I like to convince myself that the pillars of institutionalized romance have crumbled a little. Needless to say, my job never lets me delude myself for long. I work in a bakery. As soon as February 1 creeps around, it’s in with the pinks and reds, the cinnamon hearts, and the chocolate-covered strawberries.
I’m solely writing love letters on pastry for the foreseeable future — it’s debatable which is sweeter.
While pseudo-empowering anthems ironically play on the store speakers those days, the first few weeks of February never fail to remind me that one thing is certain: people don’t like to be alone.
Based on the frequency of posts about how freeing independence is, you’d think that societal desire for romantic relationships has diminished as time has frittered away. Alas, it’s done anything but, and saccharine displays continue to litter social media time and time again.
Sure, nobody wants to feel lonely. But being alone? Completely different.
I used to be the same way — entering relationships because I thought I had to. Simply existing in the world is an enduring proof of human codependence. After all, relationships really have biologically kept us going for quite a while.
Even in our most individual moments, when we’re celebrating accomplishments of our own, there’s a collective prompt to find someone to share them with, and it shows. People treat you differently when you’re single, and more so when your intentions are to remain that way. Not all people, and not all the time, for the record. It’s not palpable, nor is it exactly unkind; rather, it is subtle — a steady, unrelenting stream of pity.
Though we’ve learned to put our aversions aside, backhanded compliments arise frequently: “How are you still single?” they ask, with an emphasis on the ‘you’ — or, perhaps, on the ‘still.’ The questions are ironically coupled with offers to set you up because “you and my coworker just have so much in common,” and “trust me, you’ll love them.”
They probably don’t mean it, though.
Instead, the collective seems to think that marriage and kids are the syrupy-sweet hallmark of growing up: a fail-safe plan to make us feel accomplished. Maybe we didn’t nab that dream job, but at least we found the love of our lives. That one seems more realistic, right?
Growing up, I spent my time with my nose in the most complex books I could understand. I found myself in that strange place between childhood and teenage years — trying to be myself as much as possible, while also trying to not stand out to any absurd degree. Even still, I had big dreams, and I planned on achieving every single one of them.
Not one of those dreams ever entertained the idea of having another person with me — a partner, a lover, or anything of that sort. I never dreamt of a big wedding or having a family and kids to come home to at the end of the day.
Of course, this led me to battle years of skepticism from friends, family, past partners, and even failed conquests who claimed that they knew my future goals better than I do. I’ve heard it when meeting new people, while minding my business at work, and in the middle of entirely unrelated conversations. As soon as I mention that marriage and kids aren’t a part of my time continuum, I’m faced with a chorus of “you’ll change your mind when you’re older.” Maybe I will. I’m only 19. But how do you know that you won’t change yours?
Human beings are naturally skeptical — and I understand why people might be skeptical of my decision. I suppose there’s irony in the fact that I lack desire to contribute to humanity. But somehow, the onus is always on those who don’t want marriage and kids. Although these criticisms are only the tip of a very frigid iceberg, I’m the one who appears cold.
I try to take those comments with a spoonful of sugar. Historically, many cultures expected marriage and motherhood to be the epitome of a woman’s life. It’s a huge world, and navigating it on your own can be daunting. I get it.
But honestly? I’ve never felt less encumbered than when I’m single.
I have no worries if I do end up changing my mind. From my friendships, I’ve found that forging relationships isn’t hard. I have friends who have children and friends who are engaged, even in their early twenties. As for myself, I’m not on some long schlep to find ‘the one.’ While I’m fully aware that the two can co-exist, I plan on experiencing life first and worrying about potential conquests if I get to that bridge.
Do I have qualms about wanting to stay single? Not in the slightest. I think it’s worth it. It’s high time that we allow those pillars of institutionalized romance to crumble beneath our fingers a little, like those pastry crusts.
The reward is just as sweet.