Much like the single girl, the single boy has had a few PR issues of late. Pop culture has not been kind to men bereft of a woman who'll hold us and hug us and tell us our new haircut looks shit and that we should never think about doing that again.
The 1990s gave Britain Men Behaving Badly's hapless moron, Tony; Bottom's pair of perverts, Eddy and Richie; Friends' miserable loser, Chandler; and Seinfeld's George Costanza, who had a bunch of stuff up with him. Then the millennium happened and we were confronted with Teachers' directionless man-child Simon; Arrested Development's needy "nice guy" Michael; Family Guy's deviant Glen Quagmire; and The Inbetweeners' entire cast of sexually-inadequate human failures.
Thing is, it's unlikely all single men will have noticed this trope, because it's not really in the nature of single men to pontificate over their identity as single men. Blame the patriarchy for making life so easy for them, or biology for not putting an expiry date on their reproductive system, but a lot of men are barely sentient in this respect – we don't consciously acknowledge the concept of singledom to ourselves, let alone say the actual word "singledom" out loud with our mouths. I feel gross just typing it.
But perhaps if we indulged in a degree of navel-gazing around the subject we'd be better off as people; things can get rather wayward when you've got no one to answer to: laziness, over-indulgence and self-involvement can all get left unchecked. Weird stuff can start happening that you only realise is weird when you catch yourself, at 4:17AM on a Tuesday morning, buying a £100 meat grinder on credit so you can step up your homemade burger-making game – a game that you will always lose, because there will never be anyone else there taking part, because nobody wants to go to your flat, because your flat is disgusting, because it is full of expensive, barely-used kitchen equipment and smells like an abattoir.
It seems safe to imagine, for instance, that the following people have been single for quite some time:
- 43-year-old mixologists
- Those guys who go to military remembrance ceremonies pretending to have been in the SAS but wear the wrong tie and too many medals
- Mature anthropology students who ask long, over-involved questions at the end of lectures
- People who start calling around to get another gram in at 8AM
- Anyone who's modified their vape pen with parts specifically ordered on the internet
It's safe to imagine that all of these people are single because you wouldn't see that kind of behaviour from anyone in a relationship. People in relationships have someone who's very dedicated to calling them out on their shit. Single men, therefore, need to surround themselves with people they can bounce their ideas off, or learn how to keep themselves in check. Whether you're happy being single, newly single or looking to make yourself presentable enough to begin talking to female humans again, here are a few suggestions that might help you do just that.
DO CASUAL SEX PROPERLY
This is something people like to focus on, so let's just get it out the way now. No-strings sexual activity looks great on paper/PornHub, and sometimes it's great IRL. So, by all means, fuck away. Wear a condom, though, obviously, because STDs are a huge, itchy inconvenience that may necessitate a trained professional getting a stick that looks like a service station tea stirrer and then poking said stick into the end of your dick and wiggling it around inside. Inside. Inside your dick.
But don't let that deter you. You should definitely sow your wild oats while you're young, and you probably won't even feel that hollow if you acknowledge it for what it is. Who knows – you may even meet your future wife this way; a swipe right, a stilted conversation over a Nando's Wing Roulette (™), a fumble in an Uber and boom: you're strolling through Wickes, making joint decisions about which doorbell to buy.
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A key thing to watch out for here, though, is picking up what a girl you really like's more hostile best friend will call "a reputation". If you get all weird and obsessive about putting it about a lot (because that's a thing you might do: you're gross and your friends are gross and sometimes you show off to each other about how gross you're being), when you finally meet someone you want to hang out and be adorable with, they're going to be put off by a story they heard about you wiping your penis on some curtains and going back to the bar at 2AM.
A mantra to remember to help you avoid this situation is: "Don't be a shithead to people because it's not nice, and if that's not enough to stop you, you fucking sociopath, remember that they can also talk among themselves and share negative opinions about you, but the first bit should have been enough for you, you fucking sociopath." It's not snappy and it doesn't translate well into Latin, but it's very true.
