By: Frida Mar (Arts & Culture Co-editor)
Last October I decided to undergo a Vow of Singlehood and Voluntary Celibacy for a full year. I created my own rules: I wouldn’t date or have sex with anyone, and I wouldn’t use dating apps. But I’d still allow myself to mingle with strangers at clubs and parties because I loved dancing. Put simply, I decided to be intentionally single for a whole twelve months of my university life.
Since a Biker Boy broke my heart in the beginning of first semester, I’ve had to confront my own crippling fear of loneliness. At around the same time, I was going through emotional dysregulation and anxiety. And something terrible had burrowed itself in my heart, after a meaningless string of hookups and after a slew of unsuccessful romantic relationships. Needless to say, I felt like shit. In the fever haze of last fall, I remember crying so desperately in the shower because I felt an intense, never-ending wave of loneliness. I would have begged on my knees for anyone to love me. At the brink of desperation, I realized that my own sense of stability and comfort relied heavily on romantic and sexual relationships. I was a spited lover now, and I cursed the romantic novels, songs and shows I grew up with.
My decision to find stability and comfort within myself began by entering an extended state of singlehood and celibacy. I was inspired by Lorde’s song “Liability” from her sophomore album Melodrama. She croons softly to herself in the first verse, “play at romance/ we slow dance,” and I desired the same sweet nectar of self-love. At first, it was difficult to sleep without a loved one cuddling beside me. And I did break my voluntary celibacy once over November because I was tempted by the idea of casual sex. Temptation came in the form of a red icon in my instagram DMs, where one of my former crushes invited me over to his place. I thought he was a golden choice, but all we did was drink bubble tea, smoke weed and then finally take off our clothes on his unmade bed. I felt even lonelier when I left to go home, it was a disaster. That night, I was proven right that my vow of singlehood and celibacy was the healthiest choice for me. Over the last couple of months, I’ve learned that no one could ever possibly love me more than I love myself. True love is like winning the lottery and I know that I will meet people whom I am romantically compatible with in the future. But for now, I’m content with being by myself, loving myself and celebrating myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Romantic obsessions are my first language. Before my Vow of Singlehood and Voluntary Celibacy, I used to have twenty new crushes a day, freshly pining for strangers on the TTC or in my lecture halls. Even when my romantic obsessions were wearisome, I loved the purpose of it and how it added meaning to my life. Crushes were so exciting! I had new hyperfixations every day. Hookups were a dream come true until the lights went off, our clothes were strewn all over the bed and I left to go home, feeling more lonely than ever before. Why was I always at my loneliest when I was intimate with someone else?
The harsh reality of dating tore my romantic heart apart. My thumb cramped from swiping so much on different dating apps, the Tinder hearts and the Her messages firing like lightning bolts in my brain. It was a dangerous dopamine loop that made it difficult for me to break out of until I decided that enough was enough. I wasn’t going to find true love through dating apps or clubs or parties. I needed to find true love within myself and to cultivate a healthy relationship with myself above all, because I’m all that I know and have. But where did my intense need for romance come from?
Mass media has instilled in me the value of male attention, underlying a dangerous dependence on men for most girls and femmes growing up. The movies and novels I consumed while growing up created a heteronormative illusion of “love at first sight”. I realized I was always trying to capture the male gaze, in the way I painted my eyelids every morning before lectures, or gave a smile in conspiracy to the cute boys across the room. Even when I realized I wasn’t straight in high school, there was still this weird curiosity I had towards a relationship with a male partner. Romance was everything the clouds in my dreams were made of. In consequence, I was lured by the glimmers of happiness that men offered, and I had difficulty in finding that happiness for myself.
In reality, a healthy romance is not ego-centric. Love and romance involve a great deal of compassion, patience and putting your partner’s needs above your own. Back then, romance and dating gave me validation because I was insecure and I didn’t love myself enough. Through toil and trouble, I’ve learned that I am enough by myself. I don’t need romance to give meaning to my life anymore. My subjective experience is what’s most meaningful to me and romance doesn’t have to be a part of who I am. I’ll always be passionate and romantic but now I direct that tender energy towards my own spirit. I prioritize myself above all, by practicing self-compassion, unconditional love and positive regard for myself, as well as surrounding myself with people who love me. I also saw a therapist following all the trauma I went through in the past couple of years and she helped me learn healthy emotional regulation and positive thinking. Working on myself for an extended period of time has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
For the remainder of my singlehood and celibacy, I’m focusing solely on healing myself. I have a plethora of personal, academic and work goals in the new Growth and Self-Love folder I created on my desktop. I already exercise four times a week, stay hydrated, sustain an anti-inflammatory diet, try to practice daily mindfulness and maintain an average GPA. I love burning incense in my room as a night ritual and doodling when I have the time. I make sure to spend quality time with my friends and family to cope with my loneliness.
A year of being single is not for everyone, but it can be a good exercise to take some time for yourself, establish autonomy, and self-awareness on your own. One of my friends was even inspired by my Voluntary Celibacy and she decided to work on her own personal issues before committing to sex again with her girlfriend. Over the last couple of months of my Vows, I’ve learned that I am a worthy person, regardless of my singledom. Sure, it still hurts when I see my exes with their new partners, but I’m already leading a good life with my friends and with myself. Singleness is not unattractive and aloneness is not unsuccessful. I love dancing by myself in my room. I love the smell of my skin after a workout. I love the way I laugh at stupid jokes about ear sex with my friends in Cat’s Eye. And now, I don’t worry so much about being alone forever. Happy Valentine’s Day!