To Be Single At 23

The following is for the young woman who genuinely believes she is relatively sane and desirable. The one who is consistently told by friends and family she is such a catch and yet, despite donning many a flashy mini dress on a Friday night, is still waiting for a fisherman interested in more than a hookup and release. The gal willing to admit in spite of all that is feminist and all that is codependent/clingy/downright desperate that any other woman who claims she is 100%, wholeheartedly happy without a man is either a lesbian or a liar.

Like me, you are in your twenties. You are single. And you are getting fucking tired of hearing your love life be compared to anything remotely related to shellfish.

Before we go any further I want to make the not so convincing argument that I am not “boy crazy.” I’m, like, not some whiny girl who just, like, really, really needs a boyfriend. I fully understand being by my lonesome at age 23 by no means guarantees I will be found dead at 77 clutching a dildo and a carton of Tillamook Marionberry Pie Ice Cream surrounded by 15+ dogs. Or at least, part of me—the often hard to channel, nondramatic, self-confident part—knows this to be an unlikely demise (hello, a vibrator would be way easier for my potentially arthritic hands). I could go on and on about how liberating it is to be unattached, how glorious it is to frolic through womanhood in a montage of Yoplait-Tampax commercials, making no man a sandwich unless I very damn well please. I can easily remind myself why dating shouldn’t be such a big priority simply by uttering the names of all the guys who made the possibility of a monogamous relationship seem like the most asinine desire to ever waste my time with.

The problem is that despite all this—despite a litany of awful first dates and drunken nights crying “Why doesn’t he like me?” over a loser who takes two days to text back and two minutes to finish—I’m still warily hopeful I could be someone’s brand of crazy. Even with all my bitching and moaning about how dating is so exhausting, I continue to make room in my schedule for drinks with Mr. Right’s third cousin once removed, just in the off chance he might finally be the one worth bringing home to meet the MILF. While I’ve given up on the dream of a meet cute at Safeway as some beautiful boy’s hand reaches for the same bag of Cheeto Puffs, I haven’t entirely given up on maybe finding a cool fella whose love for me far surpasses my love for synthetic cheese.

I do want companionship. I want it bad, you guys. But I’m in a tricky place. I’m not willing to settle, but I’m too impatient to wait for the universe to do its match-maker thang. I’m not going to throw myself at any human with a bulge between their legs, but I’ve gotta meet people somehow. And such is the dilemma of being a single lady at our age. Because you see by now you’ve got enough experience to feel simultaneously jaded and idealistic. You’re a grown ass woman who has made the mistake of getting into bed with the devil solely because he could make you scream to high heaven. You’ve had initially cute, charming dates use too graphic colonoscopy anecdotes as a segue to ask if you’re into anal within your first five bites of chicken shawarma. Perfect on paper, total duds in person have pined for you while you were busy chasing after the idiot your friends warned you about. No matter how many suitors you’ve fallen for, stalked on social media, cut from your life and never looked back on, you’re increasingly frustrated to discover you still haven’t got it all distilled down to a cute dress & witty table topics at happy hour science.

By 23 you’ve learned condoms can only wrap certain packages in pretty little bows. Your number has started to exceed what you can track on one hand as fingering leads to lax standards about who gets to home base, horniness now euphemized as “exploring sexual compatibility” in the quest to find good dick attached to a non-dick. In a jumble of one/two/however many night stands you’ll try to pinpoint exactly when you lost your innocence—that booze cruise sophomore year? the moment you stopped asking “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” in favor of “How many licks does it take to achieve orgasm?”—but will have difficulty reconnecting with your childhood self while so anxious not to pop out any kiddos of your own. Sex will still be special, certainly not something to get all willy nilly about when a willy is involved, but it no longer feels like the holy grail of intimacy. Whether or not you’ve been in love—you know, honest to God cared how someone wants their eggs in the morning, shared parts of your soul that made the dude think “Girl, your crazy’s showing, but don’t bother tucking that back in cause I dig it,”—letting a boy see your naked body no longer seems that revealing. You’re old enough to recognize that as long as you’re being safe and it makes you feel good, no one should give a fuck about the fucks you’re getting.

All this fun vaginal freedom sounds empowering until you realize the last four men you’ve been intimate with have all had their mattresses sans bed frame on the floor, and you can’t decide if that means they need to get their lives together or if you should reevaluate your own. Because at the end of the day you want a guy you can rely on before and after doing the nasty, when work and family and general existence are getting you down and you need more than someone going down on you. You’d like to think you’ve thrown out your checklist for exactly who this hypothetical dude is, that “nice” would suffice, but unfortunately your standards are set a lil higher than “not a serial killer and/or tech startup junkie.” And that’s just it. You know what you’re not looking for—not vain as all get out, not emotionally stunted and incapable of basic human functioning—but are forced to face the oh so shocking reality that people as a whole tend to be more complex than their corny Tinder bios let on. Combine that with the fact that you’re not always such a treat yourself, ya verbally abusive cupcake, and you’ve got a mess of affectionately intended sarcasm gone horribly awry. Shit’s tough, babe.

Considering the clusterfuck of hormones/insecurities/cash money it takes to survive the dating world, it’s surprising and quite frankly insane any of us still try. I’ll bet you’ve made jokes about joining a convent or going vagitarian. You’ve sworn off men, told everyone you’re going to focus on you and see what happens, self-love, ya ya sisterhood, you go girl. There are days where you truly appreciate your job and your friends and your own existence, and are so grateful not to have to pretend another’s annoying habits are endearing. Yet deep down you wouldn’t mind having someone out there to non-ironically call you bae. To send good morning messages and buy you flowers and do all the things that sound so vomit-worthy until they’re actually happening to you. To make you a better person not because you alone suck but because you’re just happier together. Other than the ability to eat chocolate covered everything and never get fat, isn’t that what we ladies are looking for?

Like you, I am in my twenties. I am single. And dear lord am I getting tired of waiting for Prince Charming to get his head out of his ass to come find me.

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