Irish people are suffering from more anxiety than ever. Do we simply need to view our problems in a different light?
We're not very good at telling people not to worry about their love lives. I'm not sure there's even a way of doing it that isn't clichéd, hurtful or laughable. Other cultures may have some brilliant, well-chosen phrases to reassure the jilted, the terminally single, or those whose relationships are in irreparable decline, but I doubt it.
Essentially, we're telling someone not to be concerned about something that's profoundly important to nearly all of us: loving someone, and being loved back. So we're lying. When counselling a friend who's experiencing distress after being rebuffed by their latest crush, the most realistic thing we could say is, "God, this is awful. They're gorgeous, and now you're never going on holiday with them in the Languedoc. Cry it out, and you may feel marginally better in about two months". But that's hardly reassuring, so we say something blatantly untrue, like, "It's a great time to be single right now".
It's never a "great" time to be single. Sure, there are days when it's a glorious relief not to have to worry about the hang-ups, mood swings and unpredictable travel schedules of a partner, but you get couples who say things to single friends like, "We envy your freedom to do exactly what you want, don't we, darling?", before going upstairs to bring each other to a shuddering climax. Playing the field isn't always fun. If it was, its virtues wouldn't be repeatedly extolled to people who are crying out their loneliness in a dingy cocktail bar.
"Don't worry, Jennifer Aniston can't find a boyfriend either", is not reassuring. Nor is being referred to as "a lovely person", or worse, "unclaimed treasure". Nor are persistent references to Mr or Miss Right. The notion of "the one" – that solitary person who potentially offers the solution to your grim situation – can be a spectacularly depressing one; it was torn down particularly brilliantly by the comedian Tim Minchin in his song "If I Didn't Have You, Someone Else Would Do".
Much of our advice to the lovelorn is based on these bizarrely skewed concepts of probability. Yes, there are plenty more fish in the sea, but said fish don't "come along when you least expect it", and nor do you find someone "when you stop looking". There's no such thing as "trying too hard" or "being too picky". People come along when you don't expect it, and when you do. They turn up on Tuesdays, on Thursdays, occasionally on bank holidays, in supermarkets, at parties, during games of online Scrabble. You have no control. But when you have no control, why worry? You can improve your chances by not hermetically sealing yourself off from the outside world, but then it's just about waiting.
Perhaps the most annoying advice given to the worried singleton is "be yourself", but it's actually the most realistic; because all it means is "carry on as normal". So, let's carry on as normal. Honestly, we'll be fine.
Independent News Service