Hi there single lady, (late twenties, early thirties)
I bet you didn’t see this coming. I bet you thought that by 24 you would have had it all figured out, you would have met a guy who was THE ONE, popped a few babies, made your first million, and now, you would be ready to tie your tubes and retire to raise your family in Malindi where the rest of your days would be spent serving up exquisite meals three times a day, in your awesome bandage dress showing off all your perfect post-baby curves.
Except it didn’t work out that way. In those days, ‘adulthood’ was that far away place where you would arrive, having magically figured everything out. Preferably before age 23 because back then, old age was basically anything after 25.
Alas, yet here we are. On the wrong side of the 20s or maybe on the nice side of the 30s. Alone. With no prospects and a lifetime of knitting and cats, left with nothing but our dried up ovaries slowly poisoning us from the inside.
So they say.
You see, it took me a while before I realized that being single, despite what anyone says, is not a terminal disease. It’s not like Hepatitis, which makes your eyes yellow and takes away your liver. It’s not like cancer, which has to be lanced through chemotherapy and prayers that your immune system holds up. It’s not even like tuberculosis, which spreads in those matatus where everyone keeps the windows shut because ‘baridi itanipatia homa’.
It is a state of being. Sometimes fantastic, sometimes awful, sometimes permanent, sometimes temporary. Nonetheless, a state of being that has precious little to do with your identity as a person.
And like anything else in life, an opportunity to wallow in self pity or an opportunity to grow and burst and glow and maybe even like Icarius, get so close to the sun that your wings melt off and you fall into the deep blue sea content that, before you crashed, at least you soared.
See, the thing about humans is that we tend to believe that happiness is always over the rainbow. That if only we do this and that and achieve this and that then we can finally be happy. We live in a state of perpetual expectation. It has served us well in the past – but it comes at a high emotional cost to ourselves.
Being single does not have to be a deplorable state that you need to be rescued from, but can be a time to celebrate the greatest thing that has happened to your life so far, which is the fact that you are still here. That being said, a life in waiting can still be a worthy life. Here are a few key things to remember:
- Thou shalt not view thine single-hood as a curse
There are a million perky little articles on how awesome being single is, and especially the freedom that the manless battalion have. Typically it means the freedom not to watch a football game, or to care whether or not Manchester United wins a game or not. Or the freedom to sleep in your bed without someone hogging the covers.
Most of us well adjusted adults know that we can refuse to pretend to like a game because of our significant other. And we would gladly pretend to do so if it meant that much to them.
But being single does give you freedom to focus almost exclusively on yourself. We tend to imagine relationships based on what we will gain, and how we will feel. We almost always forget that we will have to do the same for another person, and it is not always as wonderful as they show in the movies. Revel in your relatively absolute freedom. Enjoy it and make the most out of it.
Go out there. Fail. Disappoint yourself. Quit your job and go bankrupt. Discover that you suck at photography. Go through all your ‘what ifs’ because the opportunity cost will never be lower than it is right now. That kind of selfishness is a luxury that, if all your plans go well, will soon disappear.
2. Thou shalt not mind people’s opinions
Oh wow, doesn’t everyone have something to say about you and your single-hood. According to some, the only thing standing between you and marital bliss is your short hair. Or the fact that your dresses aren’t short enough. Because, not feminine, and no-one will marry you. Others caution you on the dangers of too much independence caused by making too much money. Because that’s intimidating and no-one wants an intimidating woman. Go home and learn how to cook instead. But don’t do that so much that you become too dependent. Because men hate women who sit in the house all day watching telenovellas and waiting for someone else to pay the bills.
If you really wanted a man, you would dress sexy, but not too sexy because then everyone would think that you are a slut. And no-one likes a slut. But they don’t like Mother Teresa either.
And then there is all the grumbling on social media about how women have let society down because we stopped cooking and started talking back. Half of us (apparently) wear ugly green tee-shirts and cover our heads with scarves at night, while the rest of us only care about money and rich fat old men who can buy us shiny weaves and even shinier cars.
Smile and wave girls, everyone has their opinions- some are made in earnest, some are made with malicious intentions and some are just foolish things uttered without much thought. But that’s all they are, other people’s assessments of your current life situation. Most of the time, they don’t matter.
Also, you don’t have to marry Mr loud mouth over there.
