The art of being single

As How to be Single hits cinemas this week, just ahead of Valentine's Day, self-confessed singles doyen Dolly Alderton has a few tips to make the most of flying solo

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By Dolly Alderton on

This week, an adaptation of the book How To Be Single hits the screens, telling the story of six New Yorkers learning to be on their own. As a lifelong member of the singles club, a collector of all badges for the singles sash, from Tinder to Guardian Soulmates, from solo holidays to dinners for one, I feel like this is the one area where I can confidently call myself a guru. So, here are my tips, from my many years as being the – yes, I am going to self-proclaim here – singles doyen. 

Work out what you want 

When you’re single, you’re in a heightened state for wallowing – you carry the world’s tiniest violin in your handbag at all times, ready for a plaintive performance, given the right trigger. These triggers include: people getting engaged, women getting pregnant, being hungover, catching the common cold, the film The Holiday and your boss asking if you’re OK because you look a bit rundown. Out comes the violin as quick as a mawkish busker in Covent Garden and into your best performance of “It’s made harder because I’m on my own. You wouldn’t understand.”

But let’s be rational here – what do you really want? Do you actually want a long-term relationship? Are you truly ready to take on another person and their schedule and their problems and their friends and their friends’ boring birthday drinks every other Friday? If so – make it happen. As my friend Sarah once said to me, when I was wailing that I wanted a boyfriend: “He won’t walk through a footpath in your living room while you’re in watching Come Dine With Me repeats every night.” 

Join a proper, fee-paying dating site, go out four times a week to meet new people, say yes to everything, ask your friends to set you up with great single men they know. It takes grace, it takes guts and it takes a healthy bank account. But if you want it, go out and get it. 

Or do you want to just want to date? Join Tinder. 

Or do you want to have sex? Go out dancing. 

Or do you just fancy a gooey grilled cheese sandwich? Have one!

Cull the backbenchers 

AKA the emergency men in your phonebook – ex-boyfriends, old flames, men you’ve had an ongoing flirtation with for 10 years, but nothing has ever happened. Yes, they provide a nice bit of going-through-the-motions compliment giving and saucy innuendo via WhatsApp on a lonely Wednesday evening, but it’s never going to come to anything. It’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of your data allowance and you’re better than that. Watch a good film instead. NO, NOT THE HOLIDAY. 

Learn to really be kind to yourself – it’s no one else’s duty to look after you right now, and see that as a chance to really nail self-care

Chill out 

The older you get, the quicker things happen. The people who met when they were 21 took nine years to get from first date to married with a baby because they were young and scared and skint. The longer you are single, the more sure you are when you meet The One that it’s The One – your experiences provide a clearer judgement. Think about it: how many thirtysomethings and fortysomethings do you know who met the love of their life and were living together within six months? Have faith that you’ll know when it’s the right person because you’ll feel it somewhere as deep as the seabed of your soul.

So chill, woman! You got this. 

Get offline 

We all know social media is one giant Museum Of The Curated Best Lies, Exaggerations And Nostalgic Relics Of Life. But that rationale still doesn’t help when you’re scrolling through Facebook before bed after a bad day at the office, trudging through hundreds of “HE LIKED IT, SO HE PUT A RING ON IT!!” statuses and photos of two pairs of snugly socked feet by a roaring fire and a carefully placed dog in a jumper (caption: “Night in with my boys”). GET OFFLINE; it’s filling your brain with candy-floss fluff and making you feel like you want to be in their relationship, which you probably don’t. Watch a film instead. No, put that one down – I’ve said not The Holiday. 

Fill your Sundays 

If there was a way we could induce a coma on single people between the hours of 3pm every Sunday and 7am on a Monday, so they could be knocked out for this stretch of time and miss the whole thing, I would happily endorse it. This is a black hole of time for single people, when you’re hungover, needy, dreading Monday morning, thinking about death and the various landscapes of the possible afterlife and desperate for a cuddle. 

Make Sunday plans with friends – brunches, scrabble, pub dinners, films – and it will ease the pain. Sunday night is still a hard segment of time to get through without asking the friendly man in the corner shop out on a date, but look at the bright side – at least Downton Abbey’s been decommissioned. 

Buy nice olives 

Spend the money you would spend on a relationship on yourself. Mini-break fund? That goes on a pair of Gianvito Rossis. Make what would be an anniversary dinner into a lobster and sauvignon feast with your best mate. 

And, more importantly, make all things everyday and domestic phenomenal. Iron your sheets, eat nutritious food, get lots of sleep, read good books, take the longer route to work that means you walk through a beautiful park. Learn to really be kind to yourself – it’s no one else’s duty to look after you right now, and see that as a chance to really nail self-care. 

Make your bed a work of art 

You don’t miss the warmth of another human, you just need a memory foam topper. It’s amazing how wonderful sleeping on your own can be once you invest a bit of time and thought on your bed. 

See it as an opportunity

This absolutely will not last forever, I promise. One day, you’ll meet someone and you’ll get a rescue dog and a collection of jumpers for it; you’ll spend every Sunday night intertwined in a tangle on the sofa guessing how much the vase is going to be valued at on Antiques Roadshow. 

For now: adventure. The chance to understand every cell of yourself and know what makes you feel happy and balanced. 

You know how people say humans only use 10 per cent of their brain? When you’re in a relationship, you can so easily end up only using 10 per cent of you, giving so much of yourself to someone else and in turn letting them fill in all your gaps instead of fixing them yourself. Well, here’s a chance to try and use 100 per cent of you! Who knows? It could be fun. 


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