I love being single. I really do. But it's taken me years to get to the point of being able to say that and mean it. There were a lot of factors involved in getting from point A (really heartbroken and sad about being single) to point B (mostly happy with my independent life). Outside of getting myself a decent vibrator, I found that asking people for recommendations of books to read when single was incredibly helpful.
Coping with and understanding the experience of being single can be especially difficult if you're less than thrilled to be flying solo. Lane Moore's essay collection's How To Be Alone: If You Want To And Even If You Don't is my most recent read and it led me to reflect on the ways I embrace my singlehood and intermittent, piercing loneliness. The subtitle says it all — because sometimes, you're alone regardless of what you would prefer. Learning to understand and care for yourself during periods of wanted and unwanted alone time is a worthy pursuit.
In her debut collection of essays, Moore expertly jabs at vulnerable concepts of abandonment, rejection, abuse, desperation, and self-love with facetious wit and gutting honesty. In an essay about spending the holidays alone, Moore says, "Just be gentler with yourself than you'd think you'd need to be. You already survived everything you survived, so give yourself a day where you allow yourself to stay present... If nothing else, do it as a gift to yourself — someone who deserves more than you will ever know." Although she is speaking to one particular experience of solitude, I believe it translates well to the broader experience of learning that you are very much deserving of your own gentleness and care. She reminded me how much of being alone is both allowed to suck sometimes, how important it is to consider your past trauma and to also be celebratory of your resiliency.
Since asking friends for book recommendations was so helpful to me when I was healing, I decided to ask around again in case the folks in my life had read anything else inspiring lately.
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness confronted lack of relationships and talked really vulnerably about these intimate personal feelings, especially in relationship to queerness. I found the experience of really leaning into my feelings of loneliness and being honest with myself about them really healing. It was very validating to have a book that seemed to say, 'Hey, it's OK to feel this way.'
— Raquel, 24
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed is my love bible. She taught me that love sometimes is not enough and that’s OK. She got me through a rough breakup where I loved my boyfriend deeply but knew he wasn’t my lifelong partner. She went through a similar life scenario, and her advice was raw and true. 'Be brave enough to break your own heart.'
— Katie, 24
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
I’d never encountered a book that so deeply challenged everything I’d believed about my inner self. As someone who already felt destroyed, I felt like Ada (the main character), helped me understand how I dealt with personal trauma — there’s no one way to heal.
— Lauren, 24
Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein
It's about the pleasure gap, and how so many powerful and independent women are so confident about asking what they want, but when they're in the bedroom, it feels impossible to ask for what they want. It helped me focus on myself and my relationship with sex so that I know what I want. So the next time I am not single, I will feel equipped and ready to know what I deserve and how to ask for it.
— Kassiani, 26
Someone Else's Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone
When my head feels quiet yet still busy yet still sparse, this book cuts through that and reminds me of how expansive my inner world is, and how it deserves to be honored with my time and the work of exploring everything in there that flickers or sparkles or drips or oozes or skips or scares me. And it deserves to be spread out around me. Stone’s speaker’s voice is so steady and resolute and tender that I’m kind of tearing up thinking about it. It encourages me to stop trying to pull my nebulous ways of being and ways of seeing into some core to tuck inside of me... Every time I start this book I feel like I’m a low buzz and by the time I finish it I feel like I’m a warm hum. My favorite poem in the book is called, 'Because You Love You Come Apart.'
The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan
As a Queer diasporic Palestinian, Hala Alyan’s latest poetry collection, The Twenty-Ninth Year, felt like a book I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Alyan’s speaker gives language to many specific intersections of loneliness. From the poem Ordinary Scripture where they write, 'There was a teacher years ago who held my hand while I cried. I used the word queer. I haven’t since,' to the landscape of Oklahoma wherein the speaker confronts Palestinian complacency within American colonial violence, to the poem entitled 'Wife in Reverse,' wherein the speaker paints a portrait of the relationship between a Palestinian and her husband through vignettes in reverse chronological order. These poems make me feel seen in how they unapologetically exist in (and confront) the mess of everything, from diaspora to America, but especially with regards to love. The collection ends with the line, 'Marry or burn: either way, you’re transfiguring,' and I haven’t thought of love same ever since reading this explosive collection.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
Paper Girls was a comic about teenage girls with a paper route fighting aliens. It was nice to see young girls having an entire narrative about their fear and excitement of coming of age that wasn’t at all centered around romance or relationships. It was about friendship and duty and dedication. It was great to have a series to distract from the hurt and help me realize that there are fulfilling parts of life that don’t include romance at all.
— Ronnie, 23
Whether it's the fact that tons of your friends are getting engaged, the pressure of holidays like Valentine's Day, or shows like The Bachelor, there's always something around the corner reminding you of your singlehood. Making a point of consuming art and media that reflect the way you're experiencing the world could really help you feel less alone.
Loneliness may make people feel as though they are alone, but the reality is it's a fairly common experience. Though that fact may not ease the discomfort of the feeling, it shall hopefully remind you that, even when you feel super alone — they're are plenty of others with similar experiences that you can connect with in person or on the page.