In the months leading up to quarantine I found myself feeling secure in my situationship. After a year of happy hour dates and late night texts, Aaron and I had finally decided to be exclusive, though part of me felt guilty that after a year I still hadn’t identified qualities in him that I loved. But our lust was just strong enough to keep the curiosity alive.
Based on his words and actions, there was never really anything that indicated that his feelings were more than lust either. Looking back, I guess I had just settled for comfort even though we completely lacked intimacy. We never cuddled, never made pet names, we’d simply hangout as friends and had craaazy sex to satisfy our cravings, while jokingly sharing our intimacy issues.
When quarantine hit we tried to stay in touch, but as the chance of the world reopening looked more and more bleak, so did our situationship. Like most people in their mid 20s, my friends encouraged me to venture back to dating apps (Hinge, BLK, The League, Tinder, etc.), and quickly enough I started dating again. It wasn’t long before I realized that all the men I was talking to were no different than Aaron. They were friendly, we had fun, but it was very apparent that committed relationships weren’t their end goal. So rather than settling for mediocre happy hours and lackluster sex, I decided I would simply “date myself.”
In the month that followed, I deleted the dating apps and planned cute dates that would satisfy my soul. I spent my first night in my room eating a personal pizza and carrot ginger soup lol, nothing too crazy but familiar enough to lull me to sleep. The next day I decided to check out a small cafe for breakfast and found myself smiling, a feeling so unfamiliar I nearly found myself in tears. I thought back and realized that most of my meals had been on-the-go or spent venting to my friends and family about work, so needless to say I was overjoyed by the simplicity of being alone with good food and my thoughts.
Over the weeks it was a day at a museum here, a romantic solo dinner there, and just like that I had fallen for myself. Ultimately, I didn’t need a therapist to realize that my own unhealthy dating habits had stemmed from the dating app’s access to temporary men… what I ultimately craved was some much needed “me time.”
Since I live in New York City, it was hardly difficult to find cute date ideas when I felt like taking myself around town. Some days the Metropolitan Museum of Art was my playground, among my favorite paintings while the voices of SZA, Kehlani, and Lizzo serenaded my soul. Other days I’d take a barre class and grab a juice or reserve a table at a restaurant on my bucket list and order a nice meal, but oddly enough that saying that “the best things in life are free” rang truer than ever during my first month of dates.
Exactly 20 blocks and two avenues from my apartment I’d make a little picnic by Harlem Meer. During this time I would do anything to make my heart content. Reading, journaling or my personal favorite, sneaking to the playground and hopping on the swings, but the simple showers and naked dance parties in my bedroom were the things that got me lifted day to day when I felt a little lonely. Overall what I came to realize was that all I really needed was some alone time to understand what I wanted and deserved from a relationship. Taking the time to choose myself really did change my outlook on self worth.
Though I’d technically had been single for nearly 3 years, it was actually the first time in my adult life that I really felt single. Over the month, I had learned new recipes, figured out how to do my own hair, read insightful books, but most importantly, I had learned to live with, and FOR myself, and was finally at a place where I could welcome a relationship into my life.
Fast forward to the present and I’m in a healthy relationship with a partner who truly respects my freedom. Though we spend a lot of time together, I still find myself making time to date myself. You see, no matter if you’re alone or in a partnership, having healthy boundaries and expectations are necessary to your own mental health. And given the opportunity, everyone could use a romantic solo date to nurture the mind, body and soul from time to time.
Kendra Clarke is a New York brand strategist and lifestyle connoisseur. In her free time, she can be found meditating, exploring new restaurants, or testing skincare routines.