“I’ll never ask for too much / Just all that you are / And everything that you do.” – Whitney Houston, “I Have Nothing,” 1993
I come from a long line of hard workers. Alternatively, I come from a long line of people who can’t sit still. Idleness does not run in my family, we were never the type to sit and watch movies together, we were never the type to sit and do much at all. We’re always in motion, always doing, working, fixing. So it’s not a shock that I grew up to believe that doing less was the same thing as doing nothing. In my mind, the worst thing you can be is lazy. Then I spent 12 years as a single woman, and I’m thinking that maybe doing nothing is the right thing to do.
A little over a year ago, I deleted all my dating apps after a decade of fruitless use, and I haven’t re-downloaded since. When friends, readers, or followers hear that I am 100% app-less, the first question is never, “cool, what are you doing with all that free time you have now?” Instead it’s pretty much always, “so then… like… what do you do? How do you find people to date? How often do you date? What do you do!?” It’s generally expressed with some degree of concern. They’re concerned I’m not doing enough about the fact that I’m single.
Basically the whole reason I get out of bed in the morning is to help single women understand that our singleness isn’t a problem. It isn’t something we have to “do” something about. It isn’t something about us that’s broken, in need of fixing. It’s not like we’re all walking the streets with our shoulders dislocated and our noses gushing blood.
“Hey lady, you gonna do something about that?”
No, actually, I’m good. But I wasn’t always.
In the era of my single life I’ll call “The Before Times,” single was something that was wrong with me — something that was part of my normal day-to-day. It wasn’t a panicked feeling, finding a partner wasn’t necessarily a goal as important as growing my career, it was just kind of a given. I was single, so I put effort into not being single anymore. That was the way life worked. Single was inherently wrong, and therefore needed to be fixed. When I’d finished fixing it, when I found a partner, I wouldn’t have to put effort into not being single anymore. Normal.
The problem with that passive acceptance of my single status as a negative was that after a goddamn decade of trying to “fix” it, I was still single. Effort without reward will eventually catch up to absolutely everyone. We’ll all wake up from the simulation mad as hell at some point. My “some point” was somewhere around mid-2018. Wasn’t all that effort supposed to… I dunno, give me something in return eventually? But it didn’t — ever. I mean seriously can you imagine trying to learn a new skill, language, or sport for an actual decade with no luck? You’d give up somewhere in the middle of year two, if I’m being generous. So I decided to find my own way to “fix” what was wrong with me. I decided there wasn’t anything wrong with me to begin with. I found a way to end my singleness that had nothing to do with finding a man.
The guilt of doing nothing about our singleness is what keeps women going back for more bullshit.
I know that’s not an easy thing to hear. I also know that it’s really easy to accept being single as a bad thing, because the alternative to being single is being in love. And we all want to be in love. I want to be in love, it sounds nice! And when love is the carrot we’re chasing, it’s easy to continuously, endlessly grab for it. It’s easy to exhaust yourself, because supposedly what’s waiting on the other side is worth it. My whole thing: Maybe there’s more than just one other side. I think there has to be. Because there are way too many of us on this side of single that are taking it in the fucking shins.
The word “situationship” shouldn’t exist. The endless questions and points of confusion surrounding the people we date shouldn’t exist. Dating memes shouldn’t be a thing. Feeling exhausted and exasperated and hating dating because it feels like a second job, and a shitty one at that, shouldn’t be what we’re going through. But all of that does exist, because as single women, we still believe something is better than nothing. We still believe having “something going on” feels better than crickets. We still call it crickets. We can’t walk away from the bullshit of modern dating, because if we do, then we’ll be doing nothing about our singleness. And we can’t do nothing about our singleness. Because singleness is something that’s wrong. Right?
It’s the guilt of doing nothing that makes single women re-download apps that never served us in the first place. The guilt of doing nothing keeps us going on every single date we manage to arrange, no matter what our gut is telling us about it. The guilt of doing nothing has us hanging on to one-word text messages and dumbass excuses about some guy being “busy with work” or “out of town” or whatever they use to avoid having to say “I’m sorry, I don’t like you enough to put in the effort you deserve.” The guilt of doing nothing about our singleness is what keeps women going back for more bullshit.
Doing nothing is harder than doing something. It isn’t talked about much, but it’s true. Doing nothing is the hardest something I’ve ever done. And believe me, I catch myself hamster wheeling it through life all the time. Chasing down freelance work, constantly thinking I’m not “doing” enough to earn money as a writer. And I have to catch myself, and relax myself, and remind myself that not doing everything doesn’t mean I’ll have nothing. Work always comes, it always flows, and I find that it flows most abundantly when I stop worrying, stop hamster wheeling, and simply do what I love.
I know this to be true because after a decade of doing every kind of something under the sun, I’m still as single as I was when I started.
The same is true of dating. We don’t have to do everything. We’re allowed to do less, even — wait for it — do nothing, and deserve to have everything just the same. Love doesn’t operate on algorithms. There is no if X, then Y. It’s largely up to chance, luck, and the mysteries of human connection. I know this to be true because after a decade of doing every kind of something under the sun, I’m still as single as I was when I started. And if dating is going to be the one area of life where effort and results don’t have to match, where I have just as much chance of meeting my partner online as I do on an airplane, I’d rather focus on doing things I love, stop doing things that don’t serve me, and trust that I deserve love and companionship anyway.
I made the choice to do less, to put less overt effort into finding a partner. Without question, my first year without dating apps was the happiest year of my adult life. I didn’t spend my days swiping, I spent them creating. The space that used to be filled with no matches, no responses, and a massive void of nothing happening via online dating that constantly reminded me of how undesired I was all the time was suddenly full of things I loved, rather than full of an absence of love from someone else. And I know it’s working, I know that doing “nothing” is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, because nothing makes me happier than you reading the words I write. And when you and I connect with our partners, and we will, the relationships we have won’t be “fixing” something. We were never broken.
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