How I got over the stigma of being ‘No Boyfriend Since Birth’

I wish it were possible for me to say that I’m single without people begging me for an explanation.
I wish it were possible for me to say that I’m single without people begging me for an explanation.

MANILA, Philippines – It was with equal amounts of reluctance and will that I volunteered to write this. Reluctance, because it has taken me years to get over the stigma that comes with the NBSB label — or, as one of my more sensitive professors put it, SSZ — Single Since Zygote. Will, because I am aware that there are people out there like me who feel like freaks. Nothing makes a freak feel better than finding a fellow freak and realizing that he or she is not alone in the world — that there are so many different kinds of normal. In fact, quite often that’s all we want.

Those of us who are NBSB are used to hearing comments and theories about our “condition.” I don’t just mean from pesky relatives who keep asking the same questions because quite often, friends can be guilty of the same things. (It hurts more, because friends should be able to know you better.) Like the Internet’s incessant, “Reasons you are single” articles, friends tend to make assumptions that range from the nicer ones that say you’re too picky, you’re too intimidating, you’re too much of a homebody — to the ones that question how desirable you are and your ability to make someone stay.

Someone even told me that I “just raised my value” because I was waiting — except I was neither waiting nor trying to raise my value. Whenever someone shows up who seems worth my time, I’m always game. It’s just that from one case to another, slipping into boyfriend-girlfriend territory wasn’t the appropriate thing to do. And that was all there was to it. In truth, I can give myself away at a moment’s notice if I see sufficient cause, and I won’t feel lesser for it. I looked at this guy’s outdated virgin-whore dichotomy with a side eye and said, “Thanks, but my value has always been up there.”

Underlying all of these reactions is the thought that there is something wrong with people who are NBSB; something that needs to be fixed. But I am NBSB and there is nothing in me that needs to be fixed. I just hate having to humor being spontaneously set up when all I want to do is have a good time with friends. (Like no, I do not find anyone in this bar that I want to hump, and that should be okay.)

Get it in the bag!

Besides, why do we need labels to be able to validate the connections we have with others anyway? In college, someone commented that I didn’t get boyfriends, only almost boyfriends, as if the latter were non-events compared to the former. But they weren’t. They were very real. They were real enough to make me go through dipping and rising waves of emotion; real enough to force me to face my fears and step out of my comfort zone; real enough to leave me with a deeper understanding of things and of myself in their wake; real enough to change me.

And this doesn’t just apply to people who have never had a traditional committed relationship. One of my smarter friends who has had several relationships confessed to me that he has truly loved exactly three people in his life so far — and none of them became his boyfriends. We both came to the conclusion that love was so broad, and yet our standards for it so narrow that if it came in any other form than what society has agreed on, it’s almost like it didn’t happen — when it did. It clearly did.

I also don’t think it’s a good idea to “love” with the ultimate goal of getting someone in the bag, even if it’s what many of us want. You love — and if you have to let go, you love and then you let go. And that shouldn’t mean that what you had was unsuccessful. A committed relationship is a very specific arrangement and responsibility in itself. It’s a shoe that you only put on when it fits. Otherwise you’d be needlessly torturing yourself.

But what I think is the most crucial point to be made out of all this is that everyone has their own journey and trajectory. I may be a “late bloomer.” I may like living in my detached and independent bubble a little too much. I may be torpe. I may have liked people who didn’t like me back, and vice versa. I may have loved people who weren’t worth my time, or who I knew were going to move halfway across the world anyway. I may be picky while some of my friends are whoring it up on Grindr and having threesomes and deep, romantic love all at the same time.

Everyone has their own trajectory

Ultimately all that is me, though. That is what my life looks like. My issues are my issues, just as people in relationships have their own.

Is it really necessary to distinguish who is doing a better job at living, when the truth is that we all have to work our sh*t, regardless of who and where we are? Whose example are we supposed to follow anyway?

I left my NBSB issues behind because I was just done living my life as if I had a big zero over my head that needed to be popped. It was an unnecessary pressure that inspired a counterproductive desperation that in the end didn’t get me anywhere. It disconnected me from being able to listen to myself and simply deal with matters one day at a time, at my own pace.

Today, whether it’s flirting, loving, dumping, ignoring, mingling, self-reflecting, putting myself out there, or holing myself up on a Friday night, I do them all as I see fit with no attachment to results. And it would be nice if more people could allow space for that and just trust that I (and others like me) know what I’m doing. Or at least am on my way to figuring out whatever it is that needs figuring out.

* * *

Originally published in The Philippine Star SUPREME (14 February 2015)

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