Every now and again a TV show gives us a phrase that’s such a clarifying, accurate expression of a thing we couldn’t previously describe that it’s worth, like, three months of therapy. Sex and the City gave us “he’s just not that into you,” Grey’s Anatomy gave us our “person,” and last night’s episode of Better Things offered a new one: “super singles.”
It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, the “super single.” The phrase sounds like Marvel’s attempt at pandering to the Tinder generation (dibs on that screenplay, actually). But what Sam refers to in this episode is a person who is not in a relationship, but has figured out how to be a self-sustaining ecosystem. A person who is good at being alone. Just so good at being alone. Like maybe too good at being alone, to the point where they struggle to comprehend how another person can fit, or enhance, or do anything other than damage the life they’ve built alone. Because in absence of another person, they have figured out how to be thriving, happy, unbothered, horny, fulfilled, and they don’t want that disrupted. See: Whoopi Goldberg, Diane Keaton, and obviously Better Things’ Sam Fox.
Sam, for the (foolish) people who don’t watch this show, is a single mom of three daughters, and “meeting someone” always seems to be at the bottom of a long list of priorities. For the first season and the beginning of the second, her love life is something that whirs in the background, while work and daughters and self come first. She has sex when she wants it, brief bouts of companionship when she wants it, but, as seen in the episode with the best bad-date rant ever, she’s able to excise dead male weight faster than you can say “fedora.” Men are not a priority; keeping her life balanced is.
This episode marks the first time she fully comes undone over a romantic prospect. “This guy, is the thing,” she says to a friend, anguished and lovesick (literally). Her speech is really just a few lines, but, good god, does it cut to the bone. “I don’t know how to do this. I got no place to put it, I don’t want it,” she says. She only sees one way forward: to break up with the perfect guy, naturally.
“Oh honey,” her friend says in commiseration. “We’re super singles: We’re just too good at being alone.”
It may seem a little melodramatic — her fear and the reaction to it — but it’s definitely a conversation I’ve had with relationship-less friends who are incredibly happy having figured out how to stay home alone on a Sunday and not sink into despair, how to kill their own roaches, and how to look out over the landscape of the lives they’ve built for themselves, by themselves, with a protective appreciation. Why would anybody introduce anything foreign into an ecosystem that works so well? The fear is that it would wreak snake-and-mongoose levels of havoc, or levels similar to … what is it that’s destroying coral reefs? Humans? Humans. Fitting.
I hate the “super single” concept, but I have also never felt more seen. I would prefer not to feel so seen. Better Things, thanks so much for giving voice to this very real worry, but also thank you for fucking me all the way up with two little words. Super singles, unite.