyfriend—whether I meet my dream piece or not comes down to chance. It’s maddening.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy this. It’s just an excuse. If you want to not be single, maybe start going to the gym /for yourself/ to improve your health and your body, quit binge-drinking, and quit being a judgemental asshole.

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    • I do buy this and in an era where courtship has been reduced to “swiping” on something called “Tinder” it is not just an excuse. Finding that special someone or the love of your life IS a matter of luck and timing. This comment falls into the category of “You have to look after yourself first” and “if you create positive vibes it will draw people to you”. Why didn’t I think of that?

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  28. It’s breaking my heart how true and on the point this is. From crying in the living room at night, to the self-doubts, the so-so guys and to friends who wanna help but just can’t understand… I feel you. Lonely, but not alone. Keep it up!

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  29. I’m not religious …..but AAAAAAAMMMMMEEEENNNNNNN!

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  30. Boo hoo, I’ve been legitimately single my entire life and I’m 28. I’m not ugly, just really reserved and quiet. Women perceive single-dom in a far different light than men for sure. For them, going a year without a relationship is terrifying. I don’t get it. I’m fine being alone. I fell in love with the tv show, ‘Dexter’, for this very reason. His head with his thoughts mirrored mine pretty well, always just watching people and ruminating about what kinds of interactions he would see people having and wondering why he didn’t really get ‘it’. That’s my life to a T, watching people interacting as if they are an exhibit in a museum and I’m just the passerby. Maybe somebody will magically fall into my orbit one day, but until that happens, WHATEVER, IDGAF.

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  31. So who is going to write about the guys version of this article?

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    • I totally 100% relate to this, thank you for sharing!

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  32. I think a lot of this could be solved simply by learning to settle. Find a guy that is stable and just stick with it until you learn to love em.

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    • in this day and age, women do not want to settle down in their twenties
      instead, they think they can be carefree and “experiment” for a decade before settling down
      then, when the biological clock runs, they will try everything to regain their lost youth, so they can attract men like they used to, such as more elaborate make up, going to the gym… without considering the fact that being YOUNG is part of the attraction
      but the clock is running, the youth years were spent “experimenting” instead of trying to find a decent man to settle down with
      now we see more and more blog posts like that one

      Reply

  33. Hey Briony,

    I want to commend you on the courage it takes to be so vulnerable and candid about this personal subject in such a public forum. Thank you for writing this article and taking this risk. There are so many women out there who need to read this and will find solace and validation in your perspective and experiences. I think that it’s really important to express the real honest feelings that so many single women experience on the dating journey – the loneliness, the confusion, the frustration, the awkward and hurtful behavior from others… the stigma of being a single woman in our couple-crazed, wedding-crazed, marriage-crazed, baby-crazed society, and the social message that if a woman hasn’t found the right person by her 30’s, that there must be something wrong with her (which is just insane, as we all know).

    I want to say here that I know so many women in their 30’s – intelligent, beautiful, successful, loving, creative, vibrant women – who aren’t married and who haven’t found the right partner yet. Most of the time, it’s because none of the people who have come along have been good enough (and that’s just the truth). I think that it’s fantastic that women are taking more time for themselves, taking more time to educate themselves, more time to work on their careers, and to really determine actual compatibility before committing to a relationship, and marrying. Some women are even taking time out to contemplate whether marriage is really right for them instead of doing something that society tells them they should do “because everyone else is doing it”. Women are more intelligent now than ever and are actually making wiser choices in their personal lives. Saying no to partners who aren’t good enough or who aren’t the right fit for them, refusing to settle, and become truer to themselves at the risk of being perceived negatively by society and its crazy and unhealthy (ridiculous) demands.

    My friends and I would often be completely bewildered at the kinds of men we would come across when we were dating and would often gripe about how exhausting, frustrating, and irritating the whole process would be. We hated it. We laughed, we cried, we yelled. Truthfully though, the one thing that helped us get through the worst of it was making jokes about the absurdity of it all. Because honestly, some of the situations we would find ourselves in with men and with society’s perceptions would be downright hilarious.

    I find it upsetting that we are still living in a very outdated, old-fashioned era, a society where a woman isn’t considered “enough” without a male counterpart or an “other,” where it is somehow acceptable for people to be making judgements about women they don’t even know, or where an MC thinks it’s ok to make that kind of (disgusting) joke and put the spotlight on someone in such a horrible and embarrassing way. Not cool.

