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Mid-February is the most frigid time of year, so it’s always seemed apt that that this is when they choose to hold the highest holy day of the cult of coupledom.If you’re reading this, there’s a not insignificant chance that you are one or several of the following: a) young b) female c) single or d) nauseated by the sheer volume of saccharine romantic propaganda sloshing around the public sphere at this particular time of year.
With that in mind, it’s time, as the Americans say, for some real talk.Anti-Valentine’s rants are almost as cliched as the hearts-and-flowers parade.I have too much respect for you to subject you to yet another list of reasons to enjoy being single, or things to do whilst you wait for your soulmate to arrive.In practise, these mostly seem to involve wearing pyjamas, applying face-masks and modelling for stock photos.But this is a point in the calendar when people start asking the internet for love advice, so here’s mine. Not just ‘alright’, not just ‘bearable’—actively better.I think that it’s usually better for women to be single. I have spent most of my twenties single, sometimes by choice, and sometimes because I was dating men and unable to locate one of those who didn’t try to hold me back or squash me down.
I spent quite a lot of time being sad about that, even though my life was full of friends, fulfilling work, interesting lovers and overseas adventures.
Looking back, though, staying single was probably the best decision I made, in terms of my career, my dedication to my work and activism, and the lessons I learned about how to care for myself and other people. There were times when I badly wanted a partner, and for much of that time, I felt like I had to choose between having one and being my best self.
That self, the self that was dedicated to writing, travelling and doing politics, that had many outside interests and more intense friendships, was not something men seemed to value or desire—at least not in that way.
I don’t mean to suggest that I don’t also have gigantic, awkward flaws that make me largely unbearable to be with—just that boys rarely stuck around long enough to find that out.
Plenty of them were perfectly happy to sleep with me, but after a little while, when I became a real person to them, when it became more than just sex, they turned mean or walked away. There were weeks where I walked around like I’d been kicked in the chest, wishing like hell that I had the ability to be someone else, someone more stereotypically loveable.
With hindsight, though, I’m glad that I’ve never been willing or able to narrow my horizons for a man.