Single Syndrome

Queen's Journal Annual Short Fiction Contest, Third-place winner

It’s taught to us as girls.
By the age of three, you know
the story.
Princess meets prince, they fall in love and live happily ever after.

(Radio voice) Ever after will be yours once you have the man — the strong man, the perfect man, the stylish, sensitive protector that will save you from
yourself — AND GO.

Big and hopeful, they launch you into the world.
Schoolyard crushes and camp counsellor fantasies abound and you’re well on your way.

No prospects yet, but hey!
You’re young!
Don’t fret now because now’s not the time — just wait until
high school.

The hormones start flowing, the pairs start forming.
Everybody’s matching up.

Yet for me, matches come only in the form of
The sister, the best friend, the cozy confidant to question about
other conquests.

I sit at home watching the sappy love portraits of Tree Hill,
cursing every girl with a boyfriend sized tote on her arm, pleading to Mom with tear stained cheeks,
“WHAT am I doing wrong?”

“You’re too accessible,” I’m told
Too mature
Boys want someone they can chase
They’re only focused on bodies

Boys aren’t ready for a girl like you.

It’s then I finally look at myself in the mirror and see my body as the litany of traits I will never live up to.

Feeling worthless because somebody decided it would be fun to drop a one in front of my size two,
Eyes glancing up and over me,
My waistline waging war on me.

If only you could look past it and see the size of my heart
The weight of my feelings,
The width of my soul.

Screaming, scratching, clawing, to get out of this skin.
Be anyone.
Any other body.
Anybody else.
Anyone but me because it’s me that they don’t want.

The bruised peach in the produce bin nobody cared to take. Oh sure, I can get a message asking if we can just fuck before he even gets my name but SWIPE SWIPE NO I’m not down with that.

“I think it’s you,” they say.
You’re too picky
Too flirty, too confident, too loud, too aggressive, too bold.

The laundry list going on and on and on of all the ways I am failing to fulfill my primary purpose of moulding myself into the fairy fucking godmother fantasy that will make me a suitable candidate for their love.

’Til my list of requirements can be whittled down to just man.
Man on two feet.
Any semi-audible grunt in my direction to send me running into a pair of arms that I can claim.
Someone to call mine.
Who cares who the arms belong to.

These demands wash over me, the thoughts clouding until it’s no longer a wanting but an obsession.
Every move being analyzed, every text belaboured, every missed connection a fault I must somehow correct until I’m walking on eggshells in my own fucking life.

And all I wanted to do was live.
Live loud and live bold and live free.

It is then I finally grab the hack saw and break the box I have allowed and assisted myself to be stuffed into since high school.
And I finally find beauty in the word I have always rejected like poison.

Single. To worry about no one else’s actions or decisions but my own.
Single. To find myself without the need of another’s approval.
Single. To live my life for me.

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