30 and single…taking a dating ‘gap year’

I’m in a bar, chatting to a guy, slightly bleary eyed. “So how old are you?” my 32-year-old self enquires. “24…” he replies. My heart sinks.

“Don’t you think it smells like farts in here?” He adds.

That was the last time I tried to go to a bar to meet men. I’d already given up on Tinder and a like, after I received a message from someone admitting they were married (“I hope this isn’t an obstacle… things just aren’t going well at the moment”). I’m now on a dating “gap year”. To be honest, I can’t be bothered with the hassle that’s part and parcel of the “dating scene”. The small-talk. The cat and mouse texting. The ghosting. The blind dates that feel more like job interviews (they might as well come out and say, “There are many candidates for the coveted role of My Girlfriend, what do you bring to the table?”). The nights spent in bars – that do indeed smell like farts – chatting to guys who have barely gotten past puberty, or feeling someone’s hand brush against your crotch as you try an order a drink. (Seriously, when did this become a “thing”?)

To be honest, I’m not in the right headspace to start dating again either, as I still love my former partner. I was head over heels in love with him in fact, but things weren’t working out between us for various reasons. So after about a year of arguments and teary sleepless nights, I decided to take a step back, to release the pressure and give us both some much needed space. It’s been two and a half months and my mood swings from vehemently optimistic that “it’ll all work out eventually”, to missing him terribly and feeling like I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face (“if only I’d persevered, tried a little harder…”)

After much hand-wringing (“will we/won’t we get back together?”) and at the end of my tether, I ended up going on an online forum. These are great places to offload anonymously and get some sympathy, advice – and occasional judgement – from strangers. One reply really struck me, as I mentioned I was in two minds whether to contact my partner. “Do you really want to go back to all the aggravation you’ve spent ages trying to extricate yourself from?” it read. And that was the kicker for me. I’d spent the best part of last year feeling insecure, paranoid and frustrated – and I knew all of that would still be waiting for me should I try to resume this relationship straight away.

I think I stuck with it for as long as I did because as my peers began to get married and have kids I began to feel panicked that I might end up “missing the boat”. Which is complete bollocks obviously (but is still a fear I have to push deep down from time to time). Karl Marx famously said that, “religion is the opiate of the masses” i.e. something invented to keep the proletariat from rebelling and accepting their lot in life. Rather than cultivating a sense of self-worth, they were taught to focus all their energy on a mysterious deity, obeying G-d to gain His approval, in order to validate their existence. In the same way I think society has constructed romantic love as “the opiate of womankind” so to speak. We’re taught that our self-worth is inextricably linked to our relationship status. It’s essentially gaining the approval of a man (by having him putting a ring on our finger) in order to validate our existence. Of course finding a loving supportive partner would be nice, but so is having a loving supporting relationship with ourselves.

So that’s why I’m getting out of the dating game, and putting the brakes on trying to reconcile with my ex. I’m just going to be focusing on myself for the rest of 2017, starting with a beach holiday – all by myself, to do whatever and go wherever the hell I want. Of course I know it’s not going to be easy and occasionally lonely, but I’ve got a good network of single girlfriends I can go out and rant with (essential for surviving thirties singledom), as well as loving family members and a job I enjoy. If I do rekindle my past relationship or get serious with someone new, I want it to come from a place of genuine love, as opposed to neediness, social pressure and low self-esteem. I figure that by taking a “year out” to look after myself, I will ultimately be in a much stronger and healthier position to have a happy functional relationship in the future.

Anonymous  

My #30andsingle series sheds light on what it’s really like to be single in your thirties. Since every experience is different (for mine click here), I shall be featuring stories from a range of perspectives. So, keep an eye out for future pieces like this one written by a number of guest writers. Some stories will resonate more than others but either way I hope you’ll find answers, affirmations and the realisation that you’re not alone.