How To Shut Society Up And Embrace Being Single

[Image credit: Lotus Carroll]

Scallop pancakes and mussel pots. A beautiful, boasting bibimbap. Chicken skewers dripping in a honey glaze sweet enough to turn the sourest cynic into a believer.
A few days ago, one of New York City’s many noteworthy restaurants made for me one of the most decadent meals I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I was contented. Rapturous. Satiated. And in the midst of my dreamlike, unquenchable state, I was interrupted–
“…but aren’t you bored? I mean, if I didn’t have a boyfriend or a cat, I sure would be.”

I dropped my chopsticks. I had lost my appetite.

In recent decades, the term spinster has denoted a lonely, unhappy woman. Spinsterism tells us if we’re not coupled up, then we should, by default, have cats (just look at Taylor Swift, pre-Calvin, and what will most probably inevitably end up being Taylor Swift, post-Calvin). I’m sure my friend didn’t intend for her comment to be offensive or judgmental in nature, but I fidgeted in my chair, then met her gaze with sly reproach. I had not men on the brain, but only food in the mouth.

This generation birthed the New Woman. The Old Woman has been reincarnated into a fierce, career-driven force akin to Beyonce’s ‘single lady,’ and she isn’t being chastised for her ambition the way she was a century ago. But I’d be lying if I said society isn’t unsettled by the New Woman’s willful independence; even today, society dictates we aren’t anyone until we’re with someone. Just ask my coworker:
“You’re still just someone’s daughter until you’ve got your own family.”

Or my mother:
On a recent trip home, I was greeted with nearly floor-to-ceiling-length wedding photos of my sister and her husband.
“Where are the pictures of me?” I asked.
“You’ll get back up there,” my mother said.
“When you get married, too.”
“What if I never get married?”

It’s a sad truth, but what’s undeniable is, well, single people are bullied. So how do you make the most out of being single, so that singledom doesn’t merely feel like biding time until The One?

Pour the love you’re capable of giving into those who deserve to be loved.
I used to drown in self-pity, saying to myself, “I wish I had someone to love ‘cuz I’ve got so much love to give.” I learned instead of storing love, leaving it dormant and deeming it only worth awakening once I’ve met The One, I should pour love into family and friends. The ones who’ve been there all along are the ones who deserve it. And one day, maybe someone who hasn’t been there all along will deserve it, too.
Do what’s cathartic for you.
We churn out the best product when we aren’t enveloped in the hazy afterglow of being in love. Instead of spending frazzled energy on why X hasn’t called me back in Y days for Z number of reasons, I channel a much more concentrated energy on doing things I know I’m good at it, and that which makes me feel alive.

As author Kate Bolick points out:
“[Jane] Austen never married, [Edith] Wharton didn’t fully come into her own as a writer until she’d divorced her husband, and Mary Eleanor Wilkins – a wildly successful fiction writer…did in fact produce her best work before she married at age fifty.”
(I said it before, and I’ll say it again: keep doing you. You don’t want to meet The One, and both subsequently and inadvertently stunt your maximum potential because you fell too soon).

They reason my life must be boring. I haven’t found my soulmate, so I must have cats to get by.
But they’re wrong; I do have a soulmate. Infact, I’ve got many soulmates: during the day, they’re cherry blossoms. At night, it’s Jhumpa Lahiri. And for all those moments in between, I’ve got myself.

I may never find The One, but come Hell or high water, I will have left behind a life well-lived. I may be buried next to someone, or I may not be buried next to anyone at all. But should the latter occur, I’ll be sure my gravestone says something like, “Here lies Sheena: she led a long and fruitful life. She loved fully, and laughed truly, and lived courageously. And though she was alone, she was never lonely.”

Prove them wrong. Your soulmate is you.



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