09/05/2017 03:58 SAST | Updated 09/05/2017 03:58 SAST

Single And Ready To... Continually Question My Worth

People will assure you that it’s fine to be a 20-something and be a virgin, but the stigma weaves itself into one’s idea of oneself. And it’s so, so wrong.

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It's another consequence of society: if you aren't dating, seeing, or f***ing someone (excuse the profanity) then you are doing something wrong. "Being single" is only OK for those having flings while they look for "the one."

Being single at 23, and having been single for most of my life, is a sad state of affairs that only ever attracts pity, empathy, and irritating phrases like "you should put yourself out there more." Yeah, thanks, no sh*t Sherlock. Maybe I'm single in the first place because – gosh, I don't know – that's what I struggle with...?

I'm nearing 23, I'm still a virgin, I've only ever had my first kiss, I can count the number of "relationships" I've been in on one hand, and of those relationships the longest was a couple of months. Note, however, that I'm not wallowing. Sure, I don't get invited on many double-dates, third-wheeling is quite normal, but I really don't mind it. To be honest, I haven't minded my relationship status until very recently. I think 22 is a pretty decent age to be without getting bogged-down by love-butterflies, but I do sometimes pine for a little more than hugs and handshakes.

Alas, this isn't about me. I see friends falling prey to the idea that they need to judge their worth by whether they are able to flirt successfully or not, and I kick myself (hard) when I see couples and think that I'm odd for being a 22-year-old who hasn't had a proper relationship yet. People will assure you that it's fine to be a 20-something and still be a virgin, but the stigma around that stuff weaves itself into one's idea of oneself anyway. And it's so, so wrong.

It's an unhealed scar of our history that says we must find love as quickly as possible. It dates back to when one's prospects didn't extend much further than one's town, or one's 30s, but nowadays we have a lot more mobility and time to find ourselves. Surely, then, relationships need not be rushed either? We no longer need to have kids as soon as we finish school, because life expectancy and life in general have increased and extended three-fold since a century ago. And yeah, I guess there's some weight behind the argument that one should have a few bad relationships before one commits to marriage, so that "the one" really is "the one."

It's a pessimistic, bleak way to think of love, and I don't agree that it's a way to treat one's first few relationships, but knowing what one doesn't want as much as knowing what one wants is fair, right? Still, I do believe that true love and first love can be one-and-the-same. Some people find their first relationship to be the one they carry through "'till death do us part," and that's a beautiful, heart-warming thing. Not finding love until one's 30s, though, can be as beautiful and as valuable to understand what one wants from a relationship. After all, if you can't learn to love yourself, then you can't truly love another either, and spending one's 20s finding oneself is an important part of growing up in the 21st century.

This all kind of leads up to asking, then, why everyone gets pressured into finding love – and it's important to differentiate between carnal and societal influences here. It's one thing to want a boyfriend because you want a partner, someone to cuddle, someone to care about, but it's another thing to want someone by your side because Barbara and her hubby down the road think that being single at 40 is sad. You're sick of the dinner invites to "get you out of the house more," so you look for a man to prove them that you aren't sad and alone.

It comes down to accepting that you just haven't met the right person yet, and you shouldn't feel pressured to look for them.

That's society for you, and I can't help but think that it only makes things worse. Firstly, you're dragging another person down with you, someone who might be falling for you - straight-up not fair on them, or on you. Then, you're getting yourself into something that's built on very false foundations. The longer you let it play out, and the longer you keep up that facade of convincing yourself that you really do fancy this person, the more difficult it gets down the line to separate what's a real feeling and what's a rehearsed feeling.

Thirdly, it's easy to see when you're in it for the "look" of being in a relationship, and you're not actually helping this "image" of yours at all. If anything, people think you've settled for something out of desperation, and those comments will bite you even harder than the previous remarks. Lastly, it's simply screwing-up your chances at a genuine relationship. Blinding yourself to true love with the veils of facades could mean you walk straight past your soulmate.

It comes down to accepting that you just haven't met the right person yet, and you shouldn't feel pressured to look for them. Ever heard that saying "You never find what you're looking for until you stop looking for it?" Yeah, that applies here.

So don't judge your self-worth by what your Facebook relationship status says. Don't get caught-up in the flood of wedding photos and baby showers that you scroll past through in tears. It's not a reflection of who you are if you aren't in a relationship, and people who have something to say about it are dealing with their own insecurities. Don't take them seriously.

Enjoy your time and your friends, meet new people, and don't look for a relationship just because you feel obliged to. Let things happen as they will. When you meet someone, you'll know. I've had to accept this, and although I'm speaking as someone who hasn't been in love yet, I really have taken that advice to heart.

I'm ready to accept love, but I'm not going to force myself to receive it. And society can suck on that – nice, and long, and hard.