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National Singles Day Is the Saddest Holiday of All Time

I went to a rally in West Hollywood for single people and felt more lonely than empowered.

by Megan Koester
Jan 15 2015, 4:39pm

I recently ended a long-term relationship I thought I'd be entangled in for the rest of my natural life; as a result, I've once again found myself thrown into the psychic horror that is the "dating scene." When my ex and I first started courting, Tinder was but a glimmer in the bloodshot eye of a college kid. Now it's the biggest game in town.

But I'd rather swipe right on both of my wrists than use it. If the path to finding "the one" is paved with soul-crushing dates and mediocre sex with underemployed liberal arts majors, I'm ready, willing, and able to die alone. That doesn't mean the rest of my single life has to be a trail of tears, though. Sure, I may lack companionship, but ain't I a woman? One who deserves the same rights as my coupled counterparts? One who should be allowed to embrace—nay, celebrate—my unwillingness to get fingered by a barista I met through an app? The organizers of National Singles Day believe I am.

Emboldened by the success of Guanggun Jie, an immensely popular Chinese holiday that celebrates singlehood, the brain trust behind America's Singles Day seeks "to recognize and appreciate the 124 million and growing single adults in this country" and "spur an annual retail event in the first month of each year, benefitting consumers and businesses alike."

If they're trying to compete with Guanggun Jie, they have their work cut out for them. The largest online shopping day in the world, Guanggun Jie generated a reported $9.3 billion in sales in 2014, more than double that of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Indeed, nothing fills the void quite like buying shit you don't need from the safety and anonymity of your home.

According to the National Singles Day website, America's singles "[carry] on largely unrecognized, in spite of their significant contribution to our economy, our culture, and our well-being as a nation." It is time, the site claims, for us dateless wonders to rise up and get our propers by making National Singles Day an official American holiday. Armed with a Change.org petition (65 signatures and counting!) and a dream, founder Karen Reed and her cohorts are on the front lines of the fight for your right to party solo.

This January 11 (1/11. Get it?) marked the second annual National Singles Day. To celebrate, a small but mighty group assembled in West Hollywood to rally for the cause. And by "small," I mean "comically miniscule." Ten minutes before the rally was set to commence, I watched from a distance as two clearly overwhelmed people struggled to set up home base. Others began to trickle in, all of whom appeared to be volunteers. One rolled out the event's blue carpet (blue? A little too on the nose, don't you think?) under overcast, foreboding skies.

Twenty-five minutes later, the rally still had not begun. A vinyl banner, which read, "Join the Party! :) It's... National Singles Day!" kept drooping above the blue carpet, getting perilously close to knocking down the mannequins below, each of which held a sign advertising something called "West Hollywood Lifestyle" (which I later learned was an exciting new publication about, uh, the West Hollywood lifestyle).

I stood in the periphery of the action, next to a middle-aged woman in an angora sweater who carried a Trader Joe's bag in one hand and a purse constructed to look like a rubber chicken in the other. ("Everyone loves my rubber chicken purse," she informed me. "But don't be fowl just because it's a 13-inch cock.") Angora stared longingly at the people on the blue carpet as they talked among themselves—they all seemed to know each other. She sat down and pantomimed looking at her phone, presumably to feel less awkward. I did the same.

The group we were isolated from all appeared to have been "happily" single for quite some time; this is a kind way of saying they were middle-aged. They posed for endless photo-ops on the blue carpet, grinning into iPhone cameras while shouting, on three, "NATIONAL SINGLES DAY!"

"I thought there'd be hundreds of people," Angora sighed, "but there's, like, twelve here."

Once the gang tired of being photographed, we trudged down the block to the Horn, "WeHo's hottest new fine food and drink establishment!" There, the "MAIN EVENT!" awaited us, as did actual revelers. Apparently the restaurant was a more appealing meeting place than the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica. Again, everyone appeared to know one another.

Karen Reed, a slight woman who vaguely resembled Diane Keaton, took the stage and spoke before the loud crowd, describing the myriad injustices suffered by uncoupleds in our society. The point of National Singles Day, she informed us, was to show the world we're "just as important as everyone else." She was all but drowned out by a cacophony of noise. "If you could please be quiet for the video," she asked the crowd. "It's two minutes long." They refused to comply. How rude, I thought. No wonder they're single.

Gordon Morris, a man Reed described as having been "happily single his entire life," took the stage next to talk about Unmarried Equality, his 10,000-member-strong organization. I found it almost impossible to hear him over the noise, but my takeaway was that the existence of carpool lanes rankled his chain. I could see his point—it is impossible to carpool alone.

More speakers took the stage; all were met with overwhelming indifference. The vast majority of the crowd wasn't even interested in obtaining free things—two excitable volunteers threw shirts that read "I Heart Me" at the apathetic crowd as "Dancing with Myself" played overhead. Angora languished alone in the corner, approached by no one.

The giveaways continued—free headshots (a $150 value!), which Angora deftly won by answering an inane trivia question; an in-house massage from a "masseuse to the stars" (a $150 value!); and a pink, boa-covered pillow designed by Bobby Trendy housed in a garbage bag (a priceless value!) were unceremoniously given to anyone and everyone paying a modicum of attention to what was happening onstage. After answering my own inane trivia question, I was bequeathed a $25 gift card to a local restaurant. Perfect, I thought. Just enough for dinner for one.

After the supply of freebies had been exhausted, one of the excitables yelled, "Who wants to have a dancing competition right now? Like in the movie White Chicks?" Her query went unanswered.

By 3:15, the show was over. Unspeakably bored and just as single as when I arrived, I took my leave. As I exited the restaurant, "Dancing With Myself" began to play a second time. Angora stood in the corner, looking at her phone, still alone. I wasn't exactly delighted by the experience, nor did I feel empowered. Mostly, I felt like I had stumbled into a private party I was not invited to and not welcome at. And, to be honest, singlehood is isolating enough.

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