"The thing you are most afraid to write. Write that." -Nayyirah Waheed
I’ve gone to a lot of weddings by myself. I rock up to the church in four inch heels and my parent’s minivan, toting a gift I hope they actually want. I sneak in the back and sit next to someone I vaguely know, inevitably cry during the wedding vows, and then afterwards in the lobby sip punch and turn on my best girl-flirting (ohmygoshyoulooksogoodwheredidyougetyourdress?!).
At the ceremony, I’m usually at the designated singles-table, which can either be painfully boring or the life of the party. Either way, no one judges you for getting seconds or thirds of cake, or stealing a bottle of wine from the table next to you.
The bride always looks stunning, there’s always at least one funny speech, and I’ll always pity-laugh at the rest that aren’t funny. The father-daughter dance is usually to a corny country song, and the couple’s first dance to something by Ed Sheeran.
When it’s time to hit the dancefloor, the DJ will always play YMCA and Cha Cha Slide. By now most of us have lost the heels, except for that one girl who looks just as perfect as when she arrived. Meanwhile, I am regretting the third serving of cake, and am tired of holding my breath to suck in my gut.
Eventually, the DJ will put on a slow song and as all the happy couples pair up across the dance floor, there is suddenly a line for the women’s bathroom.
In the bathroom we finally breathe, check our hair, and wait for our cue: the familiar sound of Beyonce’s “uh oh uh oh uh oh uhwoaha”. At this, the line for the restroom dissipates and all the single ladies run onto the dance floor to flap their bare left hands and act like being single is the best thing that has ever happened to them.
And maybe I’m the only one, but when I’m home with my dress hung in the closet and my makeup stained facecloth on the side of the tub, I find myself in bed scrolling through my ex’s Instagram, or those of my favourite Insta-couples whose lives are somehow perfectly colour coordinated. And a feeling of longing creeps up from my stomach, which is immediately swallowed down by a resoluteness to not be so damn pathetic.
I grew up in a small, rural community where most girls are married by twenty-two. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and many of my married friends are very happy and fulfilled. The problem, however, is in the wonted idea that life doesn’t start until you find someone. Or rather, that your time alone is simply prologue – the book doesn’t really start until you’re in love.
At eighteen I resented everything about this perspective, and so with little money and a very smug, better-than-thou-attitude, I left. I never wanted the fact that I was alone to stop me from doing something awesome, and I am thankful to say that this has truly become engrained in who I am.
What began as not being afraid to wander the city or going to a new church or social event alone, eventually turned into moving across the world to Thailand by myself, backpacking throughout SEA, and even completing a four-day motorbike trip through Northern Vietnam entirely alone. Most recently, it meant moving across the country to a province with the most majestic mountains but not a single familiar face.
For me, independence was addictive, and singleness soon became synonymous with strength. While these feats may seem to be brave or simply boastful, they were also a sort of defence mechanism. The thought of having a boyfriend was sometimes appealing, but the realities of a codependent relationship were scarier than doing anything alone.
There tends to be two reactions to singleness: desperation or defensiveness. While my tendency is clearly towards the latter, I admit that this is no better than the girl I always rolled my eyes at, the one who hates Valentine’s Day and can’t watch a rom-com without a severe emotional breakdown following because she “just wants to be in LOVE”.
The truth is, humans are made for connection, and the desire for relationship is real and necessary. It is not good for man to be alone, truly, but it is not good either for man to not know how to be alone.
Waiting for “him” is not sitting around writing letters to your future husband or waking up each morning wondering if maybe today you’ll meet him. In fact, I hesitate to use the term “waiting” entirely for it projects an image of stagnancy when it is really an active task.
Waiting is not sitting around, it is sprinting – jaw clenched, arms pumping - towards the woman I want to become, until I find someone whose rhythmed footsteps match my pace, and can run along beside me.