This Is Us

Pondering a Future Alone

How would it feel to be single for the rest of my life?

Photo: fancy.yan / Getty Images

What would happen if I’m single for the rest of my life? Is it possible that somehow, I might not meet someone who feels compatible? Is it possible that I might not like someone as much as they like me, or vice versa? That there’s just not someone who would be a good fit?

What would it be like if I lived alone for the rest of my life? Would it become harder for me to be flexible and accommodating of other’s needs? Would I ever get over those moments of panic when I feel a major illness coming on or get injured and realize that I’ll have to spend days or even weeks trying to fend for myself? Would I ever stop feeling afraid after major snow storms when I worry I’ll be trapped at home alone when the power might go off, when pipes might freeze?

How would I deal with my car breaking down? A mouse infestation in the garage? All the repairs I want to make and things I want to build that I don’t know how to do and/or cannot do, physically, by myself?

What if a window breaks? What if ice dams form on the roof and cause massive damage to the walls? What if the bathtub cracks or the dishwasher starts leaking?

What if I get sick one day and can’t work for a long time? How would I pay the bills, once my small savings ran out? How would I cook for myself? What if I needed to go to urgent care or the emergency room in the middle of the night? Who would drive me?

What if I only had my friends as a source of affection for the rest of my life? Would that be enough? What if the only hugs I got were from them? If the only dinners I shared were with them? What if I really needed someone to sit with me or help me with a big project and they were busy with their own lives?

What if I spend the next few decades getting onto and off of dating apps in an endless cycle, swiping right and leaving notes and comments, only to find that the time I spent on it comes to nothing? What if the rest of my life is filled with this frustrating combination of longing and dread, thinking maybe it’s possible that I could meet someone through this venue while also thinking it’s not something that appeals to my personality, and therefore, isn’t likely to help me move forward?

What if there are decades ahead of greeting each new batch of potential partners with that timorous feeling of hope, only to be disappointed by the glut of men who want someone to drink and snowboard with or the spattering of women who scurry away the moment you say, “Is it okay to email instead of DMing here?” What if I keep deciding it’s just not for me, erase the apps, and spend the next week in relief, only to later wonder if I didn’t try hard enough?

What would it be like if I couldn’t stop holding people at arm’s length and falling for people who do the same to me? Would life be like one long pandemic? Always six feet apart (if only symbolically)?

What if I never felt butterflies again when I looked into someone’s eyes? What if I’m always scared and uncertain? Will I ever again feel like it’s safe to fall in love, knowing what I know now, what everyone in middle age knows about how hard and scary love can be?

What if I’m too old to feel that “in love bliss” again? Can I even get to that point in a relationship?

What if I never spend another Friday night cuddled up on the sofa with someone again, binging on some show on Netflix? What if I never kiss someone hello or goodbye again? Will I ever again ask, “What should we have for dinner tonight?”

What if I never have sex with another person again? What if I never have a shower with someone again? Or make out with someone in a Jacuzzi again? Or text someone something filthy as a tease of the approaching evening’s events, as I’ve so loved doing in the past?

What if I never know what it’s like to have a healthy partnership? One in which I feel supported and respected? One in which I feel like an equal?

What if I’m always the only one in the family who shows up for each holiday get-together alone? What if I’m always the easiest houseguest to accommodate because I’m always on my own — no plus-one to worry about?

What if I stop trying new things because I’m scared to do them alone? What if I stay home too often, fail to try new hobbies, or stop meeting people? What if I get complacent and don’t even notice my complacency? (Am I there, already?)

What if I get so used to sleeping alone that it’s all I ever want? What if the simplicity of being single becomes seductive enough to keep me this way? What if it just becomes easier?

What if relationships become too much of an effort? What if love begins to seem like a chore? What if hope becomes too heavy to carry after having gone so long unrealized?

And what if none of it matters at all? What if being alone for the rest of my life is the best thing that could happen to me?

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