This year my principal resolutions are to get into shape for my book launch, to write more fiction and to do more housework. But I am also determined to meet more local writers. And maybe I'll even make some more girlfriends. This last, though, is not entirely up to me as friendship is a bit like a new discovery in a chemistry lab: this element might turn that element an encouraging colour, or it might blow up the test tube. Only time will tell.
All Singles, Serious or Searching, need friends: people who offer emotional support, and people who gratefully accept emotional support in return. Married people, too, need friends, even if just to give their spouse some time to rest from the demands of emotional support. The loneliness of Single life is less acute if the Single person is in regular contact with friends and congenial relations.
The Searching Single often puts him- or herself through an awful lot of pressure about forming relationships. In recent years, I have become less enamoured of the famous The Rules and more keen to encourage Singles think in terms of making new friends instead of in attracting boy- and girlfriends. I'm more for cultivating a real detachment instead of, as The Rules suggests, faking one.
My caveat, of course, is that the Single person be aware that "hanging out" with a friendly and attractive member of the opposite sex is a kind of "dating". I never formally dated my husband, for example. At Gatwick Airport I blushed and assured the young, suspicious border agent that my host B.A. was "just a friend." Which he was, until ten days later.
Now because I love lists even more than I love giving unsolicited advice, here is a list of some resolutions I might suggest to Singles:
1. To appreciate your freedoms as a Single person. Write a list of what you love about your life right now.
2. To stop complaining about being Single. This is a hard one, but it's worth it to your mental health and general attractiveness. If you must complain, make sure you complain to a fellow Single or someone whose job it is to listen to such complaints, e.g. your spiritual director. Very occasional outbursts to parents might be okay. I remember rather histronically announcing to my father that I was a ripe fruit withering on the vine. I forget what he said, but I found it comforting.
3. To stop resenting people in other states of life (if you do). It's in the catechism: virginity does not denigrate marriage; marriage does not denigrate virginity. And although this is not in the catechism, don't tell male or female religious that if what they're living is poverty, bring on chastity. Yes, Tom Clancy, S.J. doesn't have to pay his student loans. But he isn't going to like you if you keep reminding him. Any form of vows entail sacrifices that you might not see.
4. To stop thinking of yourself as socially handicapped. Are you shy? There is no shy! Are you, a woman, unfeminine? For women, there is no unfeminine! There's just different ways of being attractive. So in all social situations, take the plunge. Find someone with open body language in a socially respectable place and talk to them. If, of course, you'd rather be a hermit, that's okay. Singles are free to be hermits. Strangely, though, the hermit Thomas Merton wrote tons of letters, had a wide audience for his books, got visitors like Joan Baez and had an affair with a nurse.
5. To get yourself out there (if you want to make new friends). Getting involved in the blogging community counts as getting yourself out there. Make sure you put your best face forward, so to speak. If you have a blog, make sure the dominant note is happy or witty or at any rate reveals a zest for life. Through three years of blogging, I have met Benedict Ambrose, Berenike, Boaciana, Notburga, Aelianus, Cath-the-Calvinist, Invocante, Invocante's Lady & Bairns, MarkM, Zadok the Roman (Europe), Clio, Belloc, Geography Lady (Canada), some readers in Boston, and two charming Trid readers from Montreal offline. Plus I have long-established regular readers whose comments I very much enjoy, and sometimes new regular readers come along and add new zip. Then there's the book contract. Ahem. So if you use your brain and are not afraid to discriminate and self-protect, to say nothing of being The (Best Version of the) Real You online, you really can make friends over the internet. Meanwhile, there are classes and clubs and parish groups and yadda-yadda.
6. To take care of other Singles, including the junior members of your family. People need to know that others are thinking of them. Send greeting cards. Send valentines at Valentine's Day to all your Single friends (and any kiddies in the family). Remember their birthdays--more cards. Plan Singles' parties for sensitive holidays. Have Girls' or Boys' Nights Out. (By the way, consider inviting married friends to these GoBNO. We really miss them. Depending on their situations, nun/priest friends might like to come, too.) If you train yourself to think so often of others and their own sense of isolation, you avoid the besetting sin of so many Singles: self-absorption.
The photo represents Baby New Year, in case you were wondering.