Being single in a pandemic

So it’s the morning after Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, has told us to stay at home. We are allowed out for food shopping, exercise, medical visits and essential work. That’s it. I wish he’d done it sooner. 

I’m looking out the window, drinking coffee. 

The sun is shining like a fresh start. The tree outside my window has buds on it, which are getting slightly fuller each day. An empty bus has just driven past. The bin man is emptying the bins. Thank God for him. I see him everyday and smile but I’ve never asked his name before. I wish I had. 

On the trees people have nailed posters which say ‘Please call if you need any help’ followed by a name and mobile number.  

It is the most surreal time. 

My mind is blown. It is racing, panicking, feeling excited, tired, scared, interested, confused, angry, sad… My feelings change every five minutes. Some minutes I’m laughing at a silly corona video and thinking this is a great opportunity for change. The next moment I’m shouting at Boris Johnson on the tv and crying at the video of that nurse who couldn’t get food at the end of her shift. 

The world as we know it has stopped and it’s understandable to be in a state of shock, so I’m letting the tears come. And also, this morning, right now, I feel calm. I see there is an opportunity in all this to look long and hard at how we live our lives.  How I live my life. 

The aloneness I have felt since this started is palpable.  

I am acutely aware that I live alone while most of my friends live in their family units. They are looking out into this unknown future together, I am looking out alone. Over the weekend this freaked me out – I felt like I was free-floating off the side of the world with nothing to tether me to the ground.

My friends tell me it’s no walk in the park being at home with a partner and children – and of course it isn’t. I cannot even imagine the horror of being in an abusive relationship right now, or even just an unhappy marriage… and the pressure to juggle work and homeschooling must be challenging to say the least.

But for some it’s been an unexpected gift too. One friend whose partner works long hours and travels a lot says their kids are so excited by how much they are seeing daddy now. Another friend, who doesn’t have children but lives with her boyfriend, is having epic love making sessions because there is no rush to be anywhere or do anything else. I was jealous of that. 

But I am living the life I wanted. I have always dreamt of having a flat with a big windows and a desk to write at. I’ve dreamt of being able to travel and see friends and have interesting lovers… and I have had all of that. 

What I do not have, and have never really had, is a partner. 

And for all my insecurities about men not liking me, I think deep down that being single has been my choice. I’ve always find reasons people weren’t quite right and why I didn’t want to be pinned down… I have always chosen to be a ‘me’ rather than a ‘we’.  

Right now I am feeling the ramifications of that. 

In the last few days I have needed people in a way that I have never needed them before. As soon as I wake up I’m checking my WhatsApp groups. Throughout the day I’m on skypes and zooms, clinging to contact.

For someone who hates neediness this is quite a turn around. 

I wonder if other singletons are having a reality check too. 

I’ve been on dating apps this weekend and they are HOPPING. So many messages and an openness and honesty that’s not usually so evident in the early stages of the dating game. I don’t think it’s just that people are bored – I think we are remembering that when the shit hits the fan we need people. 

I’ve been under the weather the last two weeks and two men on the app said they had cars and could do a drop of food or soup if I needed it. How kind is that? 

I have also found that I am being much less judgemental as I scroll. Instead of going, ‘I couldn’t ever be with a man with an earring or tattoos’, I’m seeing the humanity in everyone and as a result having exchanges that I would not have had before. 

It’s all a bit weird because we’re unlikely to meet for months – if at all. But maybe this is what is good about it. We’re just hanging out together, passing time, no agenda.  

There was a story on the BBC site about a couple who had had one date before this kicked off. For their second date the guy transferred £15 so that she could buy a bottle of wine. They bought the same bottle of rose and drank it together on Skype. She put make up on but stayed in her pyjamas. Such sweetness in the midst of all this, just like the blossoms that keep flowering. 

In this time of isolation, love has never been more on show. Neighbours helping each other. Nurses and doctors risking everything for us. Musicians offering free concerts online.  

I cried yesterday watching Ryan Giggs on BBC news offering his hotel rooms free to NHS staff. 

So this is a humbling and interesting time to do an investigation into love. By the end of this I think we’ll have a much clearer idea of what we need and what we don’t. What matters and what’s just noise, ego and distraction.  

What about you? How is it going? Are you living alone or with loved ones? Are you dating online? Are you OK? 

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