I’m single. I don’t know if this comes as a surprise to you. Of course, you have yet to hear me talking about a wife or a girlfriend. But I also rarely talk about dating and finding someone. The bigger surprise might be that I’m a lifelong single. In other words, I was never in any romantic or sexual relationship, ever. Yes, seriously.
There are many words to describe people like me. “Absolute beginner” is one, “virgin” another. What about “incel”, though?
The term “incel” stands for “involuntary celibate”. It literally describes a person who doesn’t have a (sexual) partner but would like to have one. Besides the literal meaning, there is a lot of baggage attached to the term. Many incels aggressively blame the modern world, feminism, and women’s behavior and standards for their celibacy. Basically, it’s everyone’s fault except their own. The ideology even inspired killing sprees.
The opposite of “incel” is “volcel”. A “voluntary celibate” deliberately chooses not to have a partner.
I am not comfortable using either of those terms. Firstly, the choice of the word “celibacy” emphasizes sexuality over other aspects of a romantic relationship. I don’t think of it that way. Secondly, the incel culture turns me off. I have never blamed anyone for my situation, and I don’t think women’s rights should be up for discussion just because some men don’t get laid. Thirdly, and most importantly, at this point, I can’t even say whether I’m voluntarily or involuntarily single.
When someone asks me why I don’t have a partner, which doesn’t happen too often, my general reply is the combination of a lack of opportunities and a lack of desire. The longer answer might also include some thoughts and attitudes towards dating and relationships in my mind that hold me back, but let’s leave those for another day. I could increase my options but don’t invest toward that goal. So is that a revealed preference for being single? Or is it fear?
I don’t usually feel lonely, and I find it hard to relate to the feeling of loneliness killing you. I have no problem spending time just with myself. And I have friends, family, and communities around me. I sometimes think about finding or having a partner. Still, it’s not a driving force behind my actions unless it’s in subconscious ways.
On the other hand, I wonder whether I want things to stay the way they are. I’m not fully happy, but I also don’t know what would make me happy. I’m still trying to figure out what I want. However, I feel I’m too old to not know that.
The obvious course of action when you are unsure about something is experimentation. However, a relationship isn’t an activity (like a job, hobby, or sport) to try and quit when you don’t like it. It requires two people, and you must find a second person willing to try. Finding someone is hard, though. This brings me back to what I said a few paragraphs ago; I don’t see myself ready to invest much in something I’m not even sure I want. Also, if it doesn’t work out, I’m scared of leaving a broken heart in another person.
One thing I have figured out, though, is that I’m not interested in a relationship for its own sake. I could never be with anyone I’m not genuinely interested in, only to have someone and not be alone. I don’t want to compromise or lower my standards to end singledom. I’ve written about perfectionism from a work-related perspective on this blog before. It apparently also applies to my personal life and partner choice.
Why am I writing about this deeply personal subject? The clock is ticking, and figuring myself out and finding a partner won’t get easier as I get older. By talking about these things in public, I want to make myself accountable for taking these personal matters more seriously. As a friend told me recently, I should “whole-ass” it, not “half-ass” it, if I want to progress. I hope to figure some things out, and I want to document my thoughts here. This is a good starting point to show where I’m coming from if I get involved in the online dating discourse.
At the same time, I hope to get some support from my communities on the way. Feel free to reach out in public or private if you have any comments or feedback for me.