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This world is not made for single people.

A few weeks ago, I finally got a new mattress. It was a long time coming, and there was an amazing Prime Day deal (but still, fuck Jeff Bezos). It was one of those mattress-in-a-box deals, and it popped up on my stoop in three days as promised. And it almost stayed there.

There was a dire warning: “TWO PEOPLE MUST LIFT THIS BOX.”

Well, guess my sad, lonely ass is going to have to risk a back injury so I have something to sleep on.

But it got me to thinking—what am I actually supposed to do here? And how many things are designed to be managed, enjoyed, and/or handled by more than one person?

My realization was deeply seated in the brazen assumption that someone who orders a queen-sized mattress MUST have someone else to help them get it inside. Should I, as a perpetually single person, be relegated to sleeping in a twin bed?

And how the hell am I supposed to fuck in a twin?

This is assuming I have an active sex life. I don’t.

But can’t I?! And shouldn’t I be able to talk openly about it? Too often, single people are shoveled the same old bullshit and platitudes about “finding the right one” or “he will come when you aren’t looking.” It’s all treacly word goo, covered in innocence and purity, and it can get annoying and pedantic.

Sometimes single people just want sex.

My point being when people see a single person, they immediately assume the person wants a meet-cute, romance, or a life partner. They paint singleness with a soft brush and view it through a soft focus lens, because being single can only be solved via romance and heteronormative courtship practices. Everyone views romance for a single person like it’s the rom-com tropes we’ve mass consumed since Drew Barrymore pretended to be a high schooler in Never Been Kissed.

But being without a partner also means you are living without frequent human touch or an immediate response to your biological desires. You’re trying to tell me that marriage is all holding hands, dancing in the kitchen while cooking, and chaste kisses on the doorstep before you leave for work? Nah. You have someone on retainer who you can bone when you’re horny.

I just beg all the coupled people to realize that if that is something you want regularly, it’s reasonable for the singles in your life to want it regularly. And sometimes the solution to single loneliness isn’t a coffee date you attempt to matchmake. Or sending IG quote pages with some clichés about waiting for Mr. Right. Or fawning over your single friend when they play with your kids. “I don’t understand how you’re single. You’ll get married one day.”

Okay, maybe they will… but can I make out with your hot cousin I met at the family BBQ in the tool shed? Because that is really what I need right now. Not lamentations over how much happier I’d be if I was chained to someone for the rest of my life.

And if I’m required to celebrate couples (and buy them twee woodland animal outfits) for having sex to completion, they can deal with me being direct and honest about the fact that holding hands with someone could be nice, but maybe I just wanna get naked with some hot dude from Grindr.

Yes, it feels good to be loved. But I also want to be desired.

Now, as much as I am perpetually single, I don’t want to leave the impression that I am perpetually horny.

But I am perpetually introspective and thinking about how navigating this world alone is, well, lonely. And not just in the feeling my feelings ennui kind of way, but in very direct, practical examples that may have real life consequences.

In summer of 2020, those of us in the Northeast blue states started to emerge from our protective cocoons because COVID case numbers were down. One of my friends who I hadn’t seen in ages invited me to her family BBQ. They were not in my bubble, but we were going to be outside, and I couldn’t turn down swimming in an actual pool with other people! I was pretty clear on my boundaries, and let everyone know I wasn’t comfortable hugging or kissing hello. At one point, my friend’s father sat down next to me and we were talking about the pandemic. He’s always been incredibly welcoming and kind, but he is decidedly a Republican, so I knew we were going to have disparate opinions about stay at home orders, the federal government’s response and the ongoing rumblings about a fast-tracked vaccine.

As a man of faith, one deeply committed to his family, he maintained that still seeing his family was important to him, so he would continue to hold similar get-togethers. I couldn’t fault him, especially since I was directly benefiting on that day from his open door generosity. I did let him know that I took the pandemic very seriously, because if I did get sick, it was only me. I would be responsible for my own recuperation, and God forbid if it was severe, what would I do then?

That’s the practical reality of a single person in this world, especially when faced with a virus that requires you to be by yourself, lest you risk exposing others.

“Me against the world” is something I tell myself frequently, and it feels all the more prescient when I consider injury, illness, and my own mortality.

Every time I’m eating dinner and feel a twinge of heartburn, there’s the passing thought of “What if it’s a heart attack? No one knows my passwords!” Then I realize no one has a spare key to my apartment, so they are going to have to break the door down to do a wellness check when my boss doesn’t hear from me when I miss our morning huddle. Because I’m dead, face down in my HelloFresh risotto for one. Who do I call if I get rushed to the hospital? Or if I’m stranded at an airport with no way to get home? Where do I go if I lose my job and can’t afford rent?

Yes, all of these questions and more just because I swallowed a piece of unseeded jalapeño.

But, Eric, you have family and friends!

Funny story. I really don’t? Both my parents are dead. All my grandparents are dead. My brother is dead. And the outcome is that I don’t really talk to my sisters, and the relationship with my extended family is polite and cordial with an occasional holiday dinner invite thrown in.

Of course, I have “chosen family,” but I have reasonable expectations about where my membership in those families ends. I know that I’m not going to be invited to the family Disney trip. I am preparing myself for the inevitability of a year where these people decide that the holidays to which they traditionally invite me are going to be blood-relation only, “to keep it small.”

And even with these holidays, every year I wait patiently to see if an invite will even come through. I never assume and never take for granted that I will have somewhere to go on Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though each member of my respective chosen families swears up and down the invite is evergreen and a formal invitation is merely a formality. But, I still feel like I am intruding on family memory making on Christmas morning or other family traditions that I’m part of tangentially and out of necessity because I’m just there.

Ever since my Mom passed, I’ve been welcome at my best friend’s family’s Christmas festivities.

