Edie Freedman is a student at New York University studying social and cultural analysis, politics and psychology. There she is a writer and editor for The Tab NYU.
As a 21-year-old, soon-to-be college graduate, there are a couple standard questions I invariably get from extended family members: How did your mid-terms/finals go? What are your plans after graduation? Do you have a job lined up? But the most annoying question, by far, is: So, do you have a boyfriend?
When I reply with a firm “No,” they look upon me with pity. But why? Considering my age and college-abroad lifestyle (I’m from England studying in New York City), being single is the best way for me to be!
Now, I am not arguing against dating. I’m not arguing for eternal singledom or celibacy, nor am I arguing against committed relationships. I am simply pushing back against the widely held assumption that a serious relationship is THE interpersonal goal for women my age. Let me remind you, at this age I’m barely old enough to drink and still too young to rent a car.
So here are the five arguments I use to persuade any concerned aunts or grandparents that a single woman in possession of a good education mustn’t necessarily be in want of a serious boyf:
1. The Style Cramping of Boyfriends
I had fellow classmates in high school who at 18 years old made choices about their university studies based on where their significant other was heading. In one extreme case, my friend decided not apply to her ‘dream school’ in order to go to college with her boyfriend, only to be rejected by his college and then, a few months later, by him. And now, as my university career come to an end, I watch as female classmates base their future plans on the circumstances of their male significant other (rarely is it the other way around). It would seem serious relationships can really narrow young women’s opportunities — or at least limit the opportunities they feel they can choose from. It’s a sort of “Bros Before Os” philosophy (where “O” stands for Opportunities).
Without a relationship to pin them down to one location or one perhaps comfortable situation, a young woman is more able to make choices and take opportunities that would be beneficial to her — it allows her to be selfish (which girls aren’t really raised to be). As someone who is unsure about where she wants to be by the end of the year — both figuratively in her career and geographically — being selfish about my decisions means I am moving forward with many doors open, rather than having to squeeze through just one.
2. Long-Distance Relationships Kinda Suck
There are 14 million people in the U.S who are in long-distance relationships, many of whom must have taken opportunities that were not adapted to the geographical location of their partner. But long-distance relationships take time, energy and emotional exercise that can take you away from exploring and enjoying a new environment. Rather than fulling immersing yourself in your new surroundings, a part of you is psychically disconnected, however many miles away with your partner in spirit.
3. Freedom Ain’t Just a George Michael Song
When I asked a classmate — who’s graduating soon too — if she would get into a relationship at this point in her life, she said, “Only if the person understands that I need to pursue my own stuff.”
She was referring to the freedom to pick up on a weekend and go out of town, without having to check in with someone; to see your friends at short notice; to take off for two-months on a business venture if need be.
If you can find a relationship that allows you that kind of freedom, kudos! But most serious relationships require a level of commitment, communication and accountability — sometimes fueled by jealousy — that can put the kibosh on spontaneous weekends away, last-minute girls’ nights out, and extended business trips.
4. Gal Pals
I spent the majority of my teens studying at an intensely academic all-girls school, where I was deprived of male company beyond the occasional unimpressive teenage boy dressed in an ill-fitting (in more ways than one) blazer from our brother school. On the rare occasions that I had free time, I wanted to spend it hanging out with my close female friends rather than traipsing to the nearby mall to have an awkward, 15-minute Starbucks date with a boy I met at the last party who only wanted to talk about himself…with himself. My friends out-rivaled any romantic interests.
When serious boyfriends — or even potential serious boyfriends — come into the picture, the safety net of close female friendship can sometimes feel threatened. It’s hard for anything or anyone to compete with the newness and excitement and passion of a budding romantic relationship. Suddenly stalwart friends who were an everyday constant can become people you occasionally text with and only sometimes see.
When you’re committed to singledom, you don’t have to worry about accidentally becoming that jerk who drops her friends at the first sign of Sunday crosswords in bed with a significant other.
Not only are more women in the United States marrying at an older age, they’re also reaping the financial benefits of waiting before committing to serious relationships. According to The Atlantic, “Women who marry later make more money per year than women who marry young.” Nothing makes a more convincing case to your family for the benefits of singledom than a healthy — and growing –bank account.
In many ways, this could boil down to a simple motivating characteristic: an unwillingness to compromise. Just as I have begun to learn to not compromise in my friendships or my career choices, I am not willing to compromise in my romantic relationships or how those fit into my already full, and fully independent life. My future is wide open and, hopefully, free from regret.
So, do you have a boyfriend?
Nope. And thank fuck for that!