At 22 years old my romantic experiences are coming in at zero. That is not an exaggeration in the slightest. Ya girl has never been on a date, never been asked out, never been kissed … you get the gist. My romantic life is a compilation of rom-com titles. Most people I meet here on campus cannot quite believe that it’s true. Somehow that makes me feel worse about it than the actual lack of romance in my life. Yes, I’m 22 and single and inexperienced and at this stage, I’m trying to accept that lot in life.
My friends assure me again and again that it’s a matter of time. It took time for them to find their person too. There’s nothing wrong with me. Someone will come along that will make the wait worthwhile. I just need to hold out hope.
After a while though, hope seems futile and masochistic. I’m stuck in place while everyone else seems to move forward and find love and lose it and do it all over again. Is that too much of a bummer? I promise this article is not going to be a downer all the way through.
I know I’m not the only one in this situation. Society has a long history of setting romantic relationships as an expectation of life. The very concept of soulmates implies a sense of incompleteness without a romantic partner. The ancient Greeks explained this through the story of Zeus slicing human’s original form as four-legged, four-armed, double-sexed because he believed them a threat to the Gods, which left the two halves always longing to be joined together again.
Elizabeth Brake, who is currently a professor of philosophy at Rice University, coined a term to define the phenomenon in the contemporary context: Amatonormativity. In her book Minimizing Marriage, Brake writes, “This consists in the assumptions that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types.”
It’s not entirely our fault that we place romance on a pedestal that in turn chips away at our own sense of joy and comfort in ourselves. Cultural critic and essayist Lauren Kipnis writes, “We prostrate ourselves at love’s portals, like social strivers waiting at the rope line outside some exclusive club hoping to gain admission and thereby confirm our essential worth,” describing the yearning most people have for romantic relationships.
Your feelings are valid. Everyone around you is going to try to make you feel better and shower you in reassurances because they love you and want you to be happy. But you are allowed to indulge your frustrations and your emotional storms when you need to.
Insecurity thrives in a society that prioritizes romantic loves as much as ours does. It is easy to fall into the trap of attaching self-worth to desirability. Allowing yourself to feel is healthy and necessary. Some days it is perfectly acceptable to be mad at the universe for the shitty cards you’ve been dealt because love causes heartache even when it’s not there.
While we may not have gained admission to the romance club, that does not mean we should be doomed to feelings of loneliness and living vicariously through everyone else. Being secure in one’s aloneness is key. I try to take myself out on “self-dates” where I go to a restaurant and eat a meal by myself or go to a movie alone or just hang out somewhere for the express purpose of spending time with myself. These genuinely make me feel better. Plus, I love an opportunity to dress up, do my makeup and force myself out of the house. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. This summer I took a day to myself after being in a bit of a funk. I saw Black Widow in the theatre, bought two pairs of cute earrings I happened to see and then treated myself to a crepe downtown. Sometimes it’s as simple as a movie and dessert. Others it may be something more. Do what fulfills your need at the time.
Romantic love can be beautiful and enriching. Nevertheless, its absence does not mean there is a lack of anything in your life. It doesn’t feel great to look around and feel like you’ve been left behind. I would know. Perpetual singlehood and inexperience sucks sometimes but it is not a reflection of your worth or your desirability.
Say it with me now: I am complete on my own.