I'm Taking A Break From Dating — Why Does That Make My Friends Uncomfortable?

by Andrea Bartz
Andrea Bartz

When I sold my first novel, some author friends warned me that my success might make people uncomfortable — it could intimidate dates or come between me and writer friends at different points in their journeys. I’ve been lucky, and my loved ones have been nothing but supportive. But there is one thing creating a weird rift between myself and many buds: For some weird reason, my singleness makes my friends uncomfortable.

My life is pretty freaking awesome right now. That debut thriller, The Lost Night, just came out, and it’s getting great buzz: Amazon chose it as a best book of the month, authors like Caroline Kepnes and Jessica Knoll gave it their approval, and (pinch me) Mila Kunis is adapting it for television. I’m breathtakingly busy and dizzy with happiness, so dating isn’t my top priority. But while I’m happier than ever, my friends, it seems, are uneasy with my lifestyle choice.

I’m making my friends sound terrible, which they’re not — they know I ultimately hope to settle down and start a family with a great partner, and since I’m 32 with no immediate prospects in sight, their concern is understandable. When I get together with pals, most of them partnered, it’s one of the first things they ask about: "Are you seeing anyone?"

I’m not, and that feels right to me. I’m uber-busy promoting The Lost Night and working on my second book, and opting out of the endless swiping and mind-numbing messaging feels like a no-brainer. Mate-seeking is a lot of work, and for now, I’ve moved it to the back burner. Friends don’t especially want to hear that, though, so when they pop the inevitable question, I answer breezily, throw in a few dating app stories from the last couple of months, and change the subject. I do this, I’ve realized, just to placate my friends — to reassure them that I’m working on it.

But sometimes it’s not enough. At a recent catch-up dinner, when I jokingly reported on a few first-date duds from winter, a friend who met her boyfriend on OkCupid shocked me by digging in her heels, insisting I must have a blind spot that’s preventing me from meeting a partner. If I was really serious about it, she said, I'd complete the same three-day, $845 personal development course she’d taken to spot and reprogram her own less-than-ideal habits. “I feel bad, because I know it’s something you want, and I’m trying to help you,” she remarked, exasperated. I told her the implication that I hadn’t done enough work to “deserve” a boyfriend was actually pretty offensive. (She later apologized.)

Andrea Bartz

That very same weekend (you can’t make this stuff up!), a friend got a little drunk and admitted that another mutual friend, feeling gossipy, had told said friend, "Andi is only single because she's too picky." ("But I defended you!!" she reported, unhelpfully.) I disagree; I’ve given plenty of guys plenty of chances, and if I turn down a second date, it’s because I’m pretty clear on what I’m looking for: chemistry, kindness, a shared sense of humor, and excitement — not intimidation — toward my own ambition and success. Not on my checklist? Things like “plays the guitar,” “makes mad bank” or “possesses cheekbones rivaling Tom Hiddleston’s.” If those were my non-negotiables, by all means, label me Too Choosy.

Personally, I don’t think I’m single because I’m staggering around with blind spots that rival an 18-wheeler’s or because I apply sky-high standards Prince Charming himself couldn’t meet. I’m pretty sure I’m single because I haven’t met the right partner.

I’m pretty sure I’m single because I haven’t met the right partner.

I'm not hurt by my friends' gaffes, in part because I'm flying high on a cloud of good book news. (External validation goes a long way!) But I find it interesting: Why does the fact that I'm single and not actively dating put my friends on-edge? Sure, they want to see me happy, and they’d like to usher me into their couple-y world for double dates and group trips to the Catskills — fine. But my hunch is that something deeper is going on, whether they realize it or not. On some level, it bugs them that I’m not following the traditional narrative of choosing a partner and settling down.

The same way that people are often uneasy with older women dating younger men (hi, could the hoopla surrounding Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale be any more sexist?), some people seem to have some vague, undefined problem with over-30 single women who aren’t actively trying to “remedy” their relationship status. “You’ll meet someone soon,” they tell me, or “you have to love yourself first,” or “it’ll happen when you least expect it,” or “you should join a kickball league,” or “have you tried dating apps?” I have, in fact, and I was seeking neither reassurance nor advice when I answered your question about my love life — with courtesy and restraint, I might add. Maybe this isn’t a “problem” I need to dump energy into “solving.” I’m fine with my single status. Why aren’t my friends?

My novel, The Lost Night, is a thriller, and its heroine, Lindsay, is 33 and single — independent and smart, competent and clever. Throughout the book, Lindsay must face down her own demons to uncover the dark truths surrounding her best friend’s apparent suicide in a Brooklyn loft 10 years earlier, and at no point does the narrative revolve around a romantic relationship. This is shockingly unusual in the genre, where most of the female protagonists are wives, widows, or recently divorced. (How many suspense novel blurbs begin with, “So-and-so seems to have the perfect marriage…”?) My life doesn’t revolve around a man. Why should my main character’s?

As I celebrated my book’s publication last month — the culmination of almost five years of work, and the achievement of a lifelong dream — a small part of me wished I had someone special to celebrate with. Then my loved ones stepped in: Friends sent me flowers, took photos of the novel in Barnes & Noble, and showed up at my bookstore reading in droves. I felt so very loved. I don’t know if my friends felt a touch of pity as I left my launch party solo, but I don’t particularly care. Because perhaps the best feeling of all was knowing this accomplishment, this moment, was all mine.