    While it may be a bit more subtle than it used to be, I don’t feel like a lot has changed, not in the important ways. Women are constantly told that they have little value and that they have little value unless they… (fill-in-the-blank here). The external pressure is so strong and comes from so many avenues that women start to think that there is something wrong with them; that they must have little value without a partner; that must be pathetic to be going to weddings alone or to be ordering sushi for one. The truth is that there’s nothing shameful about this at all and single men do not experience the shaming or public commentary that women do for being single.

    The worst part of it for those of us in our 30’s who don’t have children (but are hoping to at some point) is the fear mongering messages that we “aren’t getting any younger” or that we better hurry up because we could be running out of eggs. There is this weird collective social panic that women end up picking up from society almost through osmosis in their late 20’s and early 30’s about this whole having children thing and it’s simply not true. Women can have healthy children well into their forties. There is no rush. 32 is not old. This is social hysteria that creates unnecessary stress and anxiety for women who are doing the best that they can.

    What I will say here before wrapping up, is that Toronto is a lonely city and has a reputation for being a very hard place to find the right partner. The culture of this city doesn’t make connecting natural or easy. It’s not a warm or friendly place. I grew up here and promptly left at 18 because I didn’t like the way people related to each other. Frankly, I always found it depressing. I find that women are much more objectified here and men don’t really notice women here the way they do in other cities. Women end up having to doll themselves up to the max in order to get any attention or recognition and it’s a very status-oriented place where people are expected to fit a certain mold. If you want to be in a place where you can be noticed for your originality and your unique style, I would suggest planning some trips to Montréal. I doubt you will have any trouble connecting with the men there – they are actually paying attention. I think they will actually appreciate you for what you have to offer.

    If you want more tips, email me. I feel like I could help you out with this.

    RB

    Reply

    • I would love to know what you mean by paying attention? Are you suggesting that men in Toronto (Canada?) keep their eyes on the pavement?

      Reply

      • Yes! I can smile and check out a man for 20 minutes just to watch him get up and walk away. Or watch him physically shrink and turn his shoulder when I try to give him a compliment. I feel like such a creep! But in Montreal, if I accidentally glance at a guy’s t-shirt because something cool caught my eye, he will make eye contact with me and smile as if to say “thanks for the compliment”. If I do encounter a man in English Canada who makes eye contact with me when I check him out, chances are…he’s French-Canadian.

        Reply

    • http://i.picpar.com/pF1b.png

      good luck having kids in your 40’s

      better have tens of thousands of dollars at the ready, this is what it will cost you

      you can delude yourself every day that you can have babies in your 40’s like you were 16, i’m not gonna stop you

      Reply

  34. Relate to every single word. You are SO effing talented, Briony! Thanks for this. XX

    Reply

  35. Being single and Alone is very depressing for many of us good men looking for a good woman to share our life with, but with so many independent high maintenance women that are very selfish and spoiled makes it very difficult for us men looking for love these days which is the real reason why many of us men are still single as i speak which it is Not our fault at all. And many of us are Not single by choice either.

    Reply

  36. I’m a guy who is still single at 35. From my own experience, the biggest problem for a lot of us, male and female, is DATING. I never really “dated” in high school or college or late on in grad school but I had plenty of girlfriends. I would meet people. We’d get to know each other slowly and gradually and would usually be friends first. Then one day the spark would just come and the relationship would happen “naturally”. But once you’re in the working world most of the people you meet are at work, especially if your friends have paired off. Dating at work is complicated. But where else do you meet people “naturally” like you did back in school? As in…people you could just get to know without having this artificial job interview setting of a “date” you set up after some random chatting on a dating web site or app? I’d like to see some stats but I’d guess that if you’re single say three years out of your last school setting you probably have a much higher chance of being single even ten years later.

    Reply

    • I agree, TF, dating men I just meet in the course of my daily life allows a much slower build that seems to work for me. I got lucky, but I sure wouldn’t know how to “make it” happen again if my current relationship fizzles out. Wishing us both luck!

