This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
With all the fear and sadness going on in the world, and friends now seemingly posting even more about what they’re doing at home with their partners, it feels like it’s hitting me even harder that my ass is still single. I’m hitting the big 30 soon and a lot of my peers are bunking down with someone they love. Meanwhile, I’m still cuddling my teddy bear from childhood. How do I feel better or least okay about being single when everything is in turmoil and I just want to spoon?
Loveless in Quarantine
Hey there, LQ!
Thank you for writing in. I really don’t have much better to do than sit here and read through my letters like a Victorian-era noblewoman in a corset sitting at her desk by candlelight as cholera ravages her love life. When will my precious Winston come out of quarantine? Anyway, yes, let’s talk. Single to single.
I have this theory about our present state of isolation, LQ, and that’s that it has magnified all our pre-existing anxieties. One might imagine that the dreary state of the world would give us a new, more urgent set of fears to focus on, and indeed it has. But that doesn’t mean our old worries go away, because if it’s one thing our inner demons love it’s company in “mind hell.”
In other words, if you were unhappy about being single before going into isolation, then you’re probably really unhappy about it now, when you most likely have little company except for (if you’re lucky) roommates and the internet. Meanwhile, all the couples you follow are posting cute pictures and videos together because they too are bored out of their skulls. It’s really no wonder that you’d feel lonely, given the circumstances.
But I want you to think about this, and it might sound blunt but I’m going to make it sound better later, I promise: Right now, you’re longing for something you’ve never had, and that doesn’t actually exist. Oof! I told you, that sounds rough. But let me explain, because I think it’s actually good news for you and for me and for everyone else out there with nothing but time to daydream about the relationships we’d like to have.
Yes, it’d be wonderful to have someone to ride this out with. I’m lonely. You’re lonely. It’s fine to feel upset about it, and I think people who are shacked up with their partner at the moment (not all couples can!) are pretty fortunate at this time. But social media is a place for idealized versions of our lives, even in these less than ideal times. It remains very easy to project our desires onto other people’s curated posts.
Consider: Being in a relationship right now doesn’t necessarily mean that (a) you get to isolate with them, (b) you’re not driving each other crazy, (c) you’re not facing any unique challenges from these trying circumstances, or (d) you’re feeling secure in that relationship. Believe it or not, LQ, I’m getting letters right now from people who are second-guessing their relationships because they’re seeing new sides to their partner that weren’t prominent before they had to, uh, essentially become two lizards stuck in a terrarium 24/7.
What I’m saying is that what you wanted before this crisis and what you want right now are really the same thing: an idealized version of romance. That desire is just on steroids because it has everything fantasies need to flourish, that being time, space, stress, and isolation. I’m not saying you’re wrong to want it, or that it’s naive or frivolous. I’m just saying that the heart of the matter isn’t really unique, and once they let us out of here and we return to our lives as we recognize them, it will still be there.
I don’t really care that you’re turning 30. Turning 30 is a pretty normal and welcome thing to happen. You can find romance before, during, and after turning 30, and once all this is said and done, you will have that opportunity. Meanwhile, you won’t be spooning with anyone, and while that sucks perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that it sucks for millions of us. Millions of us! Me included! I hate this.
Now might be a good time to think about what you want and don’t want, and how to manage your expectations. I, for one, will be adding “could I ride out a plague with you” to my wish list in a partner. Pastry chefs and “mushroom foragers” just shot way the hell up in my book. Life is brutal, isn’t it?
But if all that is unacceptable and you insist on being incorrigible, there’s never been a better time to mope or to write sad poetry with a quill and ink. We As Queer People™ should all be more forgiving with ourselves and our private melodramatics right now. Once we stop staring out of windows and ruminating about our pain, well, that’s when we’ve truly lost ourselves.
Chin up, LQ! There’s a world waiting for you on the other side of this. As far as I can tell, yes, it will still be there, and you will have the chance to find your Winston. Meanwhile, be kind with yourself and do your best to be your own rock. Make yourself a fancy soup. Draw something. Write a letter. Oh, ha. I guess you did. Well, anyway.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on March 31, 2020.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.