In which I prove that being single is not an invisible disability...
LONG-TERM single people like myself often have to put up with unwarranted advice from would-be Cupids. It would be helpful if it wasn't so offensive.
You see, I don't hear the advice any more. Instead I listen out for the insult in disguise – because behind every piece of seemingly well-intentioned advice is an exposition of your apparent shortcomings.
"He's not going to come knocking on your door." (Read: get off the couch, fatso.) "It'll happen when you least expect it." (Read: stop being so desperate.) "You're too picky." (Read: get over yourself, love.)
Family members have recently been telling me to "give everyone a chance"; "stop going for looks" and "keep an open mind".
Now, maybe I'm being paranoid, but given that they only started dispensing this particular brand of advice when I turned 30, I can't help but think that what they are really saying is "beggars can't be choosers" and "you're past your sell-by date, honey".
The assumption is that you're doing something wrong. You're looking in the wrong places; saying the wrong things; conveying the wrong message.
They're wrong. I've been single for five years because nobody has knocked my socks off sufficiently enough for me to want to share my life with them.
I'm holding out for the Big Bang. It's happened before so it can happen again. I want butterflies and gooey eyes and the need to have to go and sit somewhere in silence just to process it all. I'd rather be single for the rest of my life than settle for anything less.
But unfortunately I'm wearing clothes that are too big for me. That's my problem, according to my sister. And it doesn't help that I'm so intimidating, adds my friend Rob.
Mercifully, my grandmother is doing a Novena on my behalf. So, for now, I must contend with the question of "How are you still single?" I don't quite know how to answer this question as it's always posed as though you must have some sort of invisible disability, like a drinking problem, or a sexual dysfunction or a wooden leg.
A friend's boyfriend once asked me how I was still single. When I told him that I simply hadn't fancied anyone enough, he offered a conciliatory compliment:
"Well, I'd do ya." And then, just in case I didn't hear him the first time: "I'd do ya, so I would."
"Thank you," I answered. "That means a lot to me."
He later suggested that he set me up with one of his friends, at which point I wondered if it would be entirely inappropriate to start crying.
Set-ups are the worst part of the whole sorry scene. Not only do you have to appear grateful that someone has taken the time to play Cupid on your behalf, but you also have to appear interested when they produce a picture of a recent stag weekend, before pointing to the fella with a traffic cone on his head.
A septuagenarian friend of mine is a divil for it, but purely for her own entertainment. She's tried to set me up with a cashier in McDonald's, a bank teller in AIB and a garda. . . while he was giving her a ticket.
Then there are the mystics, those that attempt to soothe your weary heart by offering up premonitionary prospects.
One of my friend's mothers recently asserted that she "will find someone before she turns 32".
What concerned my friend was that her mother sounded like she was actually trying to assure herself. Worse, she used the same tone people employ when they say things like "you will beat this cancer".
"Oh dear God, they think we're chronically single," I moaned when she told me this.
Little did I know that things were about to get worse. It transpires that my other friend's family think I'm gay. As in, they think my friend and I are in a clandestine relationship. As you get older and your friends pair off and settle down, single friends begin to spend more time together.
Only this particular friend's family have mistaken our lengthy phone conversations as sweet nothings and our weekends away as romantic rendezvous. They're being pretty cool about it, which would be hugely helpful if we were actually coming out of the closet. Only, we're not.
"We don't mind if you're gay," they keep reassuring her. "Are you sure it wasn't a date?" they tease when she comes home from a night out with me.
We bumped into her sister on the Luas last week. Typically, it was just the two of us, so clearly we were on our way home to make love, or feed each other ice-cream, or something.
It's rather perverse having to prove your sexuality without being able to actually articulate it. Nonetheless, I gave it my best shot.
I told them about a recent date I went on, being careful to put the emphasis on the 'he'. I dropped in a line about an ex-boyfriend. I even brought up Tom Hardy. "I'd do him, so I would."
I'm a firm believer in going with the flow. You don't go looking for love; love finds you. And that can only happen when you live a full life, rather than a life spent looking for another half.
Only, it's hard to go with the flow when you constantly have to validate your position. I can't just say I'm not in a relationship anymore.
Instead I have to assure people that I'm not picky, that I'm not intimidating, that I'm not gay. It's not fair.