      Reply

  37. Well for many of us good men that are still single today, Most of us i would say are Not single by choice. Today there are so many very high maintenance women out there that are very independent, selfish, and very spoiled which it has a lot to do with it why many of us men are Single today, and it is certainly Not our fault at all. i always thought that i was going to meet a good woman to settle down with when i was a lot younger, and when i finally did get married so many years later she was the one that Cheated on me when i finally thought that i was all settled down at that time which Wasn’t good enough for her. And now with so many women Cheating these days, it is very hard finding love again for me.

    Reply

  38. Such a well-written article! You are an inspiration to all single women like me. However, not to rain on your parade (or lack thereof), there is something far worse than being a PSB–being a PSB in a new country. That’s me. I moved to Canada three months ago, and not only am I lonely because I miss my family and friends back home–basically I miss my life back home–I am also lonely because, well, I am single and none of the men I have encountered are boyfriend material.

    Reply

  39. Thank you so much for this article. I actually tore it out of the magazine at the hair salon and brought it home. Echos much of my thoughts and feelings all the time.

    Reply

  40. “I’m asked on dates by so-so guys that I politely decline. I don’t frantically prolong fizzling flings. I could have married my lovely ex years ago. ”

    I am in no way intending to point fingers at you, but how would you describe these so-so guys? You say your ex boyfriend was lovely, but why did the relationship end? I ask because we women are sometimes too picky when it comes to relationships. We are looking for a thunderbolt, a perfect 10. We are looking for magical chemistry and a rock star in bed, when what’s most important is a man’s character and kindness.

    Sure, there has to be a good amount of chemistry present, but holding out for a 10 in looks and chemistry, and a 3 in comparibility=30/100, whereas giving the 7 a chance because you both are pretty compatible, say 8 or 9 gives you a check of a lot more to work with.

    Reply

  41. Oh boo fucking hoo. Jesus wept you crybaby. Writing articles about how hard dating is, which is simply projecting how unreasonably picky you are, wont distract that women are finally on top of things. That we are now a force to be reckoned with. Men tremble and walk on eggshells around us, they shudder in fear that maybe I will be offended in the slightest. They pay us more and we are now almost done with taking over STEM fields. But no, you’re going to complain about not being able to find a cute boy who is so darned nice. Grow up.

    Reply

    • so can you stop playing victim by spamming “muh wage gap” every now and then?

      Reply

  42. Most of you women complain about “loneliness” when you have no true understanding of the word. Bemoaning of loneliness while you go on dates and have fwb or one night stands here and there. Not being able to secure a relationship isn’t loneliness. What you’re experiencing is unrealistic standards. There is no such thing as the perfect person for anyone, despite all the myths the media loves to project about careless, romantic love and you think you deserve your very own Prince Charming.

    What you fail to realize is that unlike many, many men out there, you at least have the opportunity of getting your foot in the door. For every single, “lonely” woman, there are 5 single and actually lonely men. You complain about not having the right kind of meal while others strive to get any sort of food at all. The average woman doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as the average man just to get a date or to even get the attention of the opposite sex. Even fat girls are far more desired than their male counterparts. There’s no social movement for the acceptance of fat guys or short guys who are relegated to true loneliness. You say guys only want super models, but that’s a strawman and the only reason you believe that is because of gossip mags and vapid media. Your problems start and end with you. Our problems start and end with you.

    Reply

    • Hi Peter, you should watch an excellent documentary called The Age of Loneliness. Shows various people in various walks of life…. loneliness can be experienced in many situations, I don’t believe it’s limited to one gender or one true definition.
      I hope you find the happiness you seek, and I hope the author does as well.

      Reply

  43. Thank you for writing this. I didn’t think anyone could understand how I’ve felt for the past 5yrs. You pretty much summed up my life. And, in doing so, you’ve made me feel a little less alone. Thank you.

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  44. Briony, thank you for writing this! Like many others here this completely resonated with me. I love your line about “Not having someone is hard, but settling for just anyone is harder.” I really believe this but have been struggling with it lately, thinking I should just go after the so-so guy, feeling my own biological clock and tired of always being the perennially single one in my group of coupled-up friends. This article was a great reminder that I’m not alone in my position and that there’s nothing wrong with me. This was a very brave article for you to write and thank you so much for doing it :)

    Reply

    • yeah, it’s always and forever men’s fault

      rule number one of feminism

      Reply

    • No shortage of middle-aged women prefer to be alone to settling for anyone less than … I don’t know, Brad Pitt? Someone hard to find.

