The Soho Sex Column: Let’s talk about being the last single friend
This week, our sexpert Olivia Petter, gets candid about what it’s really like to be the only non-coupled person in your friendship group…
Friday 16 September 2020 By Olivia Petter. Illustration By Rosa Viktoria Ahlers
I’m having breakfast with five friends – all men – when I realise it. ‘Hang on, are you sure, Liv?’ one asks. I do some counting in my head, holding my fingers out one by one – yes, I am. ‘Wow,’ he replies, spreading a thick slab of butter onto his toast. ‘How did that happen?’
We are in a remote town in southwest Wales, sharing an Airbnb near the seaside. Later that afternoon, we will go to the wedding of one of our school friends. And I will be the only single woman there. Well, the only one out of our friendship group.
It’s the first time that so many of us have been coupled up. Some of the relationships are in their early stages – stretching just beyond the first ‘I love you’ – while others are established and settling into their first year of marriage.
This was the second wedding of the year that I had been invited to with my ex. I was, at this point, accustomed to what this would mean: questions about why we broke up, which dating apps I’m using, and have I read [enter name of literally any bestselling self-help book] yet?
Rewind a few years ago and all this would have rattled me. The only single woman among us? How sad. How pathetic. How Bridget Jones. But being single isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed. Accepting this, though, can take time given that it goes against everything we’ve been conditioned to believe.
Women are taught from an early age that being single is not a choice; it’s a liminal state. One that elicits pity and sympathy, because by dint of being alone you’re socially inferior to those who are in relationships. It might sound archaic, but this is a narrative that persists in 2022 – and if you’re a single woman, especially one in her late twenties or older, you’ll know this to be true.
But subscribing to this narrative is utterly nonsensical, and I’m so pleased I’ve finally realised that. Why? Because when it dawned on me that I’d be the only single woman out of our friends at this wedding, it didn’t bother me.
Even at the wedding, when I was surrounded on the dance floor by my closest friends and their partners, I felt nothing but sheer joy. I didn’t feel lonely, nor did I feel excluded, because I know that I have chosen to be on my own – and that is an empowering feeling.
If you’re finding it difficult being the only single person in your group of friends, my advice is to be a little bit selfish. Do the things you would normally do on a date on your own, whether it’s visiting an exhibition or going to the cinema. Go to every single party you’re invited to and make a promise to yourself to meet at least three people there (thank you for this tip, Emma-Louise Boynton). If you can, book yourself in for a solo holiday. I just did this for the first time, and let me tell you, it was glorious.
It’s taken me a while to get here (it might take you some time, too), but that’s OK. Eventually, you’ll see that being single can be a blessing and a privilege. God knows it’s so much better than being trapped in a bad relationship.
The quick-fire round
What do you do when a guy says he doesn’t want a relationship, but his behaviour suggests otherwise?
Gah. I don’t envy you. Trying to work out what someone you’re dating really wants is a heavy emotional undertaking, one made much harder when that person is giving you mixed signals. But you can’t play the guessing game; you have to take what they say at face value, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
I’ve still not had sex since the pandemic – how can I get out of my head comfortably?
Firstly, just know that you’re not alone. Almost every person I know who was single during the pandemic has struggled with intimacy as we’ve slowly returned to normal. If you’re not ready to sleep with anyone yet, don’t. There’s no point putting pressure on yourself. In the meantime, you need to get comfortable with your sexual self again. My tip? Buy a new sex toy and spend an afternoon in bed. Thank me later.
If you want to get in touch, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will remain anonymous.
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate