Barrelhouse is always here to help. To that end, we're thrilled to present another episode of our regular advice column, FOUNTAINE OF ADVICE, with Jaime Fountaine!
Dear Fountaine of Advice,
The last of my single friends has finally "coupled up," and now I'm in the weird position of being the only single person in my friend group. I'm probably never going to be in a relationship because humans are inherently terrible, and I'm fine with that. But how do I let my friends know that 1) *GASP* I don't want to be set up with anyone, especially "John's roommate, Chad, from college", and 2) That I still want to hang out, and don't want to be left out of of their double/triple couple adventures? Am I doomed to being "the weird friend" for the rest of my life?
Forever Alone (On Purpose)
It can be hard for people to understand why you wouldn’t want something that they have structured their lives around desiring.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your friends have the best intentions: they are happier coupled, and so they assume you would be, too. They think you’re wonderful, and deserving of joy. And maybe Chad is somehow great, despite the great disadvantage his parents gave him, and maybe he enjoys all the things you do, or has expressed interest in you, due to your sparkling personality and rockin’ bod. Well, then it seems perfect, doesn’t it? How could you say no?
Pretty easily! Just say “No, thanks, but I’d still love to get dinner with y’all next week!”
If politely declining the Chads of the world does not deter your friends from trying to set you up, perhaps a variation on the classic “I’m doing ‘me’ right now” or “I don’t know if you can really love anyone until you love yourself” would help. Some people respond better to slogans. If you’re worried that will seem insincere, just post some inspirational quotes on your instagram and wear a whimsical accessory for a few weeks.
If turning down set-ups starts to put a damper on your social life, be proactive. Tell your friends that you want to hang out with them and their partners, and be specific. No “we should get together...” or “haven’t seen you in awhile...” Be direct! “Do you and Chris want to see a movie?” “I have been dying to try the new bologna restaurant, would you and Jordan want to go next weekend?” It’s much harder for people to turn down specific plans than vague notions. Once your friends realize that you’re happy to hang out with their partners, too, they shouldn’t think twice about inviting you along.
I can tell that you’re young, and that your friends’ relationships are still fresh, because most of the long-partnered people I know spend time apart so that they can better appreciate their time together. (And to complain!) When you’re still figuring everything out, it can be easy to take things very personally, to project your feelings onto other people. I cannot imagine that your friends have secretly hated you this whole time and are finally emboldened by their partners to ditch you altogether. It’s possible that they would personally feel awkward being invited to hang out with a bunch of couples if they were single, or that the person initiating all the plans is a person with whom you aren’t particularly close. It’s possible they haven’t put too much thought into it at all. Don’t approach the issue as one where you’re being actively wronged, even if you feel that way. If you can let go of some of the worry and resentment you’re feeling, it’ll be easier to talk to your friends.
Forever is a long time, and you should be able to spend it however you choose. If you don’t want to date right now, or ever again, THAT’S TOTALLY FINE. If, in two days or two years or two decades, you decide you’re open to the possibility, that is ALSO TOTALLY FINE.
Humans are terrible! But some of them are less terrible, or at least more attractive. And sometimes that’s all you need out of a given situation.
It’s important not to close yourself off from things just because they could go badly. As much as people get caught up in old-fashioned, heteronormative social dynamics, one can also get caught up in a conception of self that doesn’t allow for positive change.
In less obnoxious terms: you can have a lot of fun making dumb choices. I once grew a rat tail from scratch. It was ridiculous and gross, and my best friend hated it, but it was also the first time in my life I felt comfortable enough in my body to do something that I knew was ugly. Of course, I didn’t consciously decide that. I said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I had a rat tail?” while I was getting my hair cut. It was a terrible idea, but it was really fun while it lasted.
And yes, you are probably always going to be somebody’s weird friend, but at least you’re not the asshole who grew herself a rat tail.
Jaime Fountaine writes and tells stories. Her work has appeared in Paper Darts, JMWW, and Knee-Jerk Magzines. She lives in Philadelphia, where she hosts the Tire Fire reading series at Tattooed Mom and, Excuse My Dust, a "weirdo literature variety hour" at the Good Good Comedy Theater.