Recently, I went to a dinner party with several girlfriends, all of whom are single. I had become a part of this club – a popular member who provided funny stories from online dating experiences and encouraged the others to join the game.
Comfortably settling into the flow of the evening’s conversation, I contributed freely to topics of interest, pleasantries about the weather and general menu discussion. Two courses and two bottles later, jaws slackened by evening booze and another week’s worth of anxiety, the casual chat turned to a heavy, intense address of the trials and tribulations of single life at 25.
What had been a fun, free lifestyle that was – more often than not – a choice, has become a persecution and ongoing punishment for sins unknown. No longer a liberation from taxing emotional affairs, single life is a curse, tarnishing every positive aspect of their lives with meaninglessness, hopelessness and the inescapable feeling that they will be alone forever.
And there is no reasoning with them. At all.
“Oh shut up, at least you have someone who loves you,” mumbled one particularly peeved friend as she stuck her nose into the ends of an enormous glass of Merlot.
Soured by my suggestion that they maybe try go on a date rather than sit around at a table bemoaning the lack of men in their lives, I was greeted by aggressive, glaring eyes like a herd of jilted lionesses threatened by another, more prosperous female.
Muttering something vague along the lines of “yes, but he does live 5,000 miles away,” I mimicked my friend’s nose dive into a wine glass and was soon relieved from the suffocating pressure by a waiter’s friendly voice asking if we would like another bottle. “YES” came the reply in terrifying unison.
I sat back into the booth and allowed the conversation to unfold around me, swarming with a hatred that was treated with raucous, callous humor. When did our standards become so immeasurably high and – if I’m being perfectly honest – impossible to meet?
“He has to be hot, but not like, too hot, and muscly but not like, vain or – even worse – a jock. He has to be funny but not a class-clown, smart but absolutely cannot be smarter than me, kind but not so nice that he’s boring, sensitive but not the type who cries all the time, rich but not loaded.” Etc.
Where are these men in the first place? And why on earth would anyone want someone so perfectly flawless?
Surely it’s the nuances of character, strange idiosyncrasies and occasionally irritating habits that have the magical powers to make a person “endearing,” and to create that inexplicable level of attraction that draws you to them like a moth to a flame. No?
As the girls continued to create their ongoing list of requirements, cackling as they agreed on various measures, I couldn’t help but chime in. Having to add a precursor to every expression of opinion along the lines of “I know I’m in a relationship, but-” (because they had obviously forgotten that I had ever been single) I had to open my big mouth and throw the evening’s finest, largest spanner into the works. “Would you not just give a guy a chance?”
Granted, I should have predicted the onslaught of anger that came my way, justified by a combination of nonsense, sense and – unfortunately – references to my own experiences of ”giving a guy a chance.”
“Wasn’t everyone you dated over here a freak?” asked one. “Every guy I have met over here sucks!” laughed another. “Why would I bother giving him a chance when I know it’s never going to work?”
This last one really got to me.
Fuelled by the increasing intensity of the conversation, and becoming defensive as fangs and talons loomed at me from across the table, I mistakenly asked how they could possibly know that it isn’t going to work if they never try.
Finally the lionesses turned to whimpering kittens, diffused by their lack of excuses, reasons or answers – whatever way you want to put it. A resounding “because I just know” put an end to the discussion.
We asked for the check, the subject was changed to benign chatter and we went our separate ways. I pulled my phone out of my bag as I walked to the subway station, and felt a smile pulling at the corners of my mouth as I saw messages from my guy at home.
In this city where the pace is fast, work is hard and there is the impending doom of visa applications, payments and potential rejections, everyone is on edge.
Exhausted as we hit our 11th month in the city, making rent is becoming increasingly difficult as lawyers begin to lay out payment plans of anywhere between $3K and $5K so that you can stay here and continue to be stressed, over-worked, over-heated and under paid. Suddenly, having “someone who loves you” is so much more than a romantic relationship.
All of us are stressed, tired and sick of the sound of our own voices as we competitively rattle off all the things we have done that day, followed by an even longer list of tomorrow’s deadlines, doubled by Friday and tripled for the following week. When we meet up for a meal or drinks to blow off steam, we want to talk about anything other than work, because once someone starts, everyone joins in.
Ranting about the lack of men in our lives and attributing that to causes outside of our own blame and to flaws in the system beyond our control eases the pain of it all.
However, if I can berate my friends for forgetting that I was single, then I should do the same to myself. This summer I felt the emptiness and shallowness of it all.
On a date one night, I went to the ladies room to “powder my nose.” Checking my phone for messages, I saw the logo of the Tinder app (where we had met) staring up at me from the screen.
“He’s definitely on Tinder right now while I’m in here, looking for the next girl”
I thought to myself. I looked up from my phone at my reflection and suddenly felt completely alone. Shaking it off, I reapplied lippy and walked back to the bar, pretending I didn’t see him swiping left and right as I walked up behind him.
As the rain came down this morning and the first chills of autumn came creeping in my bedroom window, I felt incredibly grateful and deeply warmed by the soft sounds of incoming messages on my phone. The last thing the sad single gal needs is her happy, loved-up friend lending tacky advice that she didn’t even take herself.
So what good can I be to a single friend, and what good can her negativity towards all men be to me? Perhaps we should just attend different dinner parties, or learn to shut up.