BY FAITH PONTI
I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18 years old. 18. High school was a confusing, puberty-filled, acne-enveloped nightmare in which I was terrified of boys and in which they were likely terrified of me. As other girls were given teddy bears, singing grams and roses every Valentine’s Day from baseball or football players, I sat across the cafeteria, eating alone, watching with boiling envy and inescapable self-loathing. I witnessed homecoming requests and “promposals” fill my Facebook feed, knowing that they would never be for me; I didn’t go to any school dances save my freshman homecoming, to which I went alone and wore way too much black eye shadow (seriously, mom, why didn’t you stop me?). As my friends’ love lives were budding and growing, I felt mine become more and more stagnant every day. I didn’t know what it felt like to have a boy “like like” me. I didn’t know how to hold hands. French kissing was a concept only seen in movies. I felt inexperienced, uninteresting, unlikable and unattractive…constantly.
I remember confiding these hyper-hormonal feelings to one of my teachers and role models at the time. She taught my favorite class and let me make cell phone calls in her office during school hours, so we were pretty tight. I expressed to her my intense jealousy over the other girls in school. I told her how I wished I could be prettier. I asked her why boys didn’t want to be with me. I cried. She hugged me. And then, my happily-married role model told me something I would never forget; something that, to this day, I still use to encourage myself and my friends when unattached. She told me how, though she got married in her late 20s, she wished she’d had five more single years to herself. That she envied the single women around her at the time. How she wish she’d traveled alone before traveling with a partner, learned more about herself before saying yes to someone else, figured out her spirituality before entering a sacred union. She was jealous of single women.
What?! Being in a relationship isn’t the most magical, flawless state in which one can be? Getting married isn’t always the best thing ever? Being single doesn’t have to be a nightmare? In that one short conversation, my teacher taught me that being single could be a serious blessing if treated correctly. It can be a time to pamper and get to know yourself in ways that are more difficult while in a relationship. It can help you gain the kind of independence that allows you to live a fruitful life regardless of your attachment status. It can bring to light your true passions before putting someone else’s first. Being single could, in essence, be the most important time of your short life.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite; I am currently in a stellar relationship with someone I am very much in love with and would like to be with for a very long time. But, as Valentine’s Day approaches, it feels appropriate to remind my single friends and readers how absolutely valid you are, how incredibly made up this holiday is and how much fun you can have if you stop hating your single life. Own it! Love it! Kiss everyone or no one! Ask four boys out on Valentine’s Day then cancel on all but one of them! Or go to dinner with your best friend in the whole world and color coordinate your outfits! Buy some chocolate and relish in the fact that you don’t have to share! The world is quite literally (but not literally at all) your oyster—there are no conditions that have to be met. You can paint the town whatever color you’d like. You’re single, you lucky dog. Go do whatever the hell you want this Valentine’s Day.