DON'T DWELL ON THE LONELINESS
Some time in the 16th Century, Saint John of the Cross wrote a poem called The Dark Night of the Soul, and the term is now broadly used in Roman Catholicism to describe a spiritual crisis in the journey towards union with God.
Conveniently, it also works as a descriptor for the experience of spending Saturday night alone in a shared house, sat under a grubby duvet with a bottom-tier takeaway Hawaiian pizza, cueing up the episodes of American Dad you've seen the least and sweating out the previous night's 40-quid-a-gram cocaine. That is the experience of loneliness as a single man: dirty, self indulgent and coloured by the gentle hum of anxiety.
Everyone occasionally falls through the social event cracks or misses the boat on some kind of goings on and is left sitting quietly on their own, wondering why it might be that no one called. Did you somehow manage to offend the host that time you drank all their wine and strongly implied that you hate them? Maybe it's because people can't take it when you do that thing where you tap a beer bottle with the bottom of another beer bottle and it goes all fizzy and then you scream, directly at their face, "It's just banter!" Or is it just that the only person who really used to call you about these things was your girlfriend, and she's now escaped you and your terrible, shitfaced decision-making, never to return?
The solution, ultimately, to situations like this, is to recognise that awful people get a terrible script tattoo of the phrase "this too shall pass" on their chest because – despite being actual human trash – they have grasped that most basic of concepts: nothing will be forever, and when you're on a sofa in three-day-old boxer shorts covered in garlic and herb sauce, sweat and a palpable sense of shame, remember that even Diplo has nights like this, and tomorrow you can start over. If you're really feeling down, though:
CALL YOUR MOTHER
Call her. She knows you. She has your best interests at heart. She desperately wants you to be happy. She'll tell you a boring story about the state of the garden at home that will make you feel grounded, and in the absence of any other sensible women who care about you in your life, she's a reasonably good barometer of whether or not something is a good life decision. Here are some things mums say:
"A second credit card is not a great idea on 19k a year, darling."
"Are you still in bed? It's 3PM! This is beyond a joke."
"What about that nice girl from your work who asks you to parties sometimes? She's got a lot going for her and she seems to like you."
"Did you see that poor boy on the news who died from legal highs? Heartbreaking for his family."
"Looking forward to seeing you tonight – I've made lots of chilli con carne for when you get here."
Which, as you can see, are all sweet and helpful and constructive.
Here are some things mums never say:
"A pair of Air Yeezys seems like a sensible purchase."
"It's not tomorrow until you've gone to bed! Lads, lads, lads!"
"Yeah, she's a terrible person, but I bet she's great in the sack."
"I reckon you can definitely climb that, but first let's do another bump of K."
Listen to your mum more, not your idiot mates.
DON'T RELY ON WEED TO KEEP YOU COMPANY
This is a hard thing to convince stoners of, due to their astonished reactions when you suggest that regularly smoking a drug that makes you a bit lazy and self involved isn't the best way to spend your formative years.
Single men with no real responsibilities love weed, but maybe the main reason they're single and have no real responsibilities is because they love weed. Weirdly, girls find repetitive discussions about Boiler Room sets and Alex Jones podcasts boring; employers find people who are late a lot unemployable; and everyone else thinks it's weird that you wear a North Face and a hat throughout July.
The problem with weed and the single man is that it turns you inward and removes the desire to push life forward, leaving you in a state of permanent adolescence where graffiti sketchpads, COD and hanging out on Wavey Garms trumps hanging out with people who aren't your flatmates and getting out of bed in time to make it to the shops before every single one of them is closed for the night.
So why don't you – as a little experiment, and to prove you're not totally inflexible and adolescent about everything – give it up for a couple of weeks, just to see if you notice any change in your energy levels, your ability to communicate with the opposite sex, your social skills and your violent mood swings? Just a thought.
