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Life Lessons from How To Be Single

This article contains minor spoilers.

Making a relationship your goal is a dangerous route to take.

I went to see How to be Single on Valentine’s day with a couple of girlfriends. We were looking forward to the hilarious antics of Rebel Wilson et al. and had expected a good laugh. But, by the end of the movie, I was crying.

Though the movie was hilarious, I was confused at times because what I had expected to be a laugh-your-socks-off movie about being single was showing me a lot of women getting in and out of relationships. Wasn’t this supposed to be about enjoying the single life, not just looking for another relationship while being single?

You’ve got Rebel Wilson, playing the party girl who loves sex. You’ve got her fresh-out-of-a-relationship friend, Alice. Alice’s sister, a too-busy doctor who wants a baby but no relationship. Not to mention the too-beautiful-for words bartender who knows all the tricks to keep his love life limited to one-night-stands and his customer/friend who is on countless dating sites trying to find ‘the one.’

I won’t go into plot details here, in case you haven’t seen it. But, basically, each of these characters is very much looking for a relationship or looking to avoid a relationship. There are a handful of heartbreaks throughout, a few of which made me cry. There were sweet guys and jerks and jokes that hit very close to home. I was crying as much as I was laughing, partly because the entire movie was so relatable.

I felt like I knew what was coming. Alice, the main character, was eventually going to find the one. I was already disappointed with what I thought would be the ending. Was this just another movie about navigating the single life to find love only when you stopped looking for it? Yuck.

But no. Every time I thought I knew what would happen next, the producers flipped the switch and the train tracks turned a different way. In the end, Alice is left standing on a Grand Canyon cliff after a night-long hike to catch the sunrise… by herself.

I won’t reveal the fates of the other characters, but I want to take a minute to focus on Alice. She spent years in a relationship and ended it in order to find herself, which she did only by dating and partying. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the moment her ex comes back, she falls into his arms again, only to find out he’s engaged. And she’s ashamed. Embarrassed.

Had she been spending all this time being single, only with the hope that her first love would come back? What kind of single life is that?

And so we see Alice, in time-lapse, start building her own life around her own passions and wants, around her reading, around her friends, around her sister. I can’t say whether or not the character stops wanting a relationship. We don’t get that far into her head toward the end. But what does happen, is that she doesn’t spend so much time looking for a relationship that she forgets to live her own life.

And so she ventures to the Grand Canyon, alone, to accomplish something she’d wanted to do for so long.

Making a relationship your main goal is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.

Though I’ve been single for some time and I enjoy it, this movie really struck a chord with me. While I would never say it’s bad to seek out a relationship, I would say making that your main goal, even one of your main goals is a dangerous route to take. Because, as this movie shows through it’s characters (particularly Alice’s sister) you can’t predict anything.

Why spend the time in between waiting for someone to come along to check things off your bucket list with, when you could start checking things off yourself? Why wait for a relationship before traveling to Europe? Taking that road trip? Changing jobs? Getting a better job? Moving? Why wait when now is the time in your life that you don’t have to plan around or for anyone else?

There is nothing wrong with being in a relationship, wanting one, finding love. Absolutely nothing. But to waste what time you have with yourself, the time when it is the easiest to discover who you really are, is saddening. Because who you are, alone, as yourself, fully yourself, is worthy of just as much of your love as whoever you fall in love with.

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About the Author

Maggie Marshall

Maggie is a senior English major at Abilene Christian University. She enjoys creative writing, reading everything she can get her hands on, and learning what it means to be a grown-up. After graduation, she plans to pursue a MFA in creative writing and perhaps a PhD after that, all while working on getting published and finding as many writing opportunities as possible. She would love to continue contributing to sites like GenTwenty and perhaps, after getting her doctorate, become a professor of creative writing at a university.