What Is It Like To Be Alone?
Since my 4.5 year relationship ended just over 2 years ago, I have absolutely refused to be alone. I got a taste of the coupled up life and have been in the aggressive pursuit of reclaiming that status from the moment I was dumped while heating up a Trader Joe’s burrito for lunch in the kitchen we shared. I re-activated my Hinge account the following day.
I was devastated when we broke up. Not because I was losing him, but because I was losing that relationship status. Sure, I loved Brad — but only as much as you could love someone named Brad. I had known for awhile that we weren’t working and I held on for a year longer than I should have because I was afraid of being alone. I just didn’t want to start over. I didn’t want to be single. So when it finally ended, I let that fear dictate my life and I’ve spent the past two years desperately trying to be in a relationship again. It, just like most things done out of desperation — has not worked.
I went on my first post-Brad date before moving out of the apartment we shared, and had post-Brad sex shortly there after. Disappointed with the results of my emergency replacement efforts, Brad and I were sleeping together within two months of our breakup. It would be easier I thought, to convince him to take me back than it would to find someone new. When that didn’t work, I turbocharged my search — slid into the DM’s of a guy I had met at my cousin’s birthday party who, when we met up — couldn’t remember how he knew me; went out with a friend’s ex, and started sleeping with men on the first date even when it was clear we had very little in common. I was averaging three dates a week and cycling through Hinge matches like they were the little coffee pods for my Nespresso machine: low quality, one-time use, and bad for t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶n̶v̶i̶r̶o̶n̶m̶e̶n̶t ̶my emotional well being.
Eventually, my body started sending me signs that I should slow down. My vagina had spent almost five years with only one repeat visitor and did not respond well to the influx of foreign penis, hitting me with the worst yeast infection of my life. But I could not be stopped — I became a frequent buyer of Monistat at my local drug store, and kept chugging along. When I tore my ACL and had to have surgery I only took a short hiatus. Crutches and a knee brace could stop me from walking, showering while standing up, and playing soccer, but I wouldn’t let it stop me from playing the field. Yes, I figured out how to have sex with the knee brace on — thank you for asking. By the one year post-breakup mark, I had racked up about as many failed relationship attempts as The Bachelor franchise’s failed engagements.
But for someone so desperately seeking a relationship, I clearly wasn’t looking for a healthy one. I’d try to turn one night stands into something more and push away every man that seemed “too interested”. I’d stress spiral when I didn’t get a text back right away, but freak out if they texted too often. I wasn’t looking for someone that wanted to love me, I was looking for someone that I could convince to love me. That’s the relationship I had known, one where I spent more time trying to prove myself worthy of love than I did actually feeling loved.
Living and dating during a pandemic and moving to a new city had almost no impact on my behavior. I spent the first few weeks (and my last as a Bay Area resident) clinging to someone that had recently told me he didn’t want a relationship. I held onto that connection even after I moved— phone sex with him while dating someone new, him visiting me in LA, and getting hurt (yet again) when he, after all this time, was still exactly who he had told me he was — someone that just wasn’t that into me.
There have been a few other prospects this year — “quarantine boyfriends” as I like to call them, but pandemic dating has been overwhelming. I joined my sister and brother-in-law’s COVID bubble when I moved, creating our own little throuple and solidifying my position as favorite aunt to my niblings. But I abandon them every time a Hinge match seems promising. Dating over everything else, always. But the pressure of pandemic induced early-onset monogamy — depending entirely on the attention of a guy I’ve just met for any kind of human closeness, has just made things worse. It just amplified the toxicity of my addiction to dating.
My therapist asked me recently what it was about being alone that I was so afraid of. It took me awhile to come up with an answer because in over two years since my breakup, I haven’t actually tried it. There’s always been a man that I was chasing or running from, and often a few backups just in case. My life, my confidence, my happiness, has always been centered around dating. I’ve never let myself just be alone.
What I’ve really been running from, what I’ve really been afraid of, is not NOT being in a relationship, but in having to be in a relationship with myself. Who am I if I’m not the object of a man’s desire? What does my life look like without dating? Can I be happy if I’m not making someone else happy? What is it like to be alone?
So for the first time in a very long time, I am going to stop searching for someone to love me. I am going to give being alone a try, see if it’s actually all that scary. And who knows, maybe one day someone will come searching for me.