Every once in a while, I watch or read something that makes me feel understood and also makes me realize how I’ve been deluding myself. Recently the FX dramedy “Better Things” had this effect. It gave me a term for my chronic singledom: Super Single.
“Better Things” centers on Sam Fox, an actress and divorced mom of three daughters. Her ex-husband is mostly absent and her elderly mother is a handful. Sam is cynical when it comes to love and refuses to let anyone get too close. When she meets a great guy, one who checks all the boxes, Sam freaks out. She says to her friend over a drink, “I don’t know how to do this. … I don’t know where this goes. I got no place to put it and I don’t want it.”
Her friend replies: “You’ve been alone too long. We’re Super Singles.”
As I heard Sam say she doesn’t have space in her life for love, I realized that my line about how “I just haven’t found The One yet” is a lie. The truth is: I’m petrified of love and refuse to make space for it.
I’m fiercely independent. My best friend is my dog, Lincoln. Last year we did a 13,000-mile road trip through 33 states. I didn’t have to discuss routes, stops or activities. I liked being the driver and sole decision-maker.
Sure, I fantasize about having a partner. I imagine laughing and flirting over a candlelight dinner. I can picture how wonderful it would be to share everyday and exceptional experiences. I want love, but I also don’t want it. My past relationships have been emotional roller-coasters that have brought little love and a lot of drama and pain.
I met my first love in eighth grade, which is also when he hit me in the face with his elbow and broke my nose. He said it was an accident. My next love had a girlfriend, but I didn’t know that. When I confronted him about it, he said I was “way more interesting to talk to on the phone.” I spent my 20s with a guy who had a perfect pedigree and résumé but a raging drinking problem. The past few years were spent with a man who eventually spurred me to change my life in every way that mattered, leaving little room for my own habits, my own life. Next came Lincoln, a sweet, needy puppy who required me to make space for him in my life. For Lincoln, that adjustment has been worth it. For the men I’ve dated, it’s never felt that way.
The rational part of my brain knows that an emotionally available man will add to my life and help me be my best self. But my heart doubts that I’ll pick the right one. I trust in the work I’ve done to heal my wounds and make me a more emotionally present woman. But there’s that part of me who dated every loser under the sun who is afraid it will happen again.
I also fear losing my ability to live the life I like. Now, I can go to Las Vegas for 27 hours for a lantern festival, eat at the Denny’s with a wedding chapel, ride on a waterslide through a shark tank, go to the Neon museum and embark on an elusive hunt for a rainbow starburst latte. Whatever I want, I find a way to make it happen. No consulting. No debating. No compromising. No stop at the mob museum, the craps table, or God forbid, a visit to a pool where people wear thongs.
This Super Single part of me knows I’m missing out on emotional support, hugs and affection, consistent sex, intimacy, free handyman activities, heavy lifting, an extra dog walker and someone who will notice if I don’t make it home.
I know a good partner is much more than an assistant, but I’ve never had a true partner. So I don’t really know what I’m missing. Until I watch characters like me talk about their Super Single lives that resemble mine. That scene made me realize that my fears about my past relationships — and about losing my independence — are holding me back. The past doesn’t dictate the future. I have control over my choices. But first, I have to open up and try.
The final scene of this “Better Things” episode shows the main character, Sam, walking into a restaurant and kissing her dream guy. Seeing her decision to go for it, I smiled. If she had run away, I would’ve been disappointed.
I know I need to do the same. I’m finally ready to let go of being a Super Single so that I can make space for a Super Duo.