My whole life, I’ve been told that my single years were going to be some of my best. It’s that special time when you get to figure out who you are and what you want, and the world feels like a big, open book. Or at least, it should be.
Navigating single life in the pandemic has forced us to rethink everything we thought this time would be. And, with much of Australia finding ourselves back in lockdown, it’s become one of the most isolating experiences.
Lockdown 2020 looked a lot different. I’d recently come out of a four-year relationship and didn’t have any kind of desire to date - casual or otherwise. Now, as a happily single girl who was really starting to come into her own, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to adjust to this new way of life. I’ve had something very good ripped away from me before I was ready to part with it. The fun, single period of my early twenties is passing me by every day, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
While feelings of loneliness hit hard at times, one of the worst aspects doesn’t have to do with being single at all. It’s about being one of the few single people left out of my close friendship circle whose circumstances have played out very differently to mine. A few friends were already in serious relationships and the lockdown forced several others to become exclusive with their casual partners. Me on the other hand? I’d been having too much fun to have any kind of ongoing thing with anyone. At the time it was incredibly liberating, but now, courtesy of the pandemic, is starting to feel completely isolating.
The thing is, I don’t particularly want a boyfriend right now, and certainly had no interest in one pre-lockdown. I was out multiple nights a week, meeting new people, going on dates and feeling a sense of freedom I’d never experienced before. Everything was fun and flirty, I didn’t know who I’d meet or where I’d end up - the whole world felt like this never-ending, expansive place. Now, it feels smaller than it’s ever felt before, and it’s closing in around me by the minute.
In moments of real solitude, you can always turn to dating apps, but even if you do find yourself getting along with someone, your only date option is a socially distanced walk. And, if they live further than 10km away, you’ve got no hope of a real life meetup. As you can imagine, the whole situation starts to feel pretty hopeless before it’s even started.
Sometimes, I catch myself lying in bed and wondering how it’d feel to have someone next to me. I’d have those nights occasionally pre-lockdown too, but I knew come the weekend I’d have someone there to satisfy that need. It was never something I worried about.
Now, with case numbers growing daily and lockdown looking indefinite, those lonely nights are so regular that I can’t hold out for the weekend and the thrill of a new chase. There isn’t one coming, for a long, long time at least.
And, even when this lockdown does eventually lift, how long will it be until we can actually enjoy being single again? When will we get to experience those hallmark moments, like bumping into a stranger at a bar, striking up a conversation and never leaving their side all night. Or finding yourself hooking up with someone in the back of an Uber because you just can’t wait to get home? We’re currently terrified to stand too close to someone in the supermarket queue, let alone kiss someone we’ve only just met, simply because we felt like it.
While this all sounds incredibly horny, it’s actually about more than just the sex. Pre-pandemic, you could go months without having sex, and while it probably wasn’t much fun, it didn’t necessarily feel like the end of the world. Now, single people are craving something as simple as a hand-hold, or an innocent, fully-clothed cuddle. It’s the little, most pure aspects of affection that can be the hardest to forgo.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if I’m not out there living my best single life, then having a boyfriend feels like the logical alternative. The thing is, though, I know it’s not. The right person hasn’t come along, and I’d choose an empty bed over one shared with the wrong person anytime.
In the meantime, this situation is a pretty good opportunity to work on the most important relationship we’ll ever have in our lives - the one with ourselves. I know that one day, when this lockdown is behind us, we’ll be standing in a crowded bar again, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the whole night ahead of us. And, whether we have an amazing one-night stand or meet the love of our lives, it’ll have been worth the wait.