I think about the time I beat Grandma Marilyn at Christmas Left, Right, Center – and I heard rumblings that I should’ve let her win. She was an elderly retiree, so the assumption was I should’ve shown some mercy. Was this an unspoken family decree I had violated? Would I find myself banned from any future Christmases merely because I got caught up in the competitive thrill of LRC?! Did I unknowingly violate other unspoken rules over the course of the evening, drawing the ire of a family for which I was already considered an outsider?

And if so, would I accept that I would no longer have “family” with which to spend Christmas? I had gotten a taste of celebrating Christmas by myself in December of 2020, but I’m not sure I wanted that to be permanent. Had I forever doomed myself to watch Hallmark movies, drunk on mimosa, and ordering Chinese food because I beat a senior citizen in a dice game of chance?

I know I can spend holidays by myself, and have accepted it may be my fate – but it doesn’t mean I am welcoming it!

But there’s community!

So, as a queer man, I won’t turn this personal essay into a therapy session about how I feel I’ve always floated on the outskirts of the LGBTQ+ community…

But, I have spent a significant portion of my life trying to find a community in which I belonged. And they all seem fleeting and temporary.

I was a theater nerd who never got a lead in the musical.

I was an “Our God is an Awesome God” retreat kid for some time, and you can only assume how that ended.

I found lifelong friends at my first big boy job, but had to move away because there was no opportunity for career growth.

I was a long-standing member at a Crossfit gym, but I had to leave when it became weird and Jesus-y, and then went full-on right-wing indoctrination center after the 2020 election.

I have my writing community in The Prompt, but billionaires ruined social media where we originally congregated, and capitalism is ruining my ability to write and attend our semi-regular meetings.

I’ve tried to find a running group, but they all live far away or are way too fast for me or couldn’t have been any more indifferent when I reached out to them about joining. And when I did a local Pride Run this year, there was a gay dad influencer there who had just inexplicably blocked me on Instagram a week before. So that was going great.

I thought maybe I had found “my people” in the community of Peloton users, now that their New York studios have reopened and I head into Manhattan every few weekends to take some in person classes… But, it all seems a bit like a high school clique. If you aren’t “friends” with the instructor, you aren’t necessarily made to feel super welcome. I had even gotten brunch with one of the instructors (!), but since then, it feels I’m too awkward to navigate establishing new, real friendships with other adults, one of whom is a pseudo-celebrity.

I don’t know how to do this anymore.

How does someone who had a hard enough time making friends during the standard development stages in which you do so be expected to make friends as he enters the back half of his life? So, I go in, do my workout, take my sweaty picture with the instructor, then I take an introspective walk to Port Authority and ask myself what’s wrong with me the entire bus ride home.

Even Grindr and Scruff (gay dating/hook up apps, for those not in the know) aren’t even fun anymore.

I can’t believe I’m longing for the days of AOL chatrooms where you actually chatted with guys, agreed to meet, and paid 99 cents to Verizon for a one-time download of Navigator to go meet an internet stranger at his parents’ house. At least we all wanted to connect. Now it’s just… nothing. Mindlessly scrolling through headless torsos with a “Hi” every few days that leads to… nothing.

And I’m literally typing this as I get a message from a blank profile with the name “need ass” and another message from 72-year-old man who apparently is “alwayshorny69.” (Nice?)

Then when I think about what I’m doing wrong, I think about when I’m traveling alone (which happens a lot, hence this essay), and how I’ll pretty much talk to anyone if they sit next to me at a Disney bar. But it all seems so transitory and impermanent. I’ll never chat again with the hot guy at the Pop Century pool bar who was hanging around as his girlfriend performed her bridesmaid duties for her best friend’s wedding.

When it feels like everything is fleeting, everyone is also fleeting.

So what do I do now?

I honestly don’t know. I mean, I’m obviously strong. Independent. Resilient. I have a career. Shit, just call me Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Cue Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run.” But, shit, I’m still alone. And sometimes lonely. I’m doing this all by myself… and when I do step out of my comfort zone to reach out, it feels like a firm grip on the cliff is just out of my reach.

I just don’t want to hear the clichés anymore.

“You’ll find someone when you least expect it.” Dude, I spend most of my life waking up, commuting to work, working, commuting from work, working out, making dinner, and going to sleep. As an introvert, I like the peace and quiet that comes once I close my apartment door behind me. But I am acutely aware of how I feel when I want… need… am desperate to tell someone about my day, and it’s just me. So, the quiet, once comforting, quickly becomes deafening… because it’s there, and I have nothing to fill it.

That can be deeply sad.

I’ve tried hanging out at a local bar, but it’s still a suburban bar in the right-leaning haven of Bergen County, New Jersey. I’ve just become best friends with all the bar staff, and that community is directly connected to murdering my liver with craft cocktails. And since affordable housing is hard to come by, it’s not like I’m going to meet anyone in my relatively rent controlled apartment complex, because if there’s anyone who loves rent control, it’s senior citizens on a fixed income.

I don’t write this to gain sympathy or ask anyone to feel sorry for me. It’s just a reality of my current existence.

I had moved through all these feelings once before, earlier in life. But I was skinnier, younger, more optimistic, and less jaded. And I hadn’t lived in a world where we haven’t completely shaken off the feelings of isolation caused by a worldwide pandemic that forced us away from each other. And since even that loneliness, although darker, scarier, and more oppressive, was a loneliness with which I was familiar. This just seems like a bit of the same panic, different disco.

So, I got a Bed Scrunchie for my bed. I put that on all by myself. So everything that does require two people, I know I CAN do myself.

It doesn’t mean I WANT to, though.

Eric Mochnacz

A wizard of pop culture. A prince of snark. A delightful addition to any dinner party.

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