      Having done things the other way, I’m reminded of the narration from “Annie Hall”: This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken. The doctor says, Well, why don’t you turn him in? And the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.

      She and I got eggs out of it, so it was worth settling for each other.

      Reply

  45. Perhaps some of these so-so guys deserve a second look – you never know whether they’re diamonds in the rough.

    Reply

    • I agree. There are good men everywhere..

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  46. An absolutely well-written, well-research, to-the-point, and witty article.
    Thank you for airing this piece of “dark” secret that no one seems to be brave enough to talk about. I just graduated and I’ve been single all the way through college (except for a brief six-month period), people wonder why, I am attractive, quirky but very sociable. I don’t really wonder why. What I wonder is whether to settle or to continue this single life. I tried settling, perfectly good guys, but loneliness never goes away for long when I was with them. I go to parties, spend loads of time with friends, have flings once a while, volunteer on weekends, my life is full and often spinning fast. Yet, at the end of a busy day, week, or month, I go back to my room, and get submerged by the loneliness and my helplessness in improving the situation. I don’t know what I can do, I want hand the guy a map so he can find me faster. I periodically doubt whether there’s something fundamentally unlovable about me. The awful thing about this is that there is no objective answer to this.
    I appreciate your sharp writing about this sorrowful topic, it’s oddly nice to know that I am not alone about feeling lonely.
    Suppose that we insist on waiting is because we know what we are looking for, and we are hopeful he will be there at the end of this. Good luck to us.

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  47. Incredibly genuine and candid article. It describes well the rub between self-reliance and wanting companionship. The caution, of course, is be careful what you wish for. I have known women to be just as lonely within a marriage as this article describes outside of marriage. Being lonely within a relationship is even more torturous as you have expectations, as well, that are not being met. Never “settle”.

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  48. Love this. I was alone and lonely for nearly six years after my marriage failed and for as much as I love much else about my life, and am surrounded by good friends and can afford to own my own home and all that other surface stuff, I really really despise solitude. Call me weak or anti-feminist if you must, but family and relationships are what I value most in life and I have neither the energy nor the motivation to pretend otherwise. I’m with you Briony!

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  49. Thank You for your article on Loneliness. You hit the nail on the head when you said that it is the ultimate Feminist Act to choose to be with a partner. Yet paradoxically our culture still says that women should not WANT to be with one. I am 60 years old, was married for 20 years, am single now. I have heard this garbage all my life. I say I have not found the right person and friends still say ‘but you are so independent why should you want someone’. It’s crazy-making and very invalidating. This sick western culture is so good at telling us what we “should” feel and “should not” feel. Let’s all break those stupid taboos and talk about our real feelings and what it is like to be human.

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  50. Briony,
    Thank you so much for putting my feelings into print! I would rather not identify as a PSB, but, whatever – viva la PSB! I have read your piece so many times (and cried, laughed through it) that I can quote it now.

    The holidays are approaching shortly, which I find to be the loneliest time. I will again be a late 30s PSB getting Christmas cards from all of my friends and family featuring their families and children. I adore these people, and that they send me holiday greetings. However, the happy family photos sting a little more each year when you are the only one in your life who doesn’t have it, and really really wants it.

    Thanks again. You are awesome. And not fat at all!!!

    Erin

    Reply

  51. hello from australia. Briony, you are friggin AWESOME.

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  52. Wow I broke down into tears reading this. When she talks about loneliness I relate to it in every way possible. This is a reading I need to bookmark to help me get through those lonely moments.

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  53. This article is sooo true! I spent most of my life single and can relate to every word here. I feel ya!

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  54. Well with so much more women today that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, and very greedy, is the reason why a good man like me is still single.

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  55. *First of all, sorry for my English mistakes, it’s not my native or even second langage.

    In my viewpoint, this situation of single life, the increasing difficulties to finding love and commitement, it’s mainly the women’s “fault”, this word is not really accurate. so, let me explain.

