I’m 25 and have never been in love, is that bad?


Another song, another reminder that I’m late to the game.

Olivia Rodrigo has entered our global lexicon as quickly as this cold has hit me (don’t worry, no COVID-19 here). Blasting repeats of ‘Good 4 U’ and ‘Brutal’, it’s clear Rodrigo’s pleading lyrics and cathartic melodies have captured my frail, longing heart.

You see, I’m a self-coined hopeless romantic. I’m drawn to the soppy, loved up messes that Hollywood throws our way. I belt out lyrics with the kind of energy that mirrors the ending of a 10-year relationship. I’m the kind of person who believes that love is the necessary cure to all of my problems, and that heartbreak will probably result in the arrival of my ‘revenge body’.

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I mean, I can only imagine. I’m 25 and have never been in a relationship. I’ve been close. Several times, actually. However, my dating life often feels like a sad montage of speed dating. And still, I so fervently consume the loved-up narratives I’ve yet to live.

Trust me, it’s hard to wrap my head around at times. I don’t live under a rock and my backyard is one of Australia’s major cities. With dating apps like Tinder and Hinge becoming household names, the channels for meeting other loved-up singles almost seems exponential at this point. I am primed and ready to live my Hollywood rom-com fantasy.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being single. Conversely, it almost seems synonymous with freedom at times. However, when society feeds you love like your very existence depends on it, it’s difficult to not fall into the trap of feeling like you really are only half complete. And trust me, the endless platitudes of ’embrace the single life’ tend to have a short shelf life when it is all that you have known.

It was about a week ago that I had this existential revelation. It came over me like a tidal wave, that was not only inescapable but left me completely at a stand-still on the side of the road. ‘Am I the only one in my circle that isn’t in a relationship?’ Dramatic, yes. Without a slither of truth, no.

Following a gruelling few months amidst a global pandemic, and teetering on the edge of seemingly imminent lockdowns, it appears that the majority of my friends have found themselves a significant other. The weather is shifting into a glacial wind tunnel, cafes are open for business and half our faces aren’t permanently covered by a piece of fabric anymore – a winning concoction for a loved-up Australia it seems.

It might sound like I am living a Bridget Jones existence – alone in my apartment, a bottle of wine in hand, spending every waking moment pining over a man – but I want to emphasise that this is not the case. However, such is the wrath of my intrusive thoughts, it’s difficult to avoid the ‘what ifs’ and self-doubt that at times lambasts my mind.

What am I doing wrong? Are my expectations too high? We live in a world where people are having less sex than their parents, and marriage rates are at an all-time low. Children are routinely not a topic of conversation among my friends, and the plausibility of them ever wanting children is slowly fading as we grow older.

So, without needing to put two and two together, it’s clear that the trajectory of dating → marriage → kids is becoming less of a cultural mandate. People are living life on their own terms, and with that comes a sense of autonomy that is incredibly empowering.

I mean, there has to be a major element of fluke when it comes to this whole ‘true love’ game, right? To be at the right place, at the right time with a person who I perfectly align with in both interest and morals seems more like a glitch in the matrix than a game of probability. This fairytale however seems almost impossible to not buy into.

From the incredibly lucrative rom-com genre to the pervasive stan culture planted firmly in our Twitter-dom, romance, or its lack thereof in my own life, is a burgeoning pain in my side when it comes to my self-worth in a society that prizes this narrative as a metric of fulfilment.

This hyper-focus however seems to be my nadir. There’s something about 25. It’s ignited an irrational fear in me that I am running out of time. Time to revel in my youth, time to do things with reckless abandon, and time to experience young love.

The kind of love that my AirPods serenade me with every day. The kind of love that has me catching myself staring out my window like I am the central protagonist in a Norah Jones music video. I am in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. Unlike its cousin, the mid-life crisis, which is a far cry from what my bank account can handle, I have become obsessed with my apparent race against time.

It’s unfortunate. We live in a world with extreme tunnel vision when it comes to romantic relationships, and anything outside of this is a story riddled with loss and loneliness. The emotional turmoil of placing this at the centre of our lives is a dance with despair and serves no purpose other than to self-sabotage future opportunities. This gloriously self-fulfilling prophecy is only made worse by our own insecurity and resentment of those who live the life we crave.

Maybe you are single, not because you aren’t forward enough, or not mysterious enough, or because you keep texting after he has clearly ghosted you, but because we live in a world where people are living for what is best for them at that moment in time.

Maybe you have a clearly defined dating profile bio that reads: I’m obsessed with Sci-Fi, have six cats and a penchant for beaded doorway hangers. In which case, you know what you want and are willing to wait for it. Or maybe you are simply picky and are not in any mind to adjust your standards. Kudos to you!

Or maybe you have an overwhelming fear of commitment even though it is something you want more than anything, and that is okay too. There are infinite reasons you may still be single, all of which do not equal a flaw in you. And between our own lived experiences and the stories we believe we must follow, there is an incredible amount of love.

I refuse to dwell any longer. The unending diet of self-doubt and pity only blinds me to the other joys that life can offer. The Tinder to The Notebook pipeline has finally reached a tipping point. I was late to walk, late to have sex. Maybe this will be another one of life’s milestones that I will simply reach in my own time, albeit annoyingly late.

In the famous words of The Pussycat Dolls, “I don’t need a man to make me feel good”. Oh, and Olivia Rodrigo, I will continue to belt out your songs… romance or not.

If you’re struggling with your single status, try this therapist approved advice.

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