What It's Like To Have Never Had A Boyfriend In Your 20s


When I was 12 years old, a new phenomenon swept over me and my sixth grade peers: relationships.

A week before, the idea of "liking" a boy would have been met with "ew," but it was suddenly greeted with serious conversation and much well-intentioned meddling (aka an investigation of how safe it was to tell him you liked him).

Through it all, I watched as my friends were approached by their interested boys; I watched them begin their little "relationships," while I stood on the side... waiting. No one ever showed interest in me.

I decided there must be something wrong with me. I remember, in detail, the tearful conversation I had with my mother about the situation.

"Catherine, you're going to meet someone. Someone great is out there, but you're 12. These people aren't in relationships, they're just being silly."

"But, what if no one ever likes me? What if I'm alone forever?" I somehow managed to ask between tears.

"Catherine, your person is out there, and he's going to be amazing. More than likely you haven't even met him yet. You still have junior high, high school, college to get through. You're going to meet him."

"Think of this: There's someone out there right now who has no idea that they are going to find you someday.

Maybe they're thinking about all of this, too, and even though you're apart now, you could both be looking up at the same moon, wondering, connected without knowing it."

My mother can speak with a wisdom that gets me every time.

"Okay," I sniffled, and went outside to look at the moon.

Junior high and high school would go by without any hint of relationships, or even the possibility of one.

College would prove just as lacking in this area, with nary a suitor (aside from one man, who technically counts as one but referred to me as his "back-up plan" should his current relationship not work out).

I remember the night of my senior prom, not because I went, but because I was called into the office a few days before by staff members who wanted to double-check that I didn't want to go, since I was the only one who hadn't bought a ticket.

I confirmed that I wasn't going and told everyone I thought the entire idea was stupid, and that I didn't care. The truth was that no one had asked me, and I didn't want to go alone. The night of, a friend texted me that I was the only one not there. I cried myself to sleep.

Graduate school would leave me single, as well; although, entering a female-dominated field did severely narrow my options.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about why no one has ever been interested me (and, I admit, it's technically possible that someone has been and he just hasn't said anything).

I've been fixated on ways I could change myself to become more attractive. I could be smarter, prettier, funnier, more together. People rarely tell me I'm pretty (aside from my mother) without telling me what I could do to be prettier: "You'd be prettier if you wore your hair down, but I'm not saying you aren't pretty."

Despite my efforts, however, I am always my awkward, too-honest self, with hair too frizzy to ever completely contain, and skin that always has to have some sort of blemish.

To be honest, I have worked hard to accept it and have gotten to a point where I kind of even love some of my "imperfections." Change seems unlikely.

The longer I've spent being single, though, the more concerned I've become that I will stay this way. In the past few weeks, my online dating journey has been particularly mortifying. I've been told I'm the "type of girl that doesn't get a lot of attention and so, [he] liked me because [I'll] take anything."

I've been sent "the picture" (you know, the picture I'm referring to, unfortunately). I've been stood up on a date that the guy suggested and arranged.

These are just the recent missteps; previously, I've been asked to show my feet, been sent lewd messages about my breasts and been met mostly with complete silence on the other end.

The things I've heard in bars are even worse.

I'd like to say I've come through it all with some sort of remarkable insight into dating but, alas, I'm no better at it now than I was at 12; although, the opportunity has provided me with a knowledge of myself that has allowed me to become the person I want to be.

I don't have a fear of being alone, and I will never stay in a relationship just because it's better than nothing. I have my boundaries and I've learned (and continue to learn) how to assert myself. I've made serious changes in order to create the life I want, and I've had the opportunity to do this selfishly.

I admit it: Being single has, largely, not been by choice. I haven't been actively trying to make some sort of grand statement by being a party of one. I've shed a lot of tears over this, and I've given up more times than I can keep track of.

Each rejection stings a little bit more because it feels, at times, that I'm running out of people to be rejected by (or so the pessimistic voice within declares). Each time I allow myself to be vulnerable, I'm met with nothing in return. I have given up on online dating, and I have started to lose hope that I'm going to meet someone as I go through life, in general.

I don't want to be alone. I don't like walking into an empty apartment after a long day of work, and I don't like being asked if I'm seeing anyone and being left answering it the same way I have my entire life.

I'm tired of people telling me how proud they are of me for moving away and succeeding on my own, as though "on my own" was part of the plan.

It feels like there's a part of me that has never been validated or truly seen. Despite my efforts to validate myself, there's this one part I think can only be seen by another person. I can't describe it; I just know there's an emptiness I can't fix myself.

I think it's the part that motivates us to connect with another person in general; it's the part that yearns for a connection with another person. It's how we know when we've found the right one.

I want to be seen. Until then, I'll just keep looking at the moon, hoping he is, too...

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