    Nowdays, There’s a tremendous choice for women to meet guys, for several reasons :
    – social networks : mainly Facebook. every woman/girl have plenty of guys commenting on each photos, sending invitation, telling her how she looks great and how clever and modern she is. Of course, many of those guys are proposing dates to them.
    – dating applications : Tinder & Cie. in an afternoon my friend Pauline could have 4 to 5 dates in a week. When she show me those dates profil photos, I’m really impressed, athletic guys, all above 6’2 and with excellent academic background (from memory, a lawyer, a trader, an engineer..). My friend is a smart and beautiful woman for sure, but not a Vogue magazine model.
    – world of seduction : every day, hundreds of men all over the world, spend lot of money to learn how to seduce women. The amount of this “business” is just crazy (like 2000€ for a bootcamp week-end or a seminar..). Plenty of guys with high skills trying to seduce all types of women in night events, dancing, clubs.. the result is that lot of women get used to this “image” of man. In her logic, a woman will think “ok, I already get this kind of guys, I can’t get less”. The problem is that those guys (10 to 20%) are dating the majority of women.. who are considering the other 80% of men as “boring”.
    – the cougar ideology : there is no more spinster, age is not a matter anymore and marriage life is considered as boring and limiting. so the old “urge” for kids and family, that old safety, is not effective anymore. Because of the high number of guys available.

    The result of all those facts is that women are now very (very) picky, for a minimum of efforts and investment (basically an internet connexion).

    For guys it’s completely different, many of them are in this “single for ever” situation, they are cool, have good jobs, friends, travel a lot.. yet, they are single since their break-up (2, 3 years ago..). while my female friends, have several dates in a single month and eject guy after another because of a lack of “feeling” and “chemistry”. I bet this chemistry will not be a problem if they had a single date in 6 months.

    Another example : me. I’m a 35 yo software engineer, 6’1, living in Paris (“city of love” as they say) , fluent in Japanese, practicing piano, swimming (in a team), stand up comedy and Folk dancing, also certified in Horse riding and a big fan of Russian literature and culture.
    I have a social life, friends, and a two weeks in advance schedule.. I spent lot of money to learn about seduction, challenge and all this panoply of crap. Yet single, since 2012.
    The sad part is that I’m looking for a real relationship, not a one night shot (may be the influence of Russian novels, but hey !) and that I have a real listening quality, remembering lot of things and trying each time to be creative in the dates.. I’m conscious that I’m doing something wrong. Basically, a single mistake can throw you out of the “game”(showing an early interest, be slightly demanding, not being enough sexual or too much, asking for a date too much earlier than it should be or too much late, not being fun enough..etc). I bet that a lot of guys are spending their first dates like in a job interview.

    so for me, being single sucks more when you’re a guy.

    Reply

    • I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble finding someone, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this, Raskolnikov.

      You’re operating under the assumption here that women constantly have men approaching them and asking them to be their boyfriends. As a 22-year-old woman who’s been single her entire life, I can tell you this isn’t the case. I’ve been told I was attractive by many different kinds of men over the years and I’ve had a fair number of sexual partners. Many men have told me “I can’t believe a girl like you doesn’t have a boyfriend,” but they never offer to be my boyfriend. The only man that ever asked me to be his girlfriend was a random drunk Italian man who came up to me in the street to ask me, without a date or conversation beforehand. Other than him, no man I’ve met has ever seriously considered me as “relationship material.”

      – Many of my female friends (and relatives) comment on my Facebook profile pictures, but, except for my gay best friend, I have NEVER had a man compliment my Facebook profile picture. Ever.
      – I was on Tinder for three months during the summer and didn’t have one man ask me out. Not one. Most men didn’t even swipe right for me. The few ones that did swipe right and started conversations with me that didn’t involve a disgusting pick-up line or an invitation for a one-night-stand, told me I was beautiful and carried on a small conversation, but never bothered to ask me out on a date.
      – I have had men come up to me at bars and clubs to ask me to sleep with them, but never to ask me on a date.

      Being a woman doesn’t automatically guarantee you can find men to be in relationships with. Your female friends are very lucky that they are able to find so many men who want to be in relationships with them because unfortunately a lot of women aren’t lucky enough to have that increasingly rare privilege. Most men these days just want to have sex without a committed relationship, so I’d almost argue it’s the opposite–– there are more women who want relationships than men, so theoretically there’s more unhappy single women than unhappy single men.