SUPPRESS THE 'THIRST'
Of all the rap vernacular that sounds extra embarrassing coming out of British people's mouths to appear in the mainstream in the last five years, the concept of "thirst" is by far the most evocative. It just perfectly implies that kind of life-or-death, clamouring desperation for sex that makes a young man say and do completely mortifying things. As a young, single male who occasionally gets boners, you'll experience "thirst" all the time: a fist-bitingly intense rush of sexual attraction that floods you with testosterone or endorphins or jizz, or something, and momentarily turns you into a fucking moron. This happens to everyone, and that's totally fine. What's important is that you manage to suppress the moronic urges until they dissipate. That means:
- No commenting, "Damn," on some poor girl's beach holiday Instagram pictures.
- No texting someone to ask them how they're doing immediately after seeing their beach holiday Instagram pictures.
- No use of that smiley face with hearts for eyes and a lolling tongue emoticon on anyone's beach holiday Instagram pictures.
- No @'ing other gross thirsty idiots in the comments of any beach holiday Instagram pictures. (As if to say what to them exactly? "Let's both leer at her and make her feel uncomfortable when she's home!"? Stop.)
Basically, stay off Instagram for the summer months if you can't keep it in your pants. You're already lucky enough that Facebook phased out the "poke" feature, so don't take the piss with this.
SORT OUT THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
In the girls' version of this article there's a section on getting the right friends. It encourages girls to get night-out friends who won't mind if you go home with someone and leave them at the bar. With boys, all your friends are night-out friends who won't mind if you go home with someone and leave them at the bar – I don't think you need more of those.
Maybe try to break up the monotony of hanging around with all those walking, talking, rage-erections with coke habits you spend every weekend with when you're 26, and instead get some other pals who can keep you civilised enough to never become "the guy who ruined Clare's wedding", "the guy who was definitely smoking heroin at that house party last weekend", or "the guy who everyone hates", because those guys are, almost by definition, the WORST.
Some suggestions for new companions:
- A sober person, so you can get a non-alarmist outsider's perspective on things.
- A girl who thinks you're funny but also thinks you're an idiot and doesn't hesitate to say so, so you too can see yourself as the dick most girls already see you as.
- A friend of your dad's who lives in the same city as you and gets you dinner sometimes so you can get some non-partisan advice from your parents' generation.
- A person who lets you stay with them in the countryside when things get too grubby in town so you can occasionally get some distance from class As and dirty bedsheets.
- A couple from work who ask you to babysit once in a while so you can have a crack at being a responsible person, and because girls probably think that's pretty adorable. Also, I think that's pretty adorable.
TRY TO GET ON WITH YOUR EXES
The ability to be solid, respectful friends with your exes is the mark of a decent human being. You learn lots about what a shitty person you've been, meaning you become less shitty, and it's made clear to outsiders that you're not a madhead who is so terrible at personal relationships that no one wants to talk to you ever again after being intimate with you. You win on a bunch of levels, plus if you're down in the dumps they might be able to comfort you in a way only someone who has seen you cry five times as an adult (one time because they broke up with you in a Pizza Express) can.
As for rekindling old flames, how many proper exes could you have possibly had at 26? Four, maximum? You know there's loads of other girls knocking about, right? But whatever, I guess, there's no telling some people. It can be tempting, in the absence of anyone new on the sexual horizon and in the face of the aforementioned bitter loneliness, to attempt to "go there" again. In terms of whether or not this is a good idea, the old scorched earth adage of "never go backwards" is definitely a little simplistic; if they like you and you like them, don't let a phrase you heard during sixth form colour your outlook on relationships – deal with it on a case-by-case basis.
That said, it's probably a bad idea. Leopards don't change their spots, and humans don't stop doing that really annoying thing with their teeth when you're trying to go to sleep, or that thing where they're rude to cab drivers, or that thing where their best friend is fucking awful, or that thing where they're not actually as fun or nice as you remember them being.
NB: It's worth noting that if anyone gets in touch with you just to ask how you're doing or to "clear up what happened between us" while they're still in a relationship with someone else, that relationship is going to shit.
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