The first time I began to see being single as a ‘problem’ was in 2018, during my state service year. At work, a fight broke out between a fellow corps member and her supervisor. It escalated quickly and they raised their voices. I was on my own, doing my work when I suddenly heard her voice pitch a little higher with resentment as she said;
“I’m a married woman, so you can’t talk to me like that.” Her left hand did a sweeping motion towards me and the others, “There are single people here, you can talk to them anyhow you want, but you cannot talk to me anyhow. I am somebody’s wife.”
I felt insulted and I’m not going to lie, it rattled me. Throughout the day, I tried to shake the feeling off, but it didn’t go away. So I went to google looking for anything that could help me understand my situation. Most of the articles I found were written by married women and had advice like love yourself, enjoy your own company, take yourself out, be patient. I swore to write an article I would have loved to read, so here goes.
The Root of Loneliness
In a childhood memory, I am a little girl in the night, holding a small, rugged stone so tight it cuts sharply into my palm. I call this stone my seed, because I am about to play Suwe, a popularly known children’s game in Nigeria. I chose to play on a rock hard surface which already had lines that I could jump over. A lanky kid walked by and asked to play with me. I said no. He gave me a curse and a prophecy which he thought was only a harmless threat.
“Nobody plays Suwe alone. You are going to brush your teeth on the ground.”
“Leave me alone,” I said.
He left me.
I threw the seed over the surface and as soon as it landed, I hopped on one leg towards it. I jumped over the largest level of the game so fast my knees hit the ground with a thud, sliding from the middle of my Suwe to the edge of it. This was more than a brushing, it was a falling to my knees. I shut my eyes to unsee the blood gushing. The first waves of pain came in torrents. I let out a piercing scream – a whole new kind of prayer.
It was past 9.00pm and I was shouting into my mother’s breasts as she held me firmly for my father to treat my wound. My sisters, all teary eyed, saying “Iyanu, sorry. Stop crying.” My father brought out the methylated spirit, poured a little into cotton wool and began to dab my wound. I shrieked 10 times louder.
He said: “I have to cleanse the wound, so you won’t get an infection,” but it didn’t matter. The thing that was supposed to heal me had quadrupled my pain.
Years later, the wound is a big and angry scar on my knee. The scar of my loneliness. I press it and I can tell by its softness, that there is a bottomless pit beneath the scar. This is where I learnt to pray.
This world can be a rock hard Suwe surface for single people. There is a looming doom over us. We are sad or presumed to be sad and lonely. Many lanky boys (men or women) will come silently cradling prophecies of doom. We are falling to our knees over and over again. In pain.
My Single Girl Problems
My first problem with being single is the loneliness. Many times, I feel okay but sometimes I don’t. There are many things that trigger a sense of loss, especially because I am a relational person. I love love and I have an idea of what being with someone in a romantic relationship would look like and this idea is so tangible in my head that the absence of it creates a sense of loss.
As I am writing this, a tweet pops up in my notifications saying:
“At your big age you really have no one to cuddle with this weekend? Nobody to massage your bum bum and motivate you for the coming week?”
Singles lined up beneath the tweet with many “God, when?” prayers and crying emojis. Last year, this would have triggered me, but immediately, I began to take the tweet apart to find the hidden lies.
This is what most of society is saying to single people:
At your big age = you are getting old (which is supposed to be a good thing, but the way it is used here connotes that it is something embarrassing)
You have no one = It screams that you are alone, which is a big, fat lie.
This weekend = They are subtly telling us that love is not love if it is not here right now.
Nobody = Reiterating that you are alone. (If you are a writer, you’d know that repetition is how you entrench ideas and beliefs in the mind of a reader).
Coming week = insinuates a lack of hope for the future, that it may be impossible to scale through when there’s no lover in the present, though we know that many other factors contribute to a person’s success other than motivation from a spouse.
In many social circles, we are identified by whether we are married or single. They tell us that loving ourselves is all we need to be happy as singles, but turn around and act like a person who has a spouse is better than the one who doesn’t. This and many other ways is how society is cruel to single people. We are convinced that being single equals to sadness, loneliness, failure, that we are ugly, lesser, etc., and then we start to change how we behave, become people we cannot recognize just to find Mr. or Mrs. Right.
It sucks I know, so here are a few of the ways I am coping or tackling my single girl problems.
1. Go Ahead, Be Sad. Just Don’t Forget To Ask Why:
For a long time, I thought that the reason I was sad was because I was single, until I began to remember that even when I was in a relationship, I was sad too, maybe even sadder. I began to ask why. Why am I sad? What about being single makes me sad? Apart from society convincing me that I am finished just because I lack romance in my life, I discovered that being sad is part of who I am and being human.
