Imagine a guy in a romantic comedy saying this: "I'm lonely. I've been single for way too long, and all I really want to do now is find someone to settle down with." If you conjured some sweet Ryan Gosling-type in a flannel shirt and a roguish smile who just deserves a chance at ~love~, it's not your fault. It's the way men tend to be portrayed in the media when it comes to romance. Now let's close our eyes again and imagine a girl character saying the same thing. What do you conjure instead? Probably someone desperate. Someone clingy. Someone whose cliché eggs are on a cliché clock and possibly has ulterior motives for snapping someone up. It's the He's Just Not That Into You culture leaking out of our brains — and navigating the world as a single girl in her twenties, I can attest to just how much it sucks.
To be fair, I personally haven't gone out and tried to find an S.O. Some of it is because I'm very busy and important (read: I have a job, and a lot of things on my Netflix queue), but a huge factor is that it's kind of impossible for a single woman to present herself to the world as "looking for a relationship" without being instantly and unfairly judged for it. Like a lot of single girls, I've been conditioned to play it cool. Even a slightly self-deprecating joke about my singledom is somehow interpreted as anti-feminist, and more often than not, in the rare instances that I genuinely, honestly voice my concerns about it out loud, I am instantly shut down. I'm supposed to focus on other things, I'm too young to be worrying about this, if I just stop worrying about it then it will work itself out. I am supposed to be a Strong And Independent Woman Who Doesn't Need A Man, and anything that indicates otherwise is uncomfortable.
The truth is, I don't need an S.O.; I've been without one for four years, and I'm fully capable of living a fulfilled life without one. But that doesn't mean the desire to be in a relationship just "Poof!" vanishes into thin air. I think a lot of women are on this same murky boat, trying to reconcile their desire to share their lives with someone with their desire to maintain their reputations as strong, independent women — and here is exactly why those two desires have nothing to do with each other:
Wanting To Be In A Relationship Doesn't Make You Any Less Of A Feminist
As a feminist, you can acknowledge that you are fully independent, fully equal, and fully capable of living a fulfilled life without someone else in the picture. And as a feminist, you know that these ideals don't magically disappear the moment you start seeing someone. Whether or not you want to be in a relationship has nothing to do with feminism, and it's upsetting that the media has occasionally perpetuated this idea that "this character is a feminist, because she chose this, that, and the other thing over a man". I don't want to be branded as a feminist because I chose work over dating; I want to be branded a feminist because I am and always have been one, and my current relationship status shouldn't be a reflection of that. We all make different choices and have different priorities in our lives, and just because your priorities don't agree with the stereotype of what feminism looks like doesn't make you a "bad feminist".
You Aren't Looking For A Relationship To Complete Yourself
Here's the thing: we are never complete as humans, whether or not we're with someone. We are constantly learning and growing and screwing things up and learning all over again. I acknowledge as a single person that there isn't some magic Relationship Land where all of my problems will be somehow fixed; the whole point of being in a relationship is that you basically take on twice the problems, because surprise, you're now responsible for another human, too. When strong single women want to be in a relationship, it doesn't come from a desire to complete something that is "missing" in their life — rather, it comes from the desire to share the parts of themselves that already exist with someone else who shares them back.
You Deserve To Be Open And Honest Without Being Judged
I love my friends and family. I do. But I have always sensed that it is taboo to complain about being single to them, especially because up until this point in my life, I never really have complained about it; when it comes from me, they are first a little surprised, and then immediately try to shut it down. The first comment will earn a "Oh, you'll find someone eventually" and the second one will earn something dismissive along the lines of, "Well you're not trying hard enough" or "Just stop worrying about it so much".
As a single person, you risk getting judged for not wanting to be single even by other single people. And you feel that shame for vocalizing it even if you can't quite explain why. It's already embarrassing to say that you're lonely. It's an incredibly vulnerable thing to admit that you are tired of being alone. And no wonder, when everybody hastens to shut you up about it even in the very rare instances that it comes up. (I need to emphasize "rare" here. I'm not, like, buying out a billboard for my woes.) But really, what are we embarrassed about? If we all stopped being big babies about this and just owned up to it, the world would be better off for everyone. Single people would find each other instead of hiding under rocks. If someone is going to take the stigma off of it, it's going to have to start with the strong, independent women who stop giving a sh*t until everybody else just takes their lead.
Wanting That Kind Of Closeness Is Human Nature
None of us would exist if this desire weren't so old and innate. I know that some people don't identify this way, but for most of the planet, there is a deep-seated biological desire to be intimately close to someone. That's nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing that makes you in any way less of a strong or independent person. It just makes you a person.
We Need To Dispel The Unfair Stereotypes About Women Who Want To Be In Relationships
Specifically the "clingy" girl and the "cool" girl. The clingy girl is lovesick, a hopeless romantic, and wants to be in a relationship; the "cool" girl doesn't give a crap and goes with the flow and never puts pressure on anything. Here's the thing, though: those girls don't exist. We are all way too complicated and unique, and it sucks that it feels like single women are depicted as one or the other with very little space in between. I am the "cool girl," in some respects. I'm the girl who goes with the flow, who tags along as the third, fifth, and seventh wheel, the girl who doesn't bother trying to date. But I am every bit as much the clingy girl who wants to feel that kind of closeness with another person, who struggles with being alone, and occasionally resents my friends for being happy in their relationships — and there is nothing wrong with being that girl, either. Instead of putting women into either one of those "good" or "bad" camps, we should be able to embrace being neither and all of those things without fear of judgment. In the words of Kim K, just let us live.
It's Literally The Only Way You're Going To Find Someone
If you pretend you're fine with be single your whole life, guess what? You're going to be single your whole life. I fear that a lot of single women don't put themselves out there for the sake of saving their pride. I fear that because I'm one of them, and I know that I am far from alone. But it's time to stop feeling embarrassed about this. It's time to stop pretending everything is great in the moments when it really isn't. It's time to stop feeling like we have to celebrate being single all the time — because as great as it can be, there are moments when it just plain sucks, and we should be able to talk about it without being branded. Say it with me, everyone: I am allowed to want to be in a relationship, and I am no less of a strong, capable, intelligent, self-aware human being for it.
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