Back in high school, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d be happy to be eating alone, sitting alone in class, or being the only one not paired with anyone during group activities.
‘Loner’, ‘Weirdo’, ‘Creep’ – these were some of the names you’d be called if you didn’t have any friends. We grew up socialised to believe there was something innately wrong about being alone.
These days however, more people are embracing the idea of eating, working, and living alone. Our dependence on technology has made singlehood not just a necessity, but a way of life.
There’s an increasing number of single young adults that enjoy their lives of quiet solitude. Are you one of them? Here are the top 4 signs:
1. You like eating out alone
Andrew sits on a kopitiam stool, his work laptop to one side of his body. His eyes are fixed on only one thing – the steaming plate of curry mee right in front of him.
Uncaring of any curious glances that might go his way, he’s 100% focused on the delicious egg noodles bathed in a coconut-curry broth in front of him.
Andrew is a typical salaryman living in the heart of KL, and his lunches are usually solitary affairs, at his favorite hawker stall outside his workplace.
The sight of a 20-something officer worker eating lunch alone isn’t weird – nowadays, you’ll see a good 20-25% of diners eating out alone at food courts, cafes, diners, and bars.
Why do you eat alone? I asked him.
“My lunch break is short, I only have 20 minutes to eat, 10 minutes to travel, and 30 minutes of free time,” Andrew explained.
“I want that to be my me-time. I don’t want to spend it keeping up with conversations I have no interest in participating,” he said flatly.
Mira, an HR exec who enjoys solo dining, echoes his sentiment. “Sometimes you just want to take a break from your job lah. There’s only so many lunch breaks with colleagues you can have before you get tired of their chatter!”
While seemingly anti-social, they do have a point.
People who dine alone often catch up on the daily news, read their favorite serial comics on Insta, or simply bask in the serenity of not being at others’ beck and call.
2. You are too busy to meet others
Sometimes though, it can simply be an issue of being too busy to meet people.
David is a medical equipment salesman for a large pharmaceutical. Each day, he travels to the clinics and specialist hospitals on his route and pitches his products to them, arranges shipments, and liaises with suppliers.
“I don’t have a fixed eating spot. Most days, its at whichever mall is closest to my client of the day,” he quipped.
He often only gets to sit down and eat when he gets home. At work, he eats on the go, and his lunchtime varies.
“My schedule changes every day. On Monday I’d be meeting with a client in Kajang. On Wednesday I’d be delivering an invoice to a clinic in Cheras.”
Often, that means he has to eat alone, because that’s the nature of his job.
I asked him if he ever feels lonely doing this job by himself.
“To be honest, I don’t really think about it. I’m usually too focused on the next thing on my checklist to worry about loneliness.”
David relishes the independence his job brings, and he’s used to the feeling of being by himself.
“I do see my boss daily, but we have almost never shared our meals together – he’s got the rest of his team to manage, and I’ve got my targets to reach,” he says simply.
3. You cannot stand living with others
Living alone has its benefits – especially if living with others causes you existential pain.
Fiona thinks it’s good to be alone, because then you can have the whole house to yourself. “It used to drive me crazy when my flatmates made a mess in the kitchen. Now I don’t have that added stress in my life.”
She adds that the peace and quiet of an empty house is preferable to the inconvenience of living with others. “Plus, you get to bring people to your place, on your terms.”
When asked if she ever gets lonely, she replies: “Not when I go out and see people on a daily basis!”
She does have a point. Can you imagine living with someone like Sheldon from BBT?
In our increasingly digitalised society, human connections are less and less bound by traditional modes of socialisation.
“We used to be confined to little boxes about who we could meet. Now we get to be more selective about the company we keep. I think that’s empowering,” says Vivian, who runs her own laser hair removal studio.
There’s a risk that in the bustle of adulthood, you end up becoming a hermit, not really meeting anybody.
Timothy works as an IT specialist and lives by himself. Each day, he comes home to an empty apartment.
“Sometimes I do feel isolated,” Tim admitted. “When I get home, I always put on some Youtube channel like the Finebros react series. I guess it’s comforting in a way.”
Do you have any strategies to overcome it?
“Yeah, I’m part of a few societies, and I go to church. It keeps me grounded and sane, don’t worry,” Tim said confidently.
4. You’ve embraced being ‘self-partnered’
Emma Watson recently did an interview with Vogue, and the statement that took the media by storm was her assertion that she’s happily ‘self-partnered’ – as opposed to simply being ‘single’.
The term #Selfpartnered quickly became trending on Twitter. Some found it progressive, others thought it was narcissistic.
Having watched the whole interview, I didn’t sense any self-absorbed delusion about her – I think she’s simply accepted the idea of being ‘single’ as perfectly normal.
As comedian Russell Brand says, “Language is continually evolving. Emma Watson’s choice to say ‘I’m self-partnered’ – even when the literal words confuse me a bit – is her right to say that she doesn’t want to be regarded as somehow ‘incomplete’. I think it’s a very valuable point.”
The truth is, society still sees people who stay single as human beings who are somehow ‘flawed’.
Just look at the plot of rom-coms like Bridesmaids. Being single is seen as undesirable, a curse to bear until you’ve found The One.
Jokes like ‘you’re gonna turn into a crazy cat lady’ are basically held over your head like a death sentence.
As if you’re somehow worse-off being surrounded by cute cats rather than a buff partner with two kids.
Particularly in a Malaysian context, settling down and having kids isn’t simply a personal choice, but is often a familial obligation.
But if we step back and think about it, why should that be the norm?
In the modern world where personal fulfillment comes in many forms, there is no longer the need for adult children to ‘carry on the family line’.
Being single isn’t a curse, but a blessing
Nowadays, when the demands of life make time a precious commodity, it’s honestly not selfish to spend a little more time on the things that make you happy, rather than chase after an idealised goal that society says you should have in order to have ‘made it’.
As long as you’re interacting with the world in a positive way, achieving personal milestones, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance – who cares if you’re single or ‘self-partnered’?
Being single should be the norm rather than the other way round. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
For more articles about being single and loving it, read Single at 30: What the ‘No Plus-One’ Life Taught Me and Why You Should Celebrate Being Single – Advice from Someone in a Relationship.