Is romantic love the world’s last overlooked basic need? We must have food, water and shelter to survive, but am I being deprived of a deeper requirement by being involuntarily single at 39? If quality relationships are the marker of a life well lived, I feel like the orphan in its crib, with flies on its face, not lifting its arms to an adult passing by. I don’t have answers to what I don’t know.
In a tug-of-war with the dating app algorithms, I sift and sort the carousel of faces into funnels. In the palm of my hand, I find the masses of single men and women (and sometimes not so single) who are looking to find a match. I swipe right on one out of twenty, give or take. And of those, one out of five I chat. One out of ten times that chat goes further than simple banter. What is my conversion rate?
How to say what is normal and what is not?
“I almost gave up on the apps altogether. But then…I met him, and that one month of putting myself out there was all worth it,” my friend said.
“I don’t like spending my Sundays alone,” another friend tells me.
“I like having a partner around the house, just doing nothing together,” says another.
I thought I had been going to sleep and waking up alone just fine.
“Bumble is best.”
“Hinge is better.”
“OkCupid lets you express your personality.”
And Tinder is, hands down, the worst. Or so they say.
Of those with whom the chat continues, I might meet up with one out of ten in person, and one out of five of those I care to see again. The people on the other sides of the rotating faces have their funnels, too, presumably. The product that oozes at the bottom of my pipeline has not stuck around for long.
If nothing is permanent, what’s the point of all this? I want to unparadoxically meet a random person, who will do for my purposes, who will have some qualities I admire, and some I do not. He will be attractive enough to keep my interest. He will want to do some of the same things in life that I want to do…we’ll figure it out when we get there. I also want to intertwine our finances, raise children and wipe each other’s asses when we’re old. But I’m trying not to say too much on the first date.
“Be more selective on who you swipe right on,” they say.
“Be less selective. Approach dating with curiosity and don’t write people off too quickly,” my therapist has said.
“What are you looking for on here?” they message me on the apps.
“Like-minded Christians,” I respond, this time on Pure, the app specifically designed for casual sex.
Update: I have been banned for life from Tinder.
I’ve heard the one about a friend of a friend who chose to be single and is loving it. This speech is irrelevant and, what’s worse, isolating. Even more isolating than my actual story, which, again, goes like this: I have been single for some 18 years, minus one relationship that lasted one year about eight years ago.
Friends mostly avoid confronting my story altogether. They divert, they advise, they offer uplifting predictions for my future based on their knowledge of the universe and its powers. But don’t protect me! Your thoughts and prayers aren’t helping me, they are pushing me further outside the actual universe of normal people—neh, of rational people who know the truth. I want friends to agree that they’d be devastated if this were their story. But, I think they also know, somehow deep down, that it just wouldn’t be.
“When you stop trying, that’s when it happens,” says the girl who met her husband when she supposedly gave up.
“Be friends first, and that will make for a long-lasting relationship,” says the friend who didn’t hook up with her boyfriend for the first few weeks.
When the rest of the world becomes single, every so often re-entering the frenetic world of the uncoupled, they act like bees. They buzz from flower to flower, until something – someone – sticks, and they are calm again. They flutter away when one blossom closes, moving on to another then another then another. I barely blink before they are off the market again, accepting someone who has accepted them back.
I recounted my loveless story for the 50th time to the 50th person, beseeching her to feel what I feel and crumple in despair. All alone, decades, isolation, running out of time…you follow?
Instead, she said: “No! Don’t say that about yourself! You’re wonderful and you will meet someone! I know it.”
…But I wasn’t articulating anything wrong with me, I was stating the facts about me. I didn’t indicate that my having been single for so long meant that I was any less a person.
We never spoke again.
“Pain is pain. I’m single, so the relationships I’ve had weren’t successful, and being alone in a relationship is a special type of loneliness,” someone said.
“Would you erase those relationships, then, and trade your story with mine?” I inquire, waiting.
“No…because we learn something from all encounters.”
Bullshit. My story is worse.
About the Author
Sadie Scotch grew up in rural Pennsylvania – New Hope to be exact! – and started her international traveling career at age 16 when she became a Rotary International exchange student to Belgium in 11th grade, then to Paris in college and Brussels to work at NATO after college (Lehigh University). She got an MBA from the University of Cape Town after working around the African continent in a sales role and after a two-year backpacking stint in Asia. Her essays have been featured in The Smart Set and Fertility Road Magazine. You can follow her on Instagram or get in touch at [email protected]!