The Benefits of Flying Solo

May 2015 Op-ed Vocal Local column for the Bridge River Lillooet News

It’s time to say this: people who are in a couple can have some pretty glaring deficits—only the deficits aren’t talked about because our society pushes the couple as the ideal social unit. I wouldn’t even bother with this topic except I’m tired of how single people are treated. Case in point, try being the only single woman at a party full of couples—you can feel like a rogue missile.

Too often singles don’t fare well in the media. Movie plots use tired, convenient tropes about the maladjusted loner. Romantic comedies push the fiction that you’re nobody until you find somebody. Harlequin Romance has made an empire out of selling mate fantasies.
But here’s the skinny from my real life observations. Couples can be terribly boring. As long as they have each other they don’t feel the need to develop themselves. Consequently, they lack many things: how to be comfortable in your own skin; how to manage your shifting emotional terrain; how to open your mind and maintain the value in meeting new people; how to embrace different experience and points of view; and how to connect with, and contribute to, the wider world.
On the psychological terrain, couples often have trouble thriving. Most obvious is the tendency to become controlling and jealous. Over the years I’ve listened to many coupled folk bemoan their mate choice, their spirits dying a thousand tiny deaths as they succumb to their misery. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the single friends who’ve bought into the madness and spend their lives pining for the unicorn otherwise known as their soul mate.
Sure, we’re wired for love and physical intimacy, the biological needs are strong. But when people believe the couple is their only option, at what cost? My hat’s off to those who manage to grow and thrive within the couple paradigm, but for those of us who can’t, don’t, or won’t, it’s time we got a bit more respect.
Most of my friends are single, admirable and contributing to society in a myriad of interesting, positive ways. Our sense of belonging and connection is strong. Yes, there can be some lonely hours to get through, but as for me, I’m so content overall I often rub my hands together in glee, like I’m getting away with something.
And I’m not the only one. Singles now make up between 30 and 50 percent of the population in Western cities. While this does, in fact, represent isolation for some, it represents liberation for many others. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world, there’s room for all of us. Diversity—not uniformity—makes for a balanced society. So when you see a single person, please think twice about feeling pity, or wondering who among your single friends you could hook them up with, or the worst, fearing that they want to steal your mate. Instead, try seeing a healthy, happy person who should be valued and appreciated instead.