My favorite point in the night is when I turn the lights on at the bar, yell ‘last call’ and watch a couple stragglers do laps around the room looking for someone to go home with. I get a kick out of it, mainly because I know that I’m going home alone too.
There may be periods of your single life where you’re constantly surrounded by others who share your lack of romance and even make you forget that you’re alone. You have no problem focusing at work, you have the energy to be the loyal friend you want to be and you even have some extra energy for a hobby. You feel healthy and stable and, most importantly, sane.
But at some point between your first slow dance and your 10-year high school reunion, you get to a point where the lights go on in your life, and you anxiously ask the couple that you’re third wheeling with, is it last call already?
When you look around and everyone you know is already taken, anxiety ignites inside of you and burns all the way down like a shot of cheap tequila. It’s the same anxiety that starts at middle school dances when the music gets real slow and everyone looks around, frantically hoping to hook on to someone else’s desperate stare.
No one actually wants to dance to some corny slow song with their hands awkwardly sweating on someone else’s hips, trying to avoid eye contact and wondering why the song feels so much longer than when it plays on the radio. But you do it anyway, so that you don’t have to hide behind the bleachers until the song is over.
It doesn’t matter how much you love nights when you don’t have to share the bed with someone, or if you prefer going to the movies by yourself so that you don’t have to keep handing over the bag of popcorn; if you’re the only person in class without a partner for a group project, the last thing you want is for the teacher to force you into a threesome.
Some people will ask you why you’re still single as if it were a decision you made when you woke up that morning. And if you dare tell them the reason is that you enjoy being alone, it’s automatically assumed that you’re in some sort of denial about wanting a relationship.
It’s hard choosing to be single in a world where people expect you to eventually fill another seat at the family dinner table. And that pressure gets stronger and stronger when you start being able to count your single friends easily on one hand. It’s this pressure that makes you start to doubt how much you enjoy being alone. And that’s when being alone can feel lonely.
But if you step back to where the bartender is standing, you may realize that the reason you feel lonely isn’t that you’re scared to be alone, but, rather, that you’re scared of what will happen if you’re the only one who is. And maybe that’s why I like being a bartender. No one gets to see who I go home with.