Tonilyn Hornung’s essay was the most-read story from Solo-ish in the past year. She described a boyfriend who began prying into her sexual past, and didn’t like what he found.
“The questions started out simple enough: How old were you when you were first kissed? Then they quickly escalated into questions like: Have you ever had sex in a public place?
When he got an answer that made me seem less than virginal, we fought. Instead of being intrigued, he was insulted. With each new inquiry, it was becoming clear that he thought I was a slut, and I thought I was normal,” Hornung wrote.
Many women know what it feels like to be judged harshly for their sexual decisions, either in relationships or in messages delivered in pop culture. Hornung ended up dumping this boyfriend and marrying someone who never interrogated her about her past.
Before the 2016 presidential election, Stephanie Land was hopeful about finding a partner. By Nov. 9, however, she was worried about what might happen in the future under a President Trump. Instead of continuing to date, she took a break. “My focus had to be on my community of friends that are my family,” Land wrote in her Dec. 5 essay. “I need to fiercely love the people close to me instead of learning to love someone new. To reach out to others could weaken the bonds that hold my family together.”
Her essay got a lot of media attention, especially from Fox News Channel and other conservative news outlets that viewed her decision as overly dramatic. Eventually, Land did start dating again … and six months after that essay published, she’s now a newlywed.
Dissolving a marriage can be messy, expensive and sad. But in her July 1 essay, Aileen Jones-Monahan explored the happiness, giddiness and, yes, romance in making a divorce official.
“Sitting there next to him, I felt grateful that he was such a catch: the sort of man who lets dogs lick his ears, the sort of man who picks up an ear of corn at the picnic and uses a flimsy plastic knife to cut off kernels for his wife. I was lucky he was the one I was getting divorced from. I looked over at him, and smiled. I loved him, even though I didn’t want to keep him,” Jones-Monahan wrote. As she and her now-ex left the courthouse, they kissed.
When the New York Times published a popular 2015 Modern Love column about how to fall in love with anyone, a lot of people tried to replicate the experiment. Alicia M. Cohn was one of them. When she started dating a longtime friend, the two gave the 36 questions a try. “In answering those questions — which covered our lives’ biggest hopes, dreams, fears and regrets — there were not a lot of new revelations. But we both cried over things we shared. It felt like real intimacy. It felt like a sign we were going to last,” Cohn wrote in her July 27 essay.
Instead, they barely made it three months. And in the breakup, their preexisting friendship ended, too. After the fact, Cohn wished that she and her ex had asked each other different questions “to help us plan the end of our romance from the beginning,” she wrote.
In her Oct. 6 essay, Julie H. Case wrote about the dangers inherent in dating online. After talking over the phone with a Bumble match who seemed too good to be true, Case did a little sleuthing, asking a mutual friend about him. “Soon, my phone was ringing with not the bad news that this guy was a flake, a player, or secretly married, but something worse,” Case wrote.
Case searched state and municipal court records, and discovered evidence of domestic violence and a restraining order. She acknowledged that she could have given this guy a chance to explain, but decided against it. “Playing the fool these days is so very risky,” she wrote. “Instead, I walked.”
Making friends after graduating from college seems like it should be easy. “Find people with similar interests, do things together and share things about yourself. After a certain number of hungover brunches and bad-dating stories are exchanged, you’re besties for life, right?” I wrote in this April 25 essay. In reality, meeting people and solidifying those bonds over time requires a lot of work and intention. The friendship experts I spoke to (yes, there are experts in friendship!) emphasized consistency, positivity and vulnerability — and had good tips for how to meet more people if you’ve recently moved.
Jacklyn Collier’s sexuality wasn’t something she felt the need to define or discuss too much. After dating men for most of her life, she had a strong connection with a woman and they started dating. Suddenly, Collier’s fantasy of what her future might look like started to shift. “I have been so happy to get to know this woman. When things go well in the beginning stages of dating, it’s easy to fantasize about where it could lead — or worry about where it’s going. For me, this situation is particularly complex because in addition to the ‘what are we?’ question of a new romantic connection, dating a woman brings up questions about my own identity: What am I?,” Collier wrote last June. “I haven’t found a label for my sexual orientation that feels right. I’m not a lesbian. Even when I was in a long-term relationship with a man, I didn’t identify as straight.”
Her “I’m not sure what to call myself” sexuality is increasingly common — as reflected in surveys of millennials, and in Solo-ish submissions and conversations I have with singles.
After President Trump’s election, some observers worried that he and Congress would nix the Affordable Care Act’s provision that birth control be free. Some women of childbearing age have taken a step to make sure they’re covered over the next few years by switching from daily birth control pills to intrauterine devices (IUDs), which, depending on the device, can last three to 12 years. In the fall of 2016, several reports found increases in women getting IUDs or inquiring about them. As one 25-year-old woman told me: “I keep joking that what I’m doing is Pence-proofing my uterus.”
Tiffany Jolliff, 29, has a lot to think about when she’s messaging someone on OkCupid or eHarmony. “Should we be telling guys flat-out that we are blind in our profiles? … My stance is no, because then a lot of them scroll by immediately, thinking that I’m going to be a ‘burden.’ I like to let them get to know me a little first, but tell them before we go on our first date.”
Nearly a year ago, Carlos Maza wrote a powerful Solo-ish essay about what to say to the queer people in your life in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 people. “There is a good chance your charming, confident, smiling gay friend feels deeply scared and unwelcome in the world,” Maza wrote. “Ask them how they’re doing. Tell them you love them. Tell them your love doesn’t come with caveats. Tell them it’s okay to cry. Tell them they don’t deserve to be scared. Tell them that it’s okay to be scared anyway. Tell them it’s okay to be afraid of dying. Tell them that they matter to you — and that you want them here, alive, now.”