Jill Di Donato
Author of Beautiful Garbage: A Novel, and Professor of English
I had my first love affair when I was in the fifth grade.
I think my 11-year-old paramour may have been the first guy to tell me, “I love you.” On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a red rose and a hot pink pencil with a heart-shaped eraser. He introduced me to Stephen King and took me to the best pizza joint on the block. When we weren’t fighting dramatically, involving our entire social circle in our “domestic” squabbles, we’d play Truth Or Dare, listen to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock tell us how “It Takes Two” or Young MC break down how to “Bust A Move,” as if we had any clue. Ironically, I think we had more of a clue than either of us knew. I can only speak for myself a good 20-odd years later, but I had iterations of that very fraught affair — a fifth grade romance — throughout my 20s and even into my 30s. I suppose it’s not such an unusual thing to relive, repeat or reenact the same dysfunctional relationship over and over again with the characters that fill your life. And, trust me, you will, unless you consciously do something differently. But platitudes like: “You’re single because you are too picky/spend too much time on your career/enjoy living an extended adolescence” are not helpful ways of understanding what it means or feels like to be single. As a single gal, you don’t have a partner to champion and validate your needs. You have to do that for yourself. When you position your single status as such, isn’t it suddenly much more empowering?