For years, the single girl has been suffering from a PR crisis, one that can be traced from Joan of Arc through Elizabeth I to the fourth series of Miranda. Sure, we've stopped being drowned as witches but, in 2015, female singledom isn't exactly dripping with cachet, is it? It's still "poor Jen", it's still Shania Twain, it's still eating a chocolate mousse with your eyes closed. In the eyes of popular culture, all of us are up Jacob's Creek without a paddle.
Thing is, being single can be great. Last night, after I'd polished off my mousse, wiped away my gin tears and finished screaming into the darkness, I realised that your twenties are kind of the perfect time to not be in a relationship. Because now is not the time for binge watching House of Cards or wiping someone else's piss off the toilet seat. Now is the time for drinking slimlines in the street and falling off the back of mopeds while your bones are still supple enough to knit themselves back together.
Being single doesn't have to mean a succession of all-girls brunches where you only talk about men; or a legitimate interest in those glasses that hold an entire bottle of wine; or spending Valentine's Day alone in a Dixy Chicken, sharing a sizzler burger with your pocket mirror. Instead, it can mean having a lot of fun with your friends and never having to worry about some guy leaving his shoes piled up at the end of your bed.
Here's our guide to making the best of what's too often billed as a bad situation.
STOP BEING IN DENIAL
The first rule is to be honest. The Domino's man knows you live alone, so stop shouting, "It's here!" back into the flat when he rings the doorbell. You're single and that's fine; you don't need to keep justifying it to yourself or anyone else.
Other giveaways to avoid: pledging your allegiance to the "sisterhood", quoting Beyonce like she's Gloria Steinem and saying stuff like, "Personal growth is basically impossible when you've got a boyfriend, you know?" Hear that ping? That's your fault: every time you say, "I LOVE being single," in a slightly cracked voice, somewhere in the world another cannelloni-for-one is removed from the microwave.
Your friends are lying – men aren't intimidated by you. You just haven't found the right one yet. And you're not going to find the right one by spending all your free time switching tabs between ASOS and Couchtuner. A bar of Galaxy can't go down on you, so stop telling people at hen parties that you prefer it to sex. You're making everyone feel really awkward and worried about you.
Get out there and have some fun. Unlike your aunts, I'm not telling you that your uterus is expiring faster than a ripe avocado; I'm telling you that, before you start fretting about becoming a warty old maid, you might want to remember that contraceptives exist for a reason: so we can meet people in nightclubs, have sex with those people and then scarper when we spot their jarred collection of navel fluff, all without the fear that their progeny might be growing inside us.
One of the joys of being a single straight gal is that it's really quite likely that anyone you want to shag will want to shag you back. This means you are free to revel in a veritable buffet of dick. But be warned, ladies: at any great buffet there will still always be something festering at the back that nobody else has touched for a reason, like warm taramasalata. Whatever you do, do not put one of those warm taramasalata dicks in your mouth.
The first absolute cardinal rule of fucking around is to just accept it if it turns out you suck at casual sex. If being a slag makes you feel weird or sad, don't power on through, unless you want to end each night trying not to sob too audibly in the arms of a sleeping stranger.
Once you've made it this far, the next step is to find a semi-consistent casual sex partner. It's advisable to pick someone wildly inappropriate and breathtakingly thick. Think part-time DJs, mixologists, Australians. Remember it's a given that these people will all have horrible bedrooms full of MDF furniture and mattresses with no sheets. It will be the interiors equivalent of having sex in the corner of an empty packet of Quavers.
While in the bathroom, emergency-shaving with your housemate's razor, have a quiet little word with yourself. Ask yourself this: am I going to have an orgasm tonight? If you don't think you are, you should send him home immediately, because you are ruining feminism for everyone with your terrible, conciliatory, orgasm-less sex. Worse still, if you're being persuaded into not using condoms for this sort of sex, you deserve the oozy sores you're inevitably going to end up with. A happy single gal is not the same thing as a "one STI clinic loyalty card stamp away from a free gonorrhoea shot" gal.
WATCH: Our recent documentary 'The Luxury Item' about the tax on tampons
THE DATING 'SCENE'
The words alone send shivers up your spine, don't they? Unfortunately, there is absolutely no cool way to declare yourself "casually dating". The fact of the matter is that you're just going to have to start flinging handfuls of shit at the wall and hope some of it misses the fan. Most people you go on blind dates with will be boring or have one off-putting quality that couldn't possibly be captured in a profile picture, like a tippy-toes walk or a really earnest enthusiasm for acupuncture.
As far as dating apps go, don't bother trying to be ironic and aloof. Tinder is like cocaine: everyone pretends to hate it, yet uses it compulsively every weekend. Drop the act. Don't crop out your arms. He's going to have to see your arms eventually. And don't put up a profile picture of you in a group. Nothing screams "Do not date me!" like being the indeterminate one in a picture of six girls.
Once things actually start to go right, you might find that getting off with loads of people all the time can be quite admin-intensive. Take a breather with the help of some good old nourishing flirting. Other people's dads are a really harmless bet. Or people whose actual job it is to flirt with you, like chuggers, Apple geniuses and Pret staff. Be careful how far you take this, though: I don't care how well you "gelled" on the way home, it is never acceptable to sleep with your Uber driver.
