Grazia's new columnist, Laura Jane Williams, shares her take on what it's really like to not be in a relationship in 2016.
I am so many things. Single, for one. Single and feminist, for another. If we're going to truly lay all the cards on the table, I'm single, feminist, and searching for the father of my children.
I'm dating widely, having sex freely, and looking for a love to last a lifetime with a best mate I can't keep my hands off – who also takes the bins out. Is that too much to ask? Is it even possible? And why do I feel like I'm betraying single girls everywhere by admitting that I don't want to die alone?
It drives me crazy how we talk about being single, not least because it's like we're a 'special species' to be studied. 'Singledom' is either painted as pathetic if you're looking for love - a la Bridget Jones - or as unemotional nymphomania if you're not, Sex and the City-style. Both these templates are, I believe, wildly outdated, inappropriate and quite frankly, unhelpful.
I'm not 'supposed' to actively want a boyfriend if I want people to take me seriously. I'm 'supposed' to… well. Just get on with it. Be more than who I date. The women who came before me worked too hard to give my generation choices beyond what a father or spouse decreed (thank god). Raised on Carrie Bradshaw et al, I understood that the single girl's life is 'supposed' to be endless cocktails and casual sex with the hot barmen serving them, patriarchy be damned – the evolution of which means I can now sit at home and swipe on my phone for match after match to make sure the men (and me) keep coming.
I'm looking for a love to last a lifetime with a best mate I can't keep my hands off – who also takes the bins out. Is that too much to ask?
There's wild singledom or eventual cozy coupledom, but what about the bit in between? Why aren't I allowed to talk about the longing for a quiet(ish) life for two? I can be busy every night of the week, but have nobody to spend Sunday morning with. That's a very particular breed of lonely. I don't want to have to swallow that down. I want to talk about it.
Kate Bolick's 2015 book, Spinster, implored us all to 'make a life of one's own, refrained from outdated notions on society's view of marriage, despite the fact that 2016's Youth Trend Report found that a whopping 98% of millennials secretly believe marriage and family has a place in today's society. Earlier this year, Rebecca Traiser's All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation praised the 21st century phenomenon of the unmarried woman. But for me, being single is hard. And I hate that it's so unfashionable to say so.
I'm a badass #girlboss with the world at her feet, who also has an endless starry-eyed desire to find somebody to share it with. I'm by no means despairing – or, god forbid 'desperate' - but I am determined. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha taught me that as long as I've got great girlfriends anything else is extra, and yet, here we are: I have the dream career and the dream group of friends and the dream house in dreamy north London and my dream feels incomplete because I go to bed alone at night.
Don't get me wrong: I've had my fun. I wrote a book on my twenties, Becoming, about how my high school sweetheart dumped me to marry my best friend (that's the less fun bit) and all the promiscuous, wild affairs (okay, fine: one-night stands) I embarked on to get over that. I had sizzling frollicks and heated short-lived dalliances, looking mostly for pleasure and only sometimes for commitment. It was hot, and sexy, and beautifully exhausting for a while.
I put in some seriously hard work into figuring out who I am, too. I ended up abstaining from romance entirely for a bit, with a year-long vow of celibacy and brief stint in an Italian convent that taught me how to be self-sufficient and complete as a single girl without a bloke between her thighs. I'm no longer celibate, but I have been on my own for six years, give or take the odd 'almost'. Maybe I've been a little too good at my 'me' time.
I need a change around the cultural narrative of the thirty-something women looking for love, and so I'm going to be my own example. I will write this, my 'Would Like To Meet' column, every week: a savvy, heartfelt, optimistic and blisteringly honest account of searching for a partner. A cheerleader. A champion. My 'lobster'. But let's make it clear: I'm not looking for a saviour. My rose-tinted marriage glasses are nowhere to be found. I'm realistic about men. Marriage. Motherhood. My eyes are wide open. What I'm saying is: single, co-habiting, married, monogamous, polyamorous – at the heart of it, we all want to share our lives. Be seen. We're all in this together.
"Laura, it will happen when it happens!" they say, and I cringe. Or, "You just need to not want it so much." Oh, please! Tell me more reasons why my marital status is all my fault. I know one thing to be true: the reason that I am single is because I am single. That's it. I am trying. I won't be made to feel like every which way I do that is somehow wrong.
I'm hopeful but filthy, flirty but earnest, an independent woman aching to be part of a two. I'm not after any old boyfriend. I won't 'settle'. And, I can very much enjoy my solo status. There's a plethora of moments I've enjoyed that wouldn't be possible in a relationship: lost weekends, going from brunch to lunch to dinner to dancing; the time I took a job in Siberia on a whim, the fact that I can make myself orgasm with more frequency and intensity than any man. But. It's not enough. It feels ungrateful, somehow, but when I leave the bar and my girlfriends clamber home to their loves, loves who have left a bit of lasagna in the oven, or who have filled the hot water bottle already, I think: that. I want that.
I want somebody to tickle my forearm during Scandal, to eat hangover pancakes with in companionable silence. A half-erect penis brushing against my lower back on a weekend morning. A witness to my life. I don't need it for validation. I want it because I want it. Because love is nice, and currently it eludes me. And isn't love what it's all about?
Laura is on Instagram as @superlativelyLJ.
Main image: Anna Huix
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