As each month passes, my kind becomes increasingly obsolete, a species on the verge of extinction. Our numbers dwindle, slowly at first and then more quickly towards the end, an insidious but expected decline, until, all of a sudden, you look around and you’re the only one left, the lone surviving cockroach after the asteroid strikes. Yes, that’s me. The last single girl in the room. The incidental holdout. The persistent proverbial roach.
A funny thing begins to happen after all of your friends have coupled off: They begin to feel openly sorry for you. It is a sorriness that I imagine old people likely experience as they hobble down stairs, push laboriously through silver turnstiles, shuffle their way onto a crowded subway. As they reach for a pole to steady themselves, someone much younger and more capable takes one look at them – with their hunched shoulders, their worn-out orthopedic shoes, their hands riddled with brownish-purple spots – and offers them a seat. Here, you poor bastard. Rest your weary bones. There is an assumption of pain and discomfort in this courtesy that infers weakness. It is the kind of kindness that you dread, because it is born of sympathy. It is evidence of your inevitable decline.
Since when did being single feel like being terminally ill?
It was fine to be on your own in your early twenties, when the dating turnover was higher, when the ratio of friends in relationships to friends out of them was more a 50/50 split. It was a rotating door, a well-oiled machine. Love and lust came and went like swiftly moving clouds, just as it does today, but the sense of real tragedy was smaller. And so the spaces in between, those moments of autonomy, did not feel as horrible. Loneliness at 23 can feel something akin to freedom. Loneliness at 29 feels closer to permanent midnight, a failing of grand proportions from which you will never recover.
That’s why they feel bad for you. Because of the permanent midnight. Because they know how it feels to be older and alone, and they know that their coupledom has saved them. Meanwhile, they watch you begin to drown in it, flounder in an emptiness they have been spared, and so they try to throw you a rope, find you a raft, pull you onboard.
“Rachel has someone she wants you to meet.”
“I think you would like Tim.”
“You should go out with Henry.”
“What about that guy Tom?”
Everyone starts to get involved. They try to set you up with their last remaining single guy friends, of which there are few. The pool becomes smaller and more complicated, like the last choices made when forming a recess kickball team. The all stars have been picked. They stand in two lines, staring at the losers who have always been losers from their place of security, great relief living just under an enviable veneer of pride. The good ones are gone. The choices left are between some kid with a gimp leg and another with a clinical fear of concrete. The human dregs, which, apparently, you are, too. Because you’re not the team captain; you’re the one just waiting… waiting… waiting…
It’s never been fun to be picked last.