4. "If I were in a different place in my life, I would want to be with you."This has been said to me by two different guys. On both occasions, I was hurt but also kind of awestruck by the mighty ego that could generate such an obnoxious sentence. The first time, a boyfriend was breaking up with me, and I think he was trying to soften the blow and also suggest a narrative in which we would go our separate ways, sample life's many delights and then eventually reunite. The second time, someone I wasn't actually romantically interested in offered me that lovely sentence as, I think, a compliment. All it really means is, "You're not right for me, but I'm such a catch I don't want to devastate you all at once, and I would also like it if you continued to lavish me with attention, please."
I'm not underestimating the importance of timing, however. People do separate and come back together, and that seems natural and actually pretty romantic. But nobody wants to feel like they're being put in storage while their future partner sows his wild oats. Men of Earth: If you think you need more time, you’re just going to have to zip your lip, cross your fingers and let her go.
5. "Is this your boyfriend?"When you're single and you show up somewhere with a dude, even a dude who is, say, your uncle and, you'd like to think, obviously not your boyfriend, some people demand an immediate verbal explanation of your relationship. The boyfriend question is especially awkward when the dude in question is someone you wouldn't mind having as a boyfriend or at least as a make-out partner, and you don't want to ruin things by saying either, "Fingers crossed!" or, out of nervousness, "Him? No. Just friends." We are not walking, talking Facebook profiles. We are, sometimes, just a couple of people hanging out, seeing what happens.
6. "Maybe you should freeze your eggs."Maybe. And maybe you should get a nose job. Or maybe you should have some other invasive, expensive, elective medical procedure that I will suggest in a cavalier manner.
7. "Maybe you're trying too hard/not trying hard enough."As long as you're out there living your life in a way that, when you look back in 20 years, it won't seem like wasted time (for example: "that time I dated a sociopath for four years because I was afraid no one else would not-love me the same way") or pointless wallowing (for example: Cheetos, Real Housewives), I think you're doing great. People will say things about your singleness that will rub you the wrong way, even when they mean well, and people will also say the right thing at the right time. I'm not saying we single ones aren't allowed to feel sad about being alone sometimes or to long for a partner. I'm just saying it's a huge bummer that our culture operates on the assumption that singleness equals unhappiness, especially for women. Being simultaneously single and female is not a situation that automatically calls for consolation, strategizing, faux-commiseration, tiptoeing, reassurance, cheerleading, tarot-card reading, life-coaching or detective work. I think it's worth trying to make the best of the single times because—believe me—when you realize you’re alone and content, it's a moment of real liberation.
But, also, don't worry. He's totally out there.
Maggie Shipstead is the author of Seating Arrangements now out in paperback.
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