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Girl Writer

The Stages of Grief for the Chronically Single

I had to go through a bunch of emotions before I could finally end up at my current state of being not at all worried about my perpetual singleness. Those emotions look strangely like the traditional stages of grief.

by Alison Stevenson
Nov 21 2014, 3:16pm

Photo by Elizabeth T. Vazquez

My longest relationship lasted only six months. In my world, relationships work like dog years. Six months for me is a long time, the equivalent of three and a half years for a normal person. Every year, I find myself dating someone here or there, but things fizzle after only a few short months, or days, or even hours.

I've spent many a night wondering why. Is this just how some people are? Friends frequently offer me unsolicited words of encouragement. At first, they would say things like, "Just wait it out, your time will come." After a few years passed, the comments turned to, "Have you tried online dating?" Of course I have, but I'm not happy about it. Now my friends have pretty much given up on me. They say things like, "Date women!" As if I wouldn't have already jumped on that ship if I could have. At least now, I don't care as much as I used to. Of course, I had to go through a bunch of other emotions before I could finally end up at my current state of being super chill and not-at-all-worried-about-it.

Unfortunately, the psychiatric community has not yet taken the time to create an official model for the emotional stages of a misanthropic young adult who has yet to truly love or be loved. It's almost as if they have more important things to worry about. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I may not be a licensed practitioner, but who cares? Freud got to say that boys want to have sex with their moms, and people were on board with that. Why? Because he had a goatee, smoked cigars, and was a neurologist? I have a chin whisker waiting to be plucked, some menthols on my desk, and a degree in English. If that's not legitimate, I don't know what is. I found that the stages I experienced were a bit similar to the stages of grief, the last stage for both ultimately being acceptance. But instead of accepting the death of a loved one, I had to accept the death of needing a loved one. Let's take a look.

Stage 1: Self-Hatred

The first round of self-hatred happened on a basic level. It was born out of rejection. Not trying to brag, but my romantic history has shown that I'm usually the one who gets dumped; I've been rejected all kinds of fun and exciting ways. In person, via email, late-night text message (most popular), being ignored until I "got the point" (second most popular), and one time a mutual friend of ours had to give me "the talk." To my knowledge, I have only broken someone's heart once, unless that time I canceled a first date to keep watching Netflix on my bed counts. Regardless, repeated rejection has led to horrific assumptions, most based on outward appearance. I told myself that I was the ugliest human being who has ever walked the planet. I convinced myself that every mirror I've ever come across has been playing a cruel joke on me my whole life. I must really be a 600-pound demonic troll with no personality!

Stage 2: Blame and Anger

Once I got over the self-hatred, it became time to figure out what the problem really was: them. It was never me. It was those stupid guys who didn't want to date me. I'm a catch! I'm a special, precious, unique, wonderful, precious ray of bright-as-hell sunshine. Those guys were all just too foolish to see it. During this emotional state, my weekends were filled with drunken rants. I called all the men I used to like shallow assholes who wouldn't know a good woman if she kicked him in the nuts. The anger spread from there. I was mad at anything having to do with love. The notion of relationships sickened me. When I saw happy couples holding hands, I hoped to see one of them fall in a ditch. I even unfriended people on Facebook who announced their wedding engagements. At this point, I knew my ill feelings needed to change. Not only was I ruining my Klout score, but I could see the monster I was creating. I told myself that If I didn't stop right away, I would eventually become the living embodiment of "misandry is real." Men's Rights Activists would finally be right about something, and it'd be all my fault.

Stage 3: Self-Hatred (Again)

Well, if I'm not going to hate others, then who am I going to hate? It's got to come back to me. However, this stage of self-hatred was not as dramatic as the first. I knew this time around that I wasn't a demonic troll, but I also felt that I must still be responsible for not finding someone. Everyone I know has somehow managed to maintain real relationships with other people, so why haven't I? I must be too picky, or unapproachable. Maybe I come on too strong, or not strong enough. I analyzed everything wrong with my personality that could possibly make me unappealing. That meant making a long list that started with "not assertive enough" and ended with "that time I thought a ketchup stain on my arm was a blood clot."

Stage 4: Desperation

This was, by far, the most pathetic of the stages. All I kept thinking was that I needed someone. Anyone. I said yes to whoever asked me out. Even if I knew we had nothing in common, I'd still give it the old college try. I figured, why not? Some people say that romantic attraction needs time to develop. Perhaps if I was determined enough, I could delude myself into being in love with someone totally incompatible. This, of course, was idiotic. If you don't agree let me just say that, during this fragile state, one guy briefly had me thinking that I could get into parkour. I don't want to talk about it.

Stage 5: Acceptance

I am lucky enough to have reached this final stage. Not all chronically single people can. Nothing significant really led to it—I was basically just done with the self-pity. Done blaming myself, and others. The only thing I actually did wrong was let my insecurities get the best of me. For a long time, I felt left out. Like I was the only kid in class not invited to Simon's bar mitzvah. Well, fuck Simon and his bar mitzvah. I have all the time in the world to go to any bar mitzvah that I want. That bar mitzvah might be even better, because it took longer to plan and I'll be more prepared for it. Also, the Black Eyed Peas might perform if his parents are rich enough. (Note: This bar mitzvah stuff should obviously be taken as a metaphor for long-term relationships, but can also be taken literally if anyone wants to invite me to one.)

In movies and television, chronically single women tend to be represented as one of two extremes. They are either idealistic and childlike in their approach to love, or too busy being straight-laced execs with no time for any of that romance nonsense because of all the business they're doing in that business office of theirs. I never felt like I fit into either category. I definitely don't seek an idealized version of romance. The last thing I want to do is make out in the cold rain, or have some dumb picnic in a stupid park. I sure as hell am not a high-powered cubicle warrior either. In other words, my being single this long does not mean I am pathetic and lonely, nor does it mean that I am strong and independent. I am all of the above, and then some. Just like everyone else. 

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