Being single doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy-ever-after · By Aisha Al-Janabi
Whilst I’m only 22 years old, it sometimes feels like I’m too old to have never been in a relationship. Some of the first stories we’re told are fairy tales with knights-in-shining-armour and true loves’ kisses, so it’s inevitable we’ll grow up fantasizing about our own love stories. Perhaps this subconsciously teaches us there is something inherently wrong with being single to the point where we don’t consider it as a choice we can make.
Over the years I’ve seen friends go in and out of different relationships, bringing their partners as plus-ones to Christmas dinners whilst I still turn up empty handed and being the single friend for another year. I can’t help but think if there were more stories and films which ended in singleness, where romance wasn’t a central part of the plot, I wouldn’t be so self-conscious about still being single. I’m tired of seeing films where being single is considered a problem that needs to be fixed, where single characters must be set up on blind dates or persuaded to make an online dating profile - it gives the impression that being single is some sort of failure.
I do love a cheesy rom com, but it is important to recognise the abundance of films about romantic relationships, and the lack of stories about other vital relationships. I grew up with Cinderella, then High School Musical, and later Notting Hill and 27 Dresses forming a constant stream of “boy-meets-girl” story lines from childhood to adulthood. This message of relationships and heterosexuality is not just restricted to rom coms, the failure of many films to pass the Bechdel Test highlights how common romance is in films. For films to pass the Bechdel Test they must have at least two women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Ratatouille, The Social Network, The Grand Budapest Hotel among so many others are not rom coms and yet, don’t pass the Bechdel Test. This ongoing gender imbalance within the film industry repeats the narrative that we should want to be in a relationship, especially if we identify as a woman.
Honestly, I have whinged asking “why does no one love me?” and I’ve been on dating app dates. But in hindsight there have been times where I wanted to be in a relationship just for the story, so I can finally stop being that single friend, and to prove I can casually date or be in a committed relationship – but why do I need to prove that? There is an apparent hierarchy of relationships, with friendships being below relationships, like we can only be emotionally intimate with someone who we’ve given a label to as our girlfriend/boyfriend/partner or someone we’ve had sex with. I’d argue having a good support network of platonic relationships is just as valuable, if not more so, so I have no regrets about my lack of Tinder or Bumble dates in favour of spending time with my friends, or just enjoying my own company.
I’ve never understood what it means when people say someone’s ‘standards are too high.’ Why would I want to date someone who’ll just end up being a pain in the arse – just so I’m not alone? Regardless of what we’re taught in films, being in a committed relationship and being happy are not mutually exclusive. And being single throughout my teenage years has given me the space to master masturbation and find out what I like. I’m often reminded by friends that being in a relationship doesn’t inherently mean you have good sex, like it doesn’t equate to happiness. Regardless of your relationship status, it’s important to unlearn yet another lesson from society and to experiment with masturbating, especially for people with vulvas, it’s time to reclaim our own sexual pleasure and have fun with it.
So maybe I’ll be single for longer than a princess, and maybe I’ll never bring a plus one to Christmas, but that should not be embarrassing. At least for now I am prioritising platonic relationships because being single does not mean you’re lonely and is not something to be fixed, and I am choosing to be single - even if I do continue to make jokes or complain about it.