We live in a world inundated with dating, couples, marriage and having children. It's near impossible to watch a fictional movie or TV show where even one female character isn't pining after a relationship. The majority of people I know my age are constantly swiping left or right on a hot new dating app, sipping drinks during uncomfortable first dates at loud bars, fretting over whether or not a partner could be “the one,” planning weddings, playing board games at couples nights or making the life-changing decision to have children.
While all of this is fine, what about the people who choose to live solo? According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 64 percent of millennials choose to remain single. I happen to be one such person, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
And then my parents call.
My parents wanted more than anything to have children who would get married and produce grandchildren. Lucky for them, my younger brother followed their dream trajectory, but me? No. I didn't just wander off the path, I blew it to pieces. I came out as gay after high school, and then declared I was happily single. As my parents have slowly come around to the lesbian thing, I sometimes suspect the only reason is because they still hope I won't fulfill their worst nightmare: to be ALONE.
Regular Saturday phone calls home often include: “You need to find a nice … person … so you're not so alone all the time.” My eyes roll so far back in my head they rattle as I respond for the millionth time, “I'm not alone, I'm happy being single.” My parents proceed anyway, as if they've never heard my response, to explain how much better my life will be as soon as I find a partner. I must have no idea what I'm missing, like I've never experienced a relationship before. I guess my friends, family, great job and obvious contentment with my life aren't quite enough.
I have been in relationships. My solo-dom started involuntarily after the end of a bad relationship in 2009. Heartbroken, I couldn't imagine myself with anyone else, so at first I didn't even try. But over time as I healed, I got used to stretching my limbs and venturing out on my own. I didn't have to spend all my resources caring for somebody else; I finally had space to care for myself, and I fell in love with my newfound freedom.
Once or twice I entertained the idea of dating, usually at the prodding of friends. I signed up for OK Cupid, but I only went on one date. The girl was nice enough, but she had a strong obsession with U2 and a strange fried chicken Facebook picture. We weren't compatible. That was the first and last date I have been on since my last breakup. In the back of my mind, I heard a voice telling me it was just one bad date and I hadn't tried hard enough, but that didn't feel like the reason to me.
I was uncomfortable and finding a partner felt like I would be adding a shackle. At first I pegged it to unresolved issues from my last relationship, but it’s seven years after that breakup, and I'm still not willing to give up my ability to choose my own movies, freely write my own social calendar and pick up my life and move at the first new opportunity. At some point, I just had to admit I am a person who finds the most joy going solo, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Where I am Now
Not to mention, I'm really not alone. I find love and support in my friends and family. I have a job I adore and great co-workers. I volunteer my time to causes important to me, and I want to be an amazing aunt to my young nephew. My cats keep me entertained, and I can make decisions for myself without having to compromise. I accomplish all of this best by living as my most authentic solo self, and bowing out from under the pressure to pair off.
I don’t need to defend my decision to remain single or subscribe to the world's idea of coupledom as the ultimate life success. And if the statistics on millennials choosing to live alone are any indication, I’m not the only one. If finding a life partner isn’t on your list of life’s goals, it’s time for all of us to allow ourselves to let that go and find our own solo bliss.
Now I spend many lunches listening to friends or co-workers talk about their partners or children and the way their lives have changed. Every once in awhile they will turn in my direction and remind me how lucky I am to be single. I smile graciously and emphatically answer, “I know.”