      Hope this clears things up

      Reply

  56. A raw and passionately revealing essay on the truth that not just women go through but men experience as well in this day and age. I commend you for your courage to reveal what most people are wondering. The chopsticks question reminds me of the similar experience when I travel solo and people ask me who I am traveling with? After revealing the answer that i am on my own, and then follows their typical response of “Why?” Where I usually respond with “Why not?” but still feel that slight pain you mentioned in your essay. Thank you for being so brave and baring it all for the world to see.

    Reply

  57. Well there are just too many very Pathetic Loser women out there these days to have a relationship with for us Good men since the real Good old fashioned women are all gone now, and many women these days are Nothing like they were.

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  58. Fantastic statement as I can so relate!! All of it 😉

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  59. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been single for a very long time, and now in my late 30’s. It does feel as as I’m in a class often forgotten. As I’m getting older, it’s increasingly harder since everyone I know is coupled up. And for some reason have to be with that person all the freaking time. (Loved your no you cannot bring a man party)…. anyways, thank you for speaking on loneliness since no one does, but it’s so silently in our faces.

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  60. Thank you so much, so very very much for this. I needed this this morning.

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  61. Beautifully written, so very thoughtful and insightful, questions we all struggle with, especially not feeling like you are part of a bigger picture. The question of “if I’m love able wouldn’t I have found love by now?” Really hits home. Thank you for your honesty.

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  62. Career women are to really Blame for many of us Good men still Single today since we really Can’t Blame ourselves at all which many of us are really Not Single by choice.

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  63. Since there are so many CAREER Women nowadays which many of them will only want the BEST and will never settle for LESS.

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  64. Thank you thank you thank you! I related to SO much in this article. The description of coming home and crying ….definitely been there, done that. I’ve been single better part of 3 years and am now 40 (been briefly married). I’m losing hope i’ll even know how to have a man in my life again even though sometimes the loneliness is overwhelming.

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  65. Thanks for this post Briony. It hits very close to home, especially the part about feeling the loneliness physically. I have a hard time accepting that I’m still single, and am tired out from expending the amount of energy it takes to keep up hope everyday. I’m also tired of going to bed alone and of the so-so guys out there (there is a shocking lack of decent guys around me!). On days like this, all I can do is look for comfort from someone else who understands what it feels like to be single. Thank you again for sharing so honestly and openly. You’re a superstar!

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  66. Not even going to lie. This article hits so close to home that I cried reading this – I swear it’s not the PMS.

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  67. I realize this article is a bit old now, but it’s given me some consolation in the middle of another lonely night. Thank you for sharing, thank you for being vulnerable, and so sorry to see some of the terrible comments you’ve received.
    Please know it helped someone in a low moment!

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  68. The way i look at it which the men and women out there that were very blessed to find their loved ones were very lucky to begin with since many of us would’ve wanted that as well, especially for us men that really hate being single and alone since we were very unsuccessful in love. And the married people could really care less since their life is so very much complete. Being invited to a couples party is much worse for us since they will throw it in our faces and say to us, why haven’t you found somebody yet which makes us even more sad. And i would tell them to their faces well gee wiz if i had been as lucky as you then i definitely would’ve been all settled down too.

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  69. My favourite was the time I brought my “best friend” of almost 20 years to an ex-boyfriends place ( we dated briefly years ago ) and they ended up hooking up, and now they are 2 years into their relationship, twice in which he travelled to Latin America to visit her. TWICE.
    All the while they both basically ditched me as a friend, and I continue to stay single after being married and having a son. When I used to say to her “hey, its your turn to find me a guy” she would scoff at me and reply, “why do you always say that?!”
    Because bitch, IT’S NOT FAIR.
    We are no longer friends. This really has nothing to do with the article, but its as if there are 2 types of women. The ones who are single and empathetic and the ones who are coupled up and completely with their head in the fuckin clouds.

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  70. You can thank feminism for this.

    Cheers,

    Single 30 year old male.

    Reply

  71. Thank you so much for this article. I’m 22 and I’ve been single my entire life. I recently gave up on dating (more or less permanently) and it frustrates me to no end to have people pooh-pooh my frustration and loneliness with non-defininite promises about “the right guy being just around the corner,” when there’s no guarantee. It’s refreshing not to be alone in my loneliness

    Reply

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