I used to think being single was a means to an end, now I’m the main event

young woman falling backward and smiling in sports clothing
How to fall in love with yourselfProcess Visual - Getty Images

The summer after my ex broke up with me, I hated being single. I would think of things I wanted to tell him all the time, small things, about this nice woman I met on the tube or how I started dolloping yoghurt on everything because it just makes it taste better. I was desperate to fill up the space he left behind with other men. I stayed on a date for hours with some guy who showed me a very long, very unfunny video of him and his friend on ketamine, even though I knew right away I wasn’t attracted to him.

I started sleeping with this delivery man and would put up with his weird excuses to leave after we’d had sex like, ‘I left the Tupperware out of the fridge.’ I took things and tried to push and pull them into more than they were - I even invited said delivery man on a double date with me and my friend. On nights out I’d pretend to be listening to friends when really, I was looking over their shoulders to see if there were hot men around.

annie lord
Issey Gladstone

There was this guy I’ve known since I was younger and we met up for a drink and rather than just waiting and seeing what happened, if things could build into something, I rang him pretty much every weekend to ask if he wanted to hang out, often at 2am, until eventually he started ignoring me. Being single was a means to an end. It was a stopping off place where I could briefly regroup, get stuff out of my system, wear less and go out more, before inevitably, sooner rather than later, I’d meet someone and they’d be my new boyfriend. It didn’t quite work out that way, because four years later, I’m still single.

Because people can tell you’re desperate, even if you leave long gaps between texts. Because nowadays dating is hard and non-committal. Because of so many things. Things that annoyed me at the time but which now I am so grateful for because they forced me to be alone. To become confident and happy, to love myself in hundreds and thousands of ways, so that now I love being single. If you’re struggling, there are ways you can learn to love it too.

Firstly, stop trying to make things more than they are. Say you meet someone at a festival. You turn in the crowd and ask them if you can hit the vape, thinking they’re your friend, then you realise you’ve mistakenly asked a stranger. You realise they’re cute. They’re wearing one of those eighties waterproofs that looks like it’s made out of a collapsed kite and they have sleepy eyes. You make out with them and it’s the sort of kiss where your hand ends up in their hair.

In this sort of scenario, it can be tempting to let your mind race, imagine how they’ll get on with your friends, what sexy oversized T-shirt you’ll wear when you make breakfast in the morning. We never have any idea how something will turn out, so instead of working it out ahead of time, just enjoy what definitely did happen, how good you felt in that moment, and enjoy looking down at the floor because you felt embarrassed by how much you were smiling after that kiss.

We tend to think of the summer as a time to be social but it’s important to get to know yourself more. If you spend all your time going from pub garden to day festival, to club to pub garden again you’ll burn yourself out and you won’t end up being able to take in any of the experiences you’re having.

carefree friends having fun during their summer vacation in the sea
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Get a journal and clear your head of all the dumb stuff that swirls around in it. Walk around a park with no headphones on just listening to the silence seeing what seeps in between the gaps, buy a matcha latte so green it looks like something from an alien planet. Look after yourself as if you were your partner. Make your bed so it’s nice when you get in from a night out. Buy yourself a pastry from the shop. Remember, no one knows what you want better than yourself.

There’s a song that will always remind me of this summer. It’s Where the Lines Overlap by Paramore, especially the bit where Hayley sings, ‘No-one is as lucky as us, we’re not at the end but, we’ve already won.’ Although Hayley is singing about the opposite thing that I am explaining - the song is about being in a long-distance relationship - to me it reminds me of being young and single. For me, ‘the end’ she’s referring to is a relationship and the ‘winning’ part is my life now.

I did all that stuff, making friends, getting tattoos, working hard, because I thought it would make someone love me, because I thought it would get me a boyfriend. I saw being single as an in between stage before you arrive at somewhere else, a time to take stock, invest in yourself so that eventually you become so irresistible that you meet someone. Singleness was a stopping off point that you impatiently tapped your foot at like you were waiting for a train.

In many ways things did work in this way, I find it so much easier to meet men now, they’re at the sink at house parties passing me a glass to use for my drink. They’re at friend’s birthdays asking me if I want to go for a cig. I’m comfier in my skin, I don’t need them as much, so they want me more. But it’s almost not about that anymore, it’s not about getting to a destination at all. It’s the journey that’s the fun part. I’m not even sure if I want a boyfriend, I just keep thinking, ‘just one more year of fun, just another year of fun’. And now I wonder if I’ll always be on this journey, if I might ever arrive somewhere at all. And I like it, I love myself, it feels good.

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