What It’s Like to Be Single During a Global Pandemic—And Why It Doesn’t (But Does) Matter
I was born in a suburb of Chicago, raised in a (different) suburb of Chicago, and then spent four magical years in Fort Worth, Texas studying journalism and public relations. I spent every summer of college working at a camp in Michigan (also magical)—but knew I wanted to return home to Chicagoland when I graduated (even if only for a bit). I spent some immediate time after graduation living with my parents while I got my feet on the ground, then made my way through a string of city apartments.
When my last lease was almost up and my roommate and I were deciding our next steps, one option in particular stuck out as most promising: move back in with my parents in the suburbs for a few months, save some extra cash, and revel in the joys of home-cooked family dinners, free laundry, and nights by the fire watching The Resident (suburbanites have cable—it’s LIT). It was a no-brainer, especially considering how close I am to my parents (and that they were willing to have me!).
Aside from the few obvious differences, my dad and I are as similar as two people can possibly be—we share everything from annoying habits (changing the details of stories every time we tell them) to music preferences (#yachtrockslaps, and the Hairspray soundtrack will NEVER get old). My mom is an absolute delight—she’s the most generous, loving, and genuinely kind person I have ever known. My parents are truly the best, and I’d like to begin this by saying that I am THRILLED to be living with them in the scary time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet even as a person who is quite honestly OBSESSED with my parents, as a person who has very consciously and genuinely thought, “Wow, I am so thankful to be living with my parents during this,” I’ve also had another thought: “Wouldn’t it be nice to be doing this shit with a boyfriend?”
I don’t often wish for a boyfriend, or a partner, or a husband. I often wish for someone to help me put together furniture, for someone to bring me a glass of wine when I’m writing an article late into the night, or for a member of One Direction to fall in love with me after an interview at the hotel bar turns into late-night drinks. (No, I don’t think about that TOO often, why do you ask?). While I do understand that a significant other can give you those things (well, the first two at least), I also know myself well enough to know that, at this stage of my life, I hate following someone else’s meal schedule, I like using up all the covers for myself thankyouverymuch, and I don’t want to feel shamed for wanting to rewatch New Girl for the 14th time instead of starting Mindhunter. I do not need to read an article about ~embracing the single life~ —I’ve read them, I’ve written them, and I live them every day.
But, if I’m being honest with myself, COVID-19 has changed a LOT of things (this you know), and my apathy towards my love life is one of them. Like I said, it’s not often that I wish for a boyfriend—but a terrifying global pandemic is definitely one of the times that I do.
When the virus was first arriving in America, there was this seemingly unspoken rule followed by all my coupled-up-but-non-cohabitating friends: get to your significant other as soon as possible, and stay with them. I watched as my friends traveled across miles and state lines to offer and receive the support and companionship you can really only get from the person you’re romantically committed to—and I was (selfishly) left feeling sorry for myself that no one was racing against the clock (and the quarantine rules) to be with me.
In hindsight, that was deeply insensitive of me. I hate it when, during a situation that lots of people are going through (like, a global pandemic, for example), people compare situations and make a competition out of “who has it harder.” I’m not here to claim that being single during a global pandemic is any harder than being married during a global pandemic, being a mom during a global pandemic, or literally anything else—I’m simply speaking to my own experience, sharing why it’s uniquely challenging, and hopefully offering a bit of commiseration for anyone who’s with me in it.
I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media in recent days and weeks in which people praise their partners for being such a rock during such a hard time (“I could NOT do this without him!” or, “She’s the only thing getting me through this right now!”). While I am truly so glad for everyone in my life who is managing to cope during this incredibly hard time, I can’t help but feel a surge of resentment and a little sting for those of us who AREN’T living in this reality with at least the added salvation of consistent sex (or, like, any sex at all—amiright ladies?).
But here’s the thing: As much as I’d like to use this time to remind my coupled-up friends and acquaintances that it’s hard to see them all humble-bragging about their happy relationships, I’d rather use this time to remind my fellow single friends that, as in any other time in our lives, our relationship status is not the be-all, end-all—it doesn’t define who we are, and it certainly doesn’t define whether or not this virus majorly blows. Whether you’re single, cohabitating, married, or in some kind of a complicated situation, we’re all together in this day-by-day journey towards healing.
We won’t remember this time as the most romantic era of our lives, or as the glue that held a relationship together—we’ll remember it as a time when people of all ages, life stages, and backgrounds came together to fight a common threat and pursue a common goal: to eradicate a virus that invaded our homes, communities, and lives, and to share love, joy, music, memes, and humanity all the while. When I look back on this time of my life, I know I won’t think of as a time when I was single—I’ll think of it as a time when my parents and I played game after game of Bananagrams, when I finally finished every season of Grace & Frankie, when my brother and I developed a workout routine together, when I perfected my brownie recipe (it’s literally just Ghirardelli brownie mix, who am I kidding), and when I appreciated the air in my lungs and the beating of my chest in a way I never have before and maybe never will again.
I hope we forget the fear we currently feel, the pain of being apart from our loved ones, and the panic we get every time we get a news alert on our phones. But I hope, with all my heart, that we DON’T forget how good it feels to feel loved and embraced by strangers, neighbors, and the people we share a life and a home with—whether they’re friends, the love of your life, your kids, your parents. No matter what your romantic situation is, I hope you can see this time in our lives when love is being shared across great distances (both physically and metaphorically) and compassion is being shared from around the globe—and not as a time when you felt alone.
Now let’s stop with all this sap—The Resident is on!