Being single at 28 is probably not what most people imagined for their future selves. With the big ‘3’, ‘0’ on the horizon, you may at least have hoped for a vague sense of an impending encounter with Mr or Mrs ‘Right’ by now.
As the curtain begins to drop and your settled friends exit ‘stage right’, there is a dwindling huddle of singletons left in the spotlight. They’re a mixed bunch. Some are wide-eyed, subtly drooling as they search blindly for someone, anyone to get them back in life’s running order. Others are defiantly shagging their way through loneliness, or a sense of failure. There are those who remain blissfully unperturbed by biological clocks and social conformity, and of course, those who just simply couldn’t give a shit. After all, there is a glorious freedom to be found in the ‘single life’, often unacknowledged by those who harbor it and envied by those who no longer have it.
My love life took off when I was 5. I had found my man, Michael Newton. Despite drawing spindly pictures of a white wedding dress, I picked out my favourite black, glitzy party dress to wear on my ‘big day’. After confiding in my sister, I went into school and told him I loved him. “Err, Alice, go away!’’, he replied, barely lifting his eyes from the cars on the play-mat. I obliged, sadly. My poor little five-year-old heart was broken, but it wasn’t long before I was playing ‘pinchy bottom’ in the playground with a new crush. And so life’s conveyer belt of loves, lovers and eventual let-downs creaked into action.
This may sound bleak, but there’s something quite satisfying about the circular notion of a conveyor belt. As my first experience taught me, heartbreak can be fickle and once you’ve nursed your ego back to its swaggering-self, your perception has changed and new faces naturally begin to come into focus. At the age of 28 – which really, in fairness, is not old at all — I have been single for almost a year. The time has flown by and I can’t help but feel a sense of achievement at this. I’ve learned so many lessons, I can only be thankful that my previous relationships didn’t workout.
You can’t deny that for most of us, there is an underlying, magnetic force pulling us forwards in our quest for a mate – soul-mate, if you’re sentimental. Although singledom can be fraught with external social pressures as you approach your thirties, I would still argue that this is perhaps the most liberating age to be flying solo. The world is actually starting to make sense, you know yourself better and can put the cringe worthy lessons from your early twenties into practice. There are fewer vodka red bull infused fuck-ups, you’ve gained the confidence to relax and follow your gut, and with a little extra experience in the boom-boom room, disappointment is diminishing…
As that conveyer belt thrusts new people into our lives, they bring with them new worlds to explore, to learn from and to continue building our understanding of ourselves and where we belong in it all. I had pointedly decided that this journey was exciting enough to keep the weight of society at bay, when my courageously independent grandma turned to me, quite abruptly, a week before my 28th birthday and said: “ Anyway, it’s time for you to settle down now. Stop messing around and find yourself a boyfriend.” I laughed and agreed as she turned her gaze to the window, where her thoughts scattered. She’s lived alone for the last 21 years, since Grandpa passed away. Times have changed so much that I’m not sure she could understand the freedoms that my generation have earned. Her comment simultaneously reinforced my liberation from those traditional ideals that are still trickling through society and the comforts to be found in partnership.
Ultimately though, this all winds down to a Robin Williams quote: “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.” You could be that wide-eyed, slobbering mess who shoots off-stage with the first person that ticks a few boxes. Or, you can enjoy the limelight, ‘express yo’self’ some more and explore the synergy that simmers around you. Make the most of that liberation, demand an encore! Who knows who you’ll meet when the lights come on and that curtain falls? Besides, there’s always tomorrow’s show…