Am I Allowed to Want a Boyfriend?
“I don’t understand why you don’t have a boyfriend,” my friend Ousmane said to me. “I mean, you’re pretty cool.” We were walking along the sandy streets of Dakar, Senegal, on our way to go play soccer.
“Because I don’t WANT a boyfriend,” I responded. “I like being single.”
He looked at me skeptically, which hit a nerve—maybe there was something wrong with me? Was I undateable? Unloveable?—but I reminded myself that the dating culture in Senegal was completely different than the one in America. In a month I would be back home, where singlehood was celebrated and encouraged amongst 20-something year-olds.
Ironically, I started dating someone almost immediately after coming back from abroad. Being in a serious relationship, I was the anomaly amongst my college friends who were dancing on tables in sticky fraternity basements and flirting with hulking hockey players.
Let’s flash forward a few years to me now. Single again. For a while I enjoyed singlehood the way a female millennial fresh out of college is supposed to: investing my time in my friends and writing, staying up all night dancing on weekends, and occasionally going on dates. I was young, fun, and empowered!
Recently, though, I’ve been craving more intimacy. Boyfriend-level intimacy.
I want to share my vulnerabilities with someone, to cuddle after sex, to fall in love, to be adored by my romantic partner.
And so I told my “hookup” that I couldn’t see him anymore. I wanted more than he was willing to give me.
“What do you mean more?” He asked, irritated. We’d had this conversation many times before.
“I need reassurance and affection,” I said, finally finding the words to express my needs. “I want to be with someone who adores me.”
“So you want a boyfriend?”
“No!” I said, defensively.
But later it occurred to me that that’s exactly what I wanted. So why was I so ashamed to acknowledge to myself and my hookup that yes, I want a boyfriend? Probably because of my bitchy inner monologue:
“If you want a boyfriend, then why don’t you have one? Can you really not find anyone who wants to date you?”
In our culture, looking for love is often equated with desperation, neediness, and low self-esteem. People are always saying that you should enjoy being single and find inner happiness and validation.
I’m here to tell you that being secure and wanting a relationship are NOT mutually exclusive. You can savor your singledom (Travel! Cook! Invest in yourself!) and also crave a deeper connection with a romantic partner.