Two years ago, my boyfriend and I broke up for the second time. If I had to do it all over again, I would of course have stayed broken up with him after the first time around. But the sensible cutting of losses was unlikely to happen then, because until he took me back, my mental soundtrack consisted entirely of Adele's 21 on repeat, never mind the fact that it hadn't been released yet.
Let us therefore ignore Captain Obvious' smug proclamations about hindsight. In the parlance of pop psychology, I've moved on. Or at least I think I have.
Alas, according to certain friends, family, and members of society, one cannot truly move beyond the ills of a prior relationship until one has found, or at a minimum attempted to find, a new one. And I haven't been on a date since one last uncomfortably silent night at an otherwise cheery pub with my soon-to-be-ex, though not for lack of interest from members of my romantically preferred gender.
No, the lack of interest has been mine and mine alone. Part of the reason I delayed calling off the relationship for as long as I did was because as little I cared for my boyfriend towards the end, I cared for the prospect of starting from scratch even less. But I knew losses had to be cut once and for all. I consoled myself that since my childfreedom meant a lack of pressure to get cracking on the path to eventual babymaking, I could take my own sweet time and put myself back on the market no sooner than when I felt like doing so.
So far, it hasn't happened. And while I'm not completely ruling out the possibility, I doubt it ever will.
This is not residual break-up trauma speaking, although when my ex and I parted ways for good, I had no idea how long it would take me to get over the pain. I recognized the possibility that it could be weeks, months even, before I started to feel right again. In my immediate circle alone, I had one friend who was still reliving the hell of the last weekend he spent with his ex, and they'd broken up half a year before. My father still agonizes over the dissolution of his marriage to my mother, and they finalized their divorce a decade ago. With those examples close at hand and 21 having been available for well over a year, I anticipated a lengthy wallow in self-pity.
Imagine my surprise when the pity party lasted only one night. Yes, that's right -- heartless though it may seem, I only needed one night of uninterrupted sleep in which I could get to bed at a reasonable time and not be woken by my boyfriend joining me hours later after serenading me with the sounds of him opening and shutting what seemed to me to be every drawer in the bedroom. One night of peace and quiet, and I was sold.
The other perks of singledom quickly advertised themselves in turn. I could do whatever I wanted on the weekends, no matter how early the wake-up call was if it involved beating traffic to the mountains! I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted! I could watch whatever show I wanted on Netflix, even the crappy ones! I could go out with my friends whenever I wanted without feeling uncomfortable at bringing an outsider to the group or feeling guilty if I left said outsider home alone!
And while I still have yet to fill the cooking and housecleaning void my fastidious ex left in his wake, I've found that the ability to fart loudly while singing at the top of my lungs in between making baby talk with my cat is worth the trail of dirty socks and Chinese takeout containers for me. I happen to be one of those people who functions best when allowed a great deal of physical and mental space. Having a whole apartment bounded by solid walls and lockable doors that was now able to grant me both is a luxury I cannot imagine abandoning ever again. No matter if that space is usually cluttered, as I'm the only person who has cause to give a damn, and frankly, my dear, I don't.
When I marveled at how much I enjoyed my newly carefree existence, my friends and even relatives furrowed their brows with concern, dropped their voices, and murmured, "But don't you miss...you know?"
And truthfully, even two years down the road, the answer is no. Physical contact of any form is something that I tend to endure rather than truly enjoy, even -- no, especially -- if it's the of the intimate variety. The amount of surface area shared with another human being is directly proportionate to the amount of claustrophobia I am liable to develop. Also suffice to say that while it is very easy to be let down by a lover, it is nearly impossible to disappoint oneself.
Perhaps I'm unique in that lack of disappointment. I've read accounts of women who elect to "take a break" from dating in order to get to know themselves. One of the usual stated end goals of such accounts, however, is that the author gets to know herself to figure out how to be a better lover by being less intolerable to herself and, by extension, others.
I'd say I got to know myself pretty well before, during, and yes, after being in a long-term relationship. And each new stage confirmed what I'd suspected during the previous one: that I am more than tolerable to myself -- I quite enjoy my own company. But I highly doubt that my particular self is cut out to be in the traditional bonds of a long-term commitment with anyone else's.
So I do not consider myself to be taking a break. I also do not consider myself to be giving up, because that exact phrase would imply that I was removing myself from something I enjoy or feel is ultimately beneficial to me due to circumstances beyond my control.
Instead, I have simply quit dating, just as one might quit smoking or quit pulling their hair out or quit a job that gave them constant ulcers. It's not to say that I've thoroughly eliminated the prospect of taking it up again, if I met a man who really rang my bell and agreed to my absolute conditions of no children, no marriage, no cohabitation, and little to no physical contact.
But since I put the chances of that somewhere on par with Vulcans actually making first contact sometime this century, I am perfectly content to shelve Adele, incredible singer though she is, and sit back with John Lennon to watch the wheels go 'round and 'round, only in the dating scene instead of rock and roll. Then watch some more Netflix, because judgment-free trash TV marathons with no commercial interruptions are better than sex.