Hey, it’s your Token Single Friend here. You’ve got your Token Ethnic Friend, your Token Gay Friend, and me. Nope, I haven’t had a steady boyfriend in years. Nuh uh, I don’t bring a date to any social events. Yep, I’m drinking a $10-bottle of wine on my balcony again. Alone! How did you GUESS?
Let’s cut to the chase. This is an intervention. Being your Token Single Friend is exhausting. But not for the reasons you think.
To all my friends (literally every last one of them, at this point) who are in a new relationship or the first months of your new marriage: I’m happy for you. Really, I am. I wish you all the happiness in the world. But just because you’ve found happiness with someone else doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy in the single life I’ve chosen for myself.
That’s right: I’m happy being single. Really happy, in fact. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, being uncoupled isn’t what makes me unhappy about being single… It’s you. Because, to be honest, you’re kind of a dick about it.
You shake your head at my life and the parade of bad choices you think I’m making, and you invite me to all your parties so I can entertain you and your other coupled-up friends with hilarious stories of my bad first dates. I’m the friend you relied on—heavily, I might add—to offer a sympathetic ear before you got your new boyfriend and adopted a cat together.
But now I’m the friend you only call every two months when you need a “girls’ night.” When you need to complain about your new man’s annoying habits. When you need someone to listen to you cry when you’ve had your first real fight. When you need to set up your boring friend from out of town with a not-completely-unattractive single lady to show them a good time. Now, you only seem to call me when you want to compare your life to mine and breathe a heavy sigh of relief about how good things are for you now, now that you’ve found someone.
Oh, wait, you thought I didn’t notice all the times you tossed a pitying look my way when I date another guy you think is bad for me? Or when I show up to another one of your boring weddings alone? Ah, I see… You actually thought I don’t get a little annoyed when you invite me into a group conversation so I can tell that hilarious story of that one time I had a catastrophic experience navigating the single life. Well, then, I guess this is a rude awakening for you.
Because I’m the only single one you know, you think I must have infinite amounts of time to dedicate to providing you entertainment with the tragicomedic sitcom that is my life. You know, going on bad dates and spending Friday nights alone with my cat watching reality TV. But to me, my life isn’t tragic, and it’s not all that funny. And I don’t like that you try to make me feel like it is.
Sure, I went on a date with a drug kingpin that one time. Yeah, I dated a cement-layer for months. There was that religious bigot I almost married. And okay, there’s that other guy who currently and literally lives in his parents’ basement. You know what? I still go out with him sometimes. Deal with it. And sometimes I’m not dating anyone at all, and that seems even harder for you to swallow.
You’ve chastised me for all those choices. But for all the times you adopted your condescending tone about how I “deserve better,” there were ten other times that you cornered me at happy hour and made me tell those same stories, over and over again, to a group of strangers so you could all have a good laugh at my expense.
“You should meet my friend X. I think you’d be perfect for each other.” “Don’t worry, you’ll find the one someday!” “He doesn’t deserve you.” “I don’t approve.” These are the common lines I hear echoing out of the mouths of my most well-meaning and, consequently, most insufferable friends.
Guys, I know you’re trying to help. Thanks, I guess. But here’s the thing: I don’t want your help, nor do I need it. There is no problem in my life that needs to be fixed. You take for granted that I must be looking for “my other half.” Guess what? I’m not. And I didn’t ask for your approval, because your approval doesn’t really matter to me. Just because you’ve landed yourself a special someone with whom you share a bed in a one-bedroom apartment in a mediocre neighborhood doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Especially not for me.
The drug kingpin was one of the most genuine and fun people I’ve ever met. The religious zealot made me feel stable during the time that we were together. The guy who lives with his parents was one of the most generous men that I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I shared some of the most passionate moments of my life with the day laborer you thought was too dumb to date me. I even miss some of them. And I learned important things about people and about myself during the time I was with each one. And I learned equally important lessons during those nights and weeks and months I spent totally alone.
Our culture doesn’t give much respect to the Token Single Friend, because our culture doesn’t give respect to being single at all. Finding “the one” is supposed to be the end goal, right? So how can anyone support the lifestyle of someone who chooses to navigate a life by themselves, or chooses to date multiple people casually, or chooses to allow people into their lives who don’t meet the criteria on an arbitrary checklist that supposedly leads to marriage and children and a white picket fence?
The couple-driven society we live in tries every day to force me to choose a mate and make a life with them. There is no “table for one” when I go to a restaurant. At family reunions, no one congratulates me for not bringing home a boyfriend the way they congratulate my cousins who bring home their new men to meet the family for the first time. When I meet new people, they never say, “I hope you’re single, because being single is so much fun!”
No. Instead, I’m met with looks of confusion and pity when people discover that I don’t share a life with someone else. I have overheard my friends and family questioning what’s wrong with me, if I’m doomed to be forever alone, if I’ll ever settle down and find somebody so my life will finally be full and whole and important.
I’ve listened to the stories of your past and current relationships with a supportive and attentive ear. I’ve helped you through your hard times and helped you celebrate your good ones (and you know goddamned well I was the most fun person there every time).
But you, on the other hand, listen to my stories and criticize me and my choices. You belittle the relationships that are important to me, just because they’re not the types of relationships you chose to have. You tell me to get myself together when I’m sad that one of those relationships ends because you don’t think there’s anything to be sad about. You wonder why I don’t go on endless dates when I’m tired and want to spend some time by myself. And that hurts my feelings. It’s that, not being single, that makes me feel isolated and lonely.
It hurts because I love you and I want you to be there for me like I have been for you. I want you to respect the life I lead — and the simultaneous multitudes and lack of people I lead it with — the way I respect yours. It makes me feel lonely because, during those moments, you abandon me on the ground while you climb your ivory towers and look down on the life I’ve worked hard to make for myself.
My life is full and whole and important. My life is full of friends like you, who (though sometimes misguided in the way you approach my choices) are smart, interesting, fun, and loving. I have a wonderful family that supports my career, health, growth, and adventures. I go stag to parties and I’m always the first one on the dance floor, and it makes me happy when you join me. I have quiet relationships with people whom you might not approve of, but who make my life full and interesting, who show me parts of this world I might not discover without them, who make me feel beautiful and powerful. I spend nights alone practicing the piano pieces I used to love; going to the gym to feel strong; volunteering and mentoring students at my favorite organization; cooking delicious desserts that I don’t have to share with some guy in the other room; planning vacations so I can climb new mountains and swim in new oceans and drive new roads; or writing about things that are important to me. Like this.
No, I don’t have a partner, but I don’t really think I need one with a life as full and whole and important as that. And I hope you’ll go forward and help your Token Single Friend love the full and whole and important life they’ve chosen, too.