There is so much I love about being single: the spontaneity of my day-to-day, the extra time to indulge people and projects that move me, and Colin Farrell, full stop. But by far and away the greatest gift singlehood has given me is the freedom to make the sorts of choices that help me become the person I am meant to be, not the person I was raised be. Take dinner, for example.
Without anyone around to pretend to be dainty for, I’ve excavated a meal of peanut butter and jelly from their jars with nothing but a spoon. I have also decided on multiple occasions that my dinner — despite a history of colonic protestation — is simply going to be wine and a quarter pounder of cheese. Usually it’s Boucheron or Humboldt Fog, but realistically it’s whatever’s on sale that day at Whole Paycheck.
Sitting cross-legged on my couch in sweatpants, a special occasion bottle of Sancerre by my side, I’ll unwrap the cheese’s plastic casing, hold the wedge like a Big Mac, and take a three dollar-size bite out of it.
If you’ve ever bitten directly into a large wedge of cheese, you’ll agree there’s a kind of blissful satisfaction that comes from the act. It’s a transgression against good manners, against your parents, against the country of France. It confirms your status as an adult who, because you pay your own rent and do your own laundry, has earned the right to eat dinner however you damn well please.
Not having to explain my choices to a significant other, I get to do the kinds of things that must otherwise be sacrificed in a relationship for the sake of decorum or making other people comfortable. Sometimes they’re good choices, like cutlery-free cheese eating, changing careers, participating in a threesome, sleeping in on a Tuesday, taking myself on vacation without a cell phone and motorcycle riding. Sometimes they’re less positive choices, like having casual sex out of a need for instant intimacy and mistaking the drama of an exciting relationship for happiness.
As much as I have adored all the me-time to self-define and live with abandon, single life isn’t all jujubes and pegacorns. Far from it. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times I have felt terribly, achingly alone.
These hard to-locate-the-pain moments of feeling condemned to a life of spinsterhood come over me during slow songs at rock shows, at bedtime on my birthday, at second weddings, standing on line to pay for overpriced groceries or when I go so long without being noticed by the opposite sex it’s as though I’m shrouded in Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. During these existential moments, it’s hard not to feel that my loneliness is actually a condition of being single, as everything in the adult world (except for sushi bars, Italian espresso stands, strip clubs and New York City) has been set up for couples.
But it is not. Buddhists have been struggling with the whole concept for several millennia, as have married people, which is why adultery even exists. So while I, like all humans, can’t completely eradicate the pit of loneliness (though someone must explain to me why men on Tinder think sending me their dick pics will), I have been able to make peace with it though extreme singles exposure therapy.
I went dateless, and not by choice, for longer than I care to admit. But rather than wallow in my solitude (for too long), I took that time to develop a relationship with myself that is as tender and kind as the one I hope for with a life partner. The result is that now when I wait online to pay for my organically massaged apples and a tidal wave of existential sadness creeps over me, I feel just alone rather than lonely.
This lifelong, unshakeable bond I’ve formed with myself, while an incredibly difficult process (riding a motorcycle up the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time was a far less scary prospect than confronting this particular void), is, without equal, my second favorite unexpected outcome of being single.
So before the time comes when we might, for the first time or once again, have to negotiate someone else’s needs alongside our own and, in some cases, before our own, let’s agree to enjoy the hell out of life.
Do what you can to get at being the best version of yourself, especially if it’s hard or uncomfortable. Yawp for the idiosyncratic choices that make you more of yourself. Try the thing that scares you the most. Spend time with the people that make you cackle. Take a lover. Bring yourself on vacation. Enjoy the ride. Love yourself.
And by all means, leave teeth marks in the cheese.
Featuring the delicious Grilled Haloumi at Jack’s Wife Freda — follow them on Instagram @jackswifefreda. Elizabeth wearing a Reformation top, vintage Levi’s jeans, Christie Nicolaides earrings, and Chanel lipstick; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.
A version of this article previously appeared on HuffingtonPost.com.
This amended post originally appeared on The Huffington Post. It has been edited and republished with permission.