The presumption that we must be happy all the time is the greatest scam ever. We are human. It is impossible to be happy all the time. It doesn’t connote failure or loss of something. It is just what it is. Don’t believe them when they project being happy as a result of being in love. Happiness and romance are two different things, even though they can co-exist.
2. Identify Your Triggers, Don’t Avoid Them
What are your triggers? What makes you feel especially sad about being single? Is it a picture of a beautiful happy couple on Instagram? Is it an insensitive comment from a stranger or friend? What is the comment and why does it trigger you?
I recently discovered my own trigger was something I would never have imagined could trigger a person. Whenever my sister leaves the house, on holidays, to stay with my other sister, I’d feel almost depressed. At first, I used to think that I was sad because I had to be alone at home for most of the time, until I thought, “Wait a minute. I’m a loner. I love to be alone.”
So I began to inquire into it, trace the cycles and patterns over the course of my life and arrived at a place when we were kids on holiday , my dad wanted to entertain us by getting home videos. He wanted to take everyone with him except me, and asked me to mind the kiosk beside our house, while they were away.
I felt a rush of anger in my bloodstream and threw a major tantrum that day, thinking I got hurt because I had intolerance for injustice, but it was just fear. I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t want to be the only one who was not chosen to go. I felt grossly insecure all on my own and totally unloved.
So, I demanded that my sister and I stayed back. My father was mad, chased me out of the kiosk and put my sister there. Of course, he left and I went back to sit with her, thinking all my feelings were resolved. I didn’t know that this would be the root of a deep seated insecurity. This same sister who stayed with me at the kiosk is the same one who leaves to spend holidays with my other sister and it invoked that helpless feeling. I used to think that the reason for feeling that way was because I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I have come to recognize that my loneliness had very little to do with having a man.
Now, I understand that I was asked to stay at the kiosk not because I wasn’t loved, but because my dad trusted me to mind the kiosk. It was a responsibility, not a punishment. And over time, I am learning to deal with being single much the same way – as a responsibility to be my own love, to water my garden, to practice gratitude while remaining soft with desire, to be content.
This is not a punishment.
3. If You Are Jealous, Be Jealous With Your Chest
I used to try to swallow my jealousy and act happy, but that only made me bitter. I thought that jealousy showed me up as a horrible, wicked and selfish person, wanting what belongs to other people, but jealousy only points to ignorance; of who you are, of what you have, of possibilities, of how loved you are. In jealousy, it is not the bitterness that will kill you, it is the ignorance.
Something I am learning is to admit that I am jealous. Some years ago, I was really broke. I became jealous of my sister who always had money. She was passionate about business from childhood. I was ignorant of the pain it took her to build her finances, I completely forgot the day she lost all her savings and felt like dying. I forgot all that pain, but remembered only mine. Okay. that’s selfish, but we’re human right? We forget important things sometimes.
It was so bad that I was crying in the room and thankfully, she heard me and asked me why. I blurted it mahn. Told her how I was jealous of the fact that she had more money than me. She smiled and said, “Some days, I wish I could write like you. You have no idea the kind of power you have – to be able to use words and change people, both young and old.”
I crumbled into another round of crying. Okay. By now, you already know I cry a lot. But that’s not the point. In that moment, I realized that I would choose writing over a million dollars. My sister saved me by pointing at something about myself that I had forgotten. This completely contradicts the popular idea that if you are jealous of someone, you should hide it because if they found out, they would run away from you, labeling you a witch who wants to take their blessing away. Some of them know that there is an abundance of blessings and you are not looking for theirs. You just want to have yours.
I am learning to throw away the idea of trying to find love. My love is not lost. It is determined to find me. My love loves me. I am doing well to wait for what is right. My love is worth waiting for. Worth finding within myself and around me. I will no longer box the idea of love to mean a wedding band or another person’s surname. Love is in everything and I am here for it.
Being single may be the time, when my wounds no matter how deep, are being cleansed. It may hurt more than being in a relationship with someone special, but this is the period that will heal and liberate me. There is purpose in it.
While you are waiting, remember that brightest lights shine in darkest nights and gifted hands carry the heaviest weight.
I rewrote the curse and prophecy into a meditation, affirmation and prayer for you. If you are subscribed, I will send you a mail by Wednesday.
I would love to know, what are your single girl or guy problems and how are you coping or dealing with them?