Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Lonely Heart

They say that no man is an island, but when you’re the only single woman in her early thirties in a social group full of boyfriends, fiancĂ©es and husbands, it’s pretty hard not to feel like a fucking loner. You've officially become the ninth wheel, the drifter floating amongst a sea full of loved-up couples, and even though you know your time will come - eventually? hopefully? did he die? - the pressure and expectation to settle and become one of “them” can hit you like a tidal wave. Suddenly, the dynamic in friendships changes and you realise that if you don't follow suit soon, it's only a matter of time before you start becoming a liability. I mean, what self-respecting woman in a serious relationship wants to party until 2am at a Sports bar while her single friend flirts up a hurricane with some random Stormer's fan? What’s worse is that your recently paired friend who was once fun to be around and in the same predicament as you has suddenly developed an opinion about your lifestyle and relationship status. The message is coming in loud and clear: find a boyfriend or die alone!

While the intention of wanting your token single friend to find the same joyful bliss love has brought into your life may seem honourable and humbling, it can also come across as selfish, underhanded and patronising. As if witnessing your best mate's new-found happiness, incessant texts to the point of not having a conversation at all and coo's of premarital bliss wasn't scarring enough, being the odd one out evokes a whole bunch of shitty feelings; feelings of doubt, fear and self-loathing, feelings you thought you had already come to terms with. Suddenly the possibility of being a grumpy old spinster with several cats becomes a very possible reality. The internal pressure is already bad enough to make you feel like a leper without all the tragic looks of "don't worry, he's out there" and powerful pearls of wisdom that a 6-month relationship has suddenly bestowed upon them. Yes. Congratulations. You found love and are happily on your way towards marriage and baby-making days...not to mention the possibility of divorce!! #justsaying 

Jealousy is just one of the many other colourful emotions that comes with being the last one standing. Throw in a bit of confusion, sensitivity and resentment and you'll have the perfect recipe for alienating the friendships you once cherished. Of course we want nothing more than to feel genuine happiness for our friends and their good fortune but at the same time, we are petrified of losing them to kitchen teas, baby showers and play dates. Change is a natural part of evolution to a woman becoming a wife and mother, a change that a singleton might not completely understand right now. Are these just temporary feelings of insecurity and uncertainty until they catch the boat themselves or do certain friendships have expiration dates? Are great friendships doomed the minute an amorous knight appears on a white horse? Neigh, say it ain't so?

"Friendships are very much like romantic relationships. It doesn't matter how long you've been together, friends, like lovers, can sometimes grow apart." Charlotte was my favorite single white female about to hit 33 with no potential partner in sight. She had been dating since the age of 16, saw the love of her life marry a Frida Kahlo look-a-like and was now the last one in her friendship circle to be married off. She'd never once felt miserable or deflated about her non-platonic endeavours and strongly believed that the sweet Lord above had an awesome plan in store for her. It was only until recently when she missed an invitation to some couple's retreat that she began questioning the severity of her singleness and the impact it had on herself and her relevant friendships. 

"When your gay friends start talking about adoption, it's a sign that it's time to start moving on and finding some like-minded friends. You'll always be friends because of the history and love you share with one another but the minute you fall out of sync with your bestie, then you might as well put out a wanted ad in the lost and found section." Charlotte's feelings of abandonment had forced her to go out and meet a recently divorced mother of two to fill her own social void. She was everything her friends weren't at the moment; available, mutually responsive and relatable.

"What couples don't seem to realise is how self-involved they become. It really does become all about "them" and "their" happiness, almost as if there's nothing in your life that they could possibly relate to anymore. All of sudden you're treated differently, sympathetically, like not having someone to share your life with right now is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. It's extremely off-putting."

Did couples feel the same way about their single friends? Selfish shells of self-importance that have nothing more to contribute to the relationship? Reckless and pitiful reminders of the things they no longer regard as important? Marriage, children, life partners. Of course we all want the same things but why should singletons be cast away the minute their timing is off? Should they find a way of trying harder to keep up with the Joneses or should they wade through these temporary waves of loneliness and just keep swimming?

"The most lonely aspect is how one day you're that person's person through all their hardships and agony and the next, it's like you barely exist. It seems like it was only yesterday that you were trying on training bra's together and getting your first visit from Aunty Flow. Your first boyfriend and heartbreak. The first time you had sex. Now, she's too busy reading mommy blogs and recipe books to spend a little q-time with the friend that used to be her emotional crutch."

Romantic relationships can make it difficult to retain one's independence and individuality especially when you're thinking of taking the next big step. While some people are able to remain themselves within a unit, others are quite happy morphing into Stepford versions of themselves abandoning the past and looking only towards the future. While some friendships are able to survive the ultimate test of time, there are others that, just like relationships, were simply doomed from the moment she said, "I do."  

When it comes to friendships versus relationships, what came first? The boyfriend or the BFF?

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