It is a Saturday morning and I am in the dairy aisle of my local Tesco, when it suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t been in a serious relationship for two years. So strong is the force of this realisation, I nearly drop my mozzarella.
“You can’t hurry love,” says H, my first port of call in every emotional maelstrom. I am sat on a step outside the shopping centre, phone wedged against my ear while rifling madly through my carrier bags in search of something to comfort eat. “You’ve got to trust, give it time.”
My brow furrows. “Is that a song? Are you quoting The Supremes?”
“Sorry, love. I’ve had quite a lot of painkillers. Off my face.”
Under cross-examination, it emerges that H – having last night finally enticed a girl into her bedroom on the pretence of showing off her new flat-screen (“You got her round to look at an appliance?” I deadpan. “Could you be any more lesbian?”) – tried to get her leg over and immediately threw her back out.
We are both out of practice I suppose. But while H’s rustiness pertains largely to the physical side of things, mine is focused more on the emotional. I may, over the last two years, have been on more dates than the average calendar, but not one of these budding relationships has come to fruition. And I’m not the only one who wants to know why; nearly all my recent dates have seen a spate of that most hated question: “Why are you still single?”
My natural instinct is to look externally. “I guess I haven’t met the right man,”
I will shrug, if I’m feeling charitable. “I only ever meet men with debilitating emotional problems,” is my answer, when I’m not. But I strongly suspect that’s only half the story.
As I’ve sailed onward through my twenties, drawing inexorably closer to my inevitable destination
(the island of the thirty-somethings, a curious land where all the natives drink cappuccinos, carry babies around in holsters, and are in bed by 10pm)
, I’ve noticed the things I want from a relationship have changed. Gone are the days of half-hearted affairs, of sticking with someone I know is unsuitable on the grounds that it’s better than being alone. When you’re looking to settle down, settling for less suddenly becomes a costly distraction.
The worry is I’ve now been single for so long, not only have I gotten used to it; I’ve reached a point where I positively relish it. For all I know, my perfect partner could be staring me right in the face but – so long as I lack the impetus to do anything about it – by the time I reach the island of the thirty-somethings, I’ll be checking into a cabana for one.