3. Thou shalt let go of the idea that thou can control factors outside of thyself
Yes, yes I am the captain of my ship and the master of my destiny. But I don’t control the waves, and I don’t control the sea and I certainly don’t control the weather.
You might be single for a week more. Or a year longer. Maybe get married in a few. Or not get married at all. You know what? it doesn’t matter. If you do get married (because that is the highest ideal for you as a woman) you will wonder why you wasted so many years obsessing about something that would have happened anyway. And if you don’t, you will wonder why you spent so much time being miserable about something you couldn’t control. You will wonder if all the sadness and frustration was really worth it.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that much. Worry about life threatening things. Let life surprise you. Let life delight you. Do anything but hypothesize about your fictional future. Sure, it’s great having a plan and working towards it, but it’s also good to remember that life laughs in the face of your plans loudly and very frequently.
Make memories that are worth remembering.
4. Thou shalt not wait for people to come and save thee
Taking into full consideration the above, remember that you are still in charge of your life. So if you don’t like something, go ahead and change it. Do you find yourself increasingly alienated as your friends start talking about diapers and teething? Love them and support them. But go out there and make new friends. Do you find your options limited because you believe that you are shy? It’s fine, almost 50% of the population claims that they are. Want to climb a mountain but worried that you won’t be able to make it to the top? Start working on your fitness. Whatever failings that you have as a human being, realize that you are not alone and that they are not set in stone.
And then go forth and work on improving them. Because you can, and you will be better for it. That’s what life is about. Incremental changes that lead to bigger, better, more impressive results and things in the long term.
If you don’t like it, change it boo!
5. Thou shalt not indulge in unproductive conversations
A lot of anxiety and sadness comes not from the situation, (that you are single and are on the fast track to being a cat lady) but our response to the situation. Sometimes you just have to block yourself from negative things. Some of my previous pet peeves that I now happily ignore:
- Any conversation that starts with ‘nowadays the reason why people don’t get married is because (insert superficial reason/ sweeping statement like they have stopped praying or they don’t cook.)’ I’m sorry, how many of you were dating in the 70s? That’s right, have a seat. Thanks
- Any conversation around the theme ‘where have all the good men gone’. (Another variant of this is, ‘Kenyan men suck because…’ – if you’ve never been farther than Mombasa, what exactly do you know about men from other countries anyways?)
- Declaring how you are a strong, independent woman that don’t need no man. Or ‘I’m doing me right now’. It might be true, but remember being single is not your defining characteristic. It is not an identity and is therefore not central to who you are.
- Hypothetical conversations about your future children (or lack of) and your wedding (or lack of). Life is unpredictable. If anything, this is a lack of imagination and will limit the possibilities and opportunities that you could take advantage of.
- Talking about how happy other people are in relationships and how you wish you had what they have. The Kikuyu say ‘mucie ni ndogo’. It translates directly to ‘a home is smoke’ and communicates the message that you never know what goes on in people’s homes, so it’s not a good idea to imagine that everyone else is happier than you based on their appearances. Work on your own life so that you are not jealous of others. Don’t let envy poison your relationships with your friends.
- Anything with the words ‘biological clock’
We spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that we don’t have that we don’t actually see what we have and should celebrate. No matter your life situation, there is plenty in your life that is going pretty well.
Back away slowly and do not engage.
6. Thou shalt approach life (and dating) from a position of strength
Accepting your single status does not mean defeat and resignation. Making the best of your crippling lack of a MAN simply means that you won’t jump and buy yourself an engagement ring the first time someone asks you out for coffee.
It means you won’t entertain losers, fuck-boys and other drainers of your time and energy just because you need a man because you are single and being single means that there is something wrong with you and you really need to settle down with this guy who is okay but kind of mean or boring because this is probably the best you will get.
It means you won’t force yourself to get into relationships just because everyone else around you is. Hopefully it also means that you will not grow bitter as said eggs slowly turn to dust,taking with them any chance of finding your life’s purpose (a man to marry you) as well as any humor, personality and will to live you may have managed to cling on to this far deep into the game.
Because regardless of your status, what kind of life is that? No one can make you happy, and if you aren’t happy single, chances are you won’t be happy in a relationship.
So go forth my single little butterfly. Fly! Go forth and be fabulous!