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My Solo Cup.

Ever since graduate school, I’ve wanted to get a compass tattoo on the back of my neck. An old school compass like they used to use on tall ships. With several concentric rings and an eight-point star at the center. And true north directed up towards my brain—my mind, my seat of intuition, my understanding of myself. I’ve always been oddly and deeply self-reflective, which means that I think a lot about who I am and what’s important to me. I’m not easily swayed, though the world certainly tries. And never has this been more true than with my single life.

My single life—which I embrace with such passion and verve—is one of those things that I simply don’t think the world will ever understand. The world that believes that everything belongs in pairs, that space is meant to be occupied, and that aloneness equates to loneliness. In all of its subtle and not-so-subtle ways, it makes me think that I ought to have a plus one. And because my internal compass is strong, I resist. Sometimes quietly. Sometimes not-so-quietly. Sometimes amusedly. Sometimes less so.

I’m 5’2″ and fairly petite, and I sleep in a Cali king bed. Yes, a Cali king, which is slightly narrower but slightly longer than a regular king. Like everyone else in college, I suffered years with the extra long twin. I managed to survive graduate school with a full. And as soon as I got my first big job, I treated myself to a queen, but that was only because my bedroom door wouldn’t close with anything bigger. In fact, when I asked my landlord back then whether a Cali king would fit in my bedroom, the first question he asked was whether my boyfriend was really that tall. I laughed and said: “Oh I don’t have a boyfriend.” To which he responded: “Then why do you need such a big bed?”

My desire to politely end his presumptuous and intrusive line of questioning ultimately trumped my intense need to punch his face. To this day, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t have been sufficient for me to simply want a sea of bed all to myself, and why it was any of his business to connect my bed size to my relationship status. To be honest, I can fly, swim laps, and make snow angels in my Cali king—on a diagonal no less. Isn’t that reason enough to want one? Why would I ever want to share that precious real estate?

Whenever I mention seeing a movie by myself, folks inevitably ask: “Why would you see a movie by yourself?” And I respond with: “Why not? You’re in the dark. You’re not supposed to be talking anyway.” Unless you’re that really annoying person who talks through the entire movie and gets death glares from complete strangers. Which means I’ll never want you with me at the movies—ever. Plus, movies are inherently shared by everyone sitting together in the theater. I really don’t need to have someone I know next to me to have that experience.

I remember when I used to make reservations on OpenTable before they had the “1 person” option. I had to book a table for two and then add an awkward note to indicate that the table was really for one, just so they didn’t expect two people to show up before seating me. I mean, they would’ve been waiting forever. And I would’ve been starving. At least this way it was just awkward on-line. But did it need to be awkward at all? Can’t I just go out and savor my own bites with my own thoughts?

Sometimes I’ll tell folks about an awesome event I went to, and they’ll say: “Ohmigosh! I totally would’ve gone with you! Let me know next time you go!” And just to be nice, I’ll let them know. Several times. And they’ll be unavailable. Every time. And I’ll wonder why I ever asked for company and subjected myself to unnecessary rejection, especially when I was perfectly happy going by myself in the first place.

Whenever I’m with a male companion of any sort, the world presumes (like my former landlord) that it should comment on our (generally non-existent) relationship status. I was recently walking down the street with a friend after we went shopping for groceries (one of the most mundane tasks ever), and a random woman on the street called out: “Honey, why aren’t you two holding hands?!” Well, random woman on the street, maybe it’s because our hands are holding groceries? Or because they’re sweaty? Or because he’s just my friend and why should it matter to you anyway?

I love traveling solo, all over the world. As long as I feel safe, I never worry about exploring cities on my own, not even when I have no idea what anyone is saying around me. I wake up when I choose to wake up (if I choose to wake up). I wander where I choose to wander, for as long and far as I can go. I see, hear, taste what I choose to see, hear, taste. So I’m as adventurous as I choose to be. And there’s something invigorating about all of that freedom and choice. To know that I can make of a place what I choose to make of it.

Yet there are so many places that I wouldn’t feel safe enough to experience on my own.

And I get angry and frustrated sometimes, at how the world won’t always let me be me. When that’s all that I want. To enjoy my solo cup.

Most of the time though, I laugh. Because how I respond to the world’s constant assault on my singleness is still a choice, one that I have to make.

Image Credit: Hoi Ning Ngai

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