PEOPLE IN COUPLES
Any deviation from watching Netflix and gorging themselves into a pair of grey evening joggers is considered radical for the couples in your life. Their appetite for adventure has been all but lost to conversations about house plants.
So when a long-term couple invite you to what sounds like a promising event, don't be naïve: remember that people in couples are fucking liars. They can't help that their interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of your vagina.
Sometimes couples will pass the time by trying to set you up with any single people they can get their hands on. People in couples want you tucked up in bed. They certainly don't want to stay up and watch your jaw swing from side to side as the sun rises over a row of industrial bins. They want to go home and have the kind of easy, spoon-y sex you don't even have to brush your teeth for. Then they want you to do the same so they don't have to be "worried about you".
Mind you, everyone knows that "worried about you" is code for "I'm miserable in my relationship." And who's going to have to pick up the pieces when their boyfriend finds someone else to do his white wash? You are. Which brings us to...
GET THE RIGHT KIND OF FRIENDS
"Best friends" are great. They're really good for hauling sofas up the stairs and listening to your shit and telling you when you've got snot in your hair. However, when you're trying to get your end away, they're hopeless. Your best mate's been in a relationship for five years. Her hatchback is pretty much parked in the double garage of life. Your promise of "a party back at Dave's" isn't really doing much for her.
No, what you really need are night-out friends. The sort of disturbingly enthusiastic, secretly very competitive girls who wear body glitter and flowers in their hair. Someone who you fundamentally hate, but who'll split a gram with you and whose hand you'll find yourself cheerfully holding at a festival. Smother yourself in her body glitter, flirt with her attractive male friends and get your goddamn bellybutton out, woman, before it's too late for a crop-top.
This is an alliance of sheer convenience. It doesn't matter that you don't have anything to talk about because she's not that bothered about you as long as you're up for doing peace signs in her human pyramid selfies. The best news is your shitty new friends don't really like you either, which is perfect because they're not going to give two hoots when you ditch them at 11.30 for some portaloo pash with a man who may or may not have just been playing the bongos.
Being single is a gift because it means you can do really annoying things, like put a dirty plate just outside your door so you tread on it when you go to toilet in the middle of the night. It means you can block the drain with your hair, or put a tampon in in your bedroom. You can be as disgusting as you like in your own space because someone whose idea of womanhood stems from his home counties mum isn't sharing it with you.
Also, while you're single, it's your god-given right to love yourself to kingdom cum. Lord knows it's taken you enough time to admit you do it, so enjoy it now you have. I'm paraphrasing here, but I'm pretty certain there's something in the Bible along the lines of: you can't love your neighbour until you love yourself. Or rather, love yourself so you can adequately instruct your neighbour how to love you more tenderly. (Just so everyone is clear, we're talking about masturbation now.)
A lot of the orgasms in your single life are so fabulously low-octane it's quite hard to remember what all the fuss is about. In this serene landscape you're much more likely to strum yourself to sleep like a sylph than hit the high notes with your face pressed into the headboard. But don't let things go. Don't allow your masturbatory relations to become so pedestrian that, in fact, you sometimes fall asleep during, only to wake up having an argument with yourself about how things aren't as passionate as they used to be.
That said, don't be that girl – the one who takes things too far. No one else wants to hear about your experience with yourself. Your dildo might be throbbing with more veins than a Vodka Revs doorman, and it very well may have cost more than your NutriBullet, but don't become unhealthily attached to your vibrating friend. Don't give it a name and start introducing it into conversation like it's a party guest, not least because that's going to ruin human dicks for you forever. Oh, and don't wash and dry it using a communal tea towel, 'cause that's just rude.
SPENDING TIME ALONE IS FUN
You're probably pretty chuffed with your own company by this point – or, at the very least, you should be. Think about it: there's no one you have more in common with than yourself. You're great. You're the best. You're really good at courgetti and your hair has bounce. You're so bloody you.
Carpe-your-single-diem, girlfriend, because before you know it you'll be obliged to listen to someone else's dreams, check their moles and endure their tickly cough all night. You are doomed to meet someone and fall so dully in love that you spend the next five years saving up for a mortgage deposit together. One day someone will ask you what your weekend plans are and they mostly involve doing inventive new things with an £18 chorizo you bought from a farmer's market. And not even sex things: paella things.
There's so much more to life than waking up to the smell of the same scalp every day. Your energy to try new exciting, weird, beautiful things is a precious commodity that will fade away with time, so it's up to you to spend it well while it lasts. Think of it like winning the lottery, but instead of winning actual money, you won a finite supply of youth, beauty and moxie. Now you have a handle on that blunt analogy: spend that paper before your family tell you to do something sensible with it. Keep buying H&M playsuits even though you never learn. Wake up miles from home with an adult male who still likes skateboarding. Sincerely say the word "totes". Go blonde for a bit to ~see the world through the eyes of another~. Flirt with old men at high-class bars so they buy you fancy cocktails. Get gonorrhoea. Eat mousse. Do both at the same time. You can do what you want, because you're young and you're single and the only real responsibility you have is paying the contract up on that iPhone you cracked. Go out there and play fuckabout before you're trapped in the purgatory of a joint bank account forever.
More stuff like this: