Picture the scene: I am in Marks and Spencer’s Food, of a cold Tuesday afternoon picking out some dinner. My parents have forgotten that one of the perks of me coming home is they feed me good, nutritious food. Instead they have decided to go out for dinner with some friends (the cheek). As I mull over, what will most certainly be the biggest decision for at least the next week- chicken tikka masala or pie and mash- a well-meaning sales assistant approaches me. “Oh I see you have picked up our bottle of white, it’s a nice one.” (Because lets be real, there’s no questions when it comes to wine) “You’re doing the meal for two then? Is that for you and your boyfriend? That will be nice, a post-Christmas night in.”
A little affronted by a) how chatty the sales assistant is and b) how young he looks, surely he mustn’t have tried the wine (although youths these days, you never know), I don’t reply for about thirty seconds, by which time it’s a bit awkward and I just nod and shuffle off, wine in tow.
As I go through the self-checkout so to avoid any other conversations with actual humans my mind drifted: why did he assume I had bought the food for me and another? It isn’t a ridiculous amount for one person to eat, especially at Christmas. And by extension of that why did he assume I was straight? Why couldn’t it have been for me and my very non-existent girlfriend? By the time I had left the shop I was completely, unjustifiably pissed off.
But then Christmas does that to you, I think. I’m perpetually single and I am quite good at it (if I do say so myself). I like dating and I think with the right person relationships can be good but they’re not completely necessary. At least not now, I’m 22. But there is nothing like going home for the holidays, seeing people you went to school with pairing off and having babies or going to my parents parities with their friends and getting asked if I have ‘found a nice boy yet’ that reminds me that people do actually sustain healthy, lasting relationships in their early twenties.
Now, just to clear it up, this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ cry for help and I am not drunk (I have only had one glass of mulled wine today). After bumping into yet another couple who I went to school with, now happily paired off and my mum asking if I had been in contact with my ex for the thousandth time in the last 14 days it got me wondering- do I simply want what I can’t have?
I hate the cliché of ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ but now I am scared that I embody it. I think, to some extent that this is such a product of our generation. Years ago, people were born and raised in the same place, they met the nice girl who lived at the end of their street, settled down, had babies and died. Now we have Tinder, Her, Grindr and so many others; everything and everyone is so immediate and replaceable. Subtlety and playing hard to get doesn’t get you anywhere with these avenues so you’re sucked into a cycle of constantly remaining slighting unattached so when you move onto the next flame it doesn’t hurt too much.
And who says there is a right and a wrong way to do things. Like so many other people I spend my time dedicated to something I love but it does require a lot of commitment. I have friends who I adore and family who I don’t get to talk to nearly enough. And at some point I do actually have to sleep. When do people find time to have these committed, intense relationships? But as I am so kindly reminded on regular occasions- when the right ‘one’ (don’t get me started) comes along, you make time.
So I will continue eating my meals for two and hailing Bridget Jones as queen while my parents acquaintances ask whether I have settled down. And then when Olivia Munn or Tom Hardy waltzes into my life, I might just consider giving up my drunk Friday nights with friends, but I am not sure it’s going to happen before then.