a girl's guide to being 25 and single

How to face up to and live out the progressive, feminist, independent life you always lied and said you wanted.

by Bertie Brandes
11 September 2015, 1:48pm

Firstly can I just point out that this really is not a guide to being 25 and single. Guides are cool and really useful obviously otherwise how else would women know to put their mascara on upside down and underwater for maximum volume but this is not one of them. If I was qualified to offer any balanced, sensible advice on how to be happily single and 25, which I'm clearly not, I would have already taken it and be busy eating sorbet in the fall sunshine with a young Stewart Lee look-a-like not trying to smell my own breath cupped in my hand, writing about how hard it is to find people to have sex with. Being 25 is sort of like a second puberty except instead of the no pubes to pubes thing it facilitates the transition between your 'blurry and mysterious profile pic' phase to your 'pleading with friends to upload your bikini selfies to Instagram' phase. Anyway, like I said, this is not a guide. Think of it instead as a series of lessons learned which you too will probably experience should God deign you strong enough to face this totally crap section of your twenties alone. On the upside, I hear 30 is great.

You are way less judgmental of yourself but way more judgmental of everyone else
Thankfully by 25 it's quite likely you'll have stopped feeling like you're committing capitalist blasphemy by not trimming and grooming your fleshy body to within an inch of it's life. Instead you may come to take comfort in the gradual flattening of your chest and widening of your bottom, which yeah sounds completely depressing but it just isn't, my leg hair is about an inch long and the part of my brain which used to give a fuck about it appears to have dissolved entirely. The problems arise when you start to notice other people noticing. Because women are generally brought up to understand their bodies in terms of value, the minute we feel strong enough to shake off the pressure of objectification the fact that some, less enlightened, people might judge us for it becomes intensely aggravating. Hence why when I take the overground now I glare at anyone who I think might have even noticed my furry calves. I fixate on the angle people are holding their iPhone cameras, ready at any moment to launch into a tirade about unfair beauty standards as they continue about their day oblivious to both my insulated legs and burgeoning fury. This is what I mean about being 25 - you're a confused mess. Take yourself to bed.

You toy with the idea of being alone forever
Being 25 means you'll probably have been through the relationship mill a few times and you're feeling basically quite over-milled and like maybe you're not up for being milled again for a while. As you sink into life as a loveless, responsibility-free human, chances are you will begin to appreciate having an entire bed to yourself and being able to eat meals consisting of only sweet potato four to seven nights a week. Yes you can wear that tracksuit for the 12th day running and no I won't tell anyone you spilled a cup of tea over your pillow; I am you and you are me and my sole objective is keeping all your most awful secrets. You start talking out loud to yourself and developing rituals that simply do not allow for the presence of other people (sacrificing birds, bathing in menstrual blood, clipping your toenails and putting the clippings in a little pile on your bedside table) and you think, yes, perhaps, yes, I will be alone forever and that will be fine. Just not when I'm drunk.

You develop a set of completely unreasonable expectations for your future partner
The other thing about being single at 25 is you become aware that the next person you actually like loads and loads has the possibility of being someone you spend an extensive period of your life and potentially breed spawn with. The more time you spend alone wrapped in your tea-stained duvet the more time you have to gleefully imagine what this mysterious, majestic creature will be like and the more likely you'll begin to imagine them in the form of a young Stewart Lee (yes him again). If I had to tell you how many times I've been advised to lower my standards recently I would tell you that it is three times. Yes three, not that many really. But enough for me to feel suitably put out. Is it too much to ask that I want my potential life partner to sometimes wear painting overalls, to understand trainers but not feel the need to wear them all the time, to love me desperately but leave me alone a lot and not sleep in my bed too often but miss me absolutely loads when he doesn't, and to have lovely arms like a cactus without needles? Is that too much to ask. Really. I mean just think what I can offer him in return.

You will realize you need to get fairly good at something
Although my mom spent much of my childhood advising me to find a rich husband after all these years of searching I seem only to have struck upon a selection of genuine maniacs. Annoyingly this means the plan to marry a billionaire, quit work (lol) and spend the second half of my twenties in Florence writing poetry is looking less and less likely. Everyone knows the average age of a billionaire's spouse is 22 - at 25 you're looking at a millionaire, just, and even that might only be in assets. Bearing this in mind, now might be the time to channel a bit of time and thought into figuring out what you're going to do if you actually have to live out the progressive, feminist, independent life you always lied and said you wanted. No, it's good news. No, it is.

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Text Bertie Brandes
Photography Lulu Lovering

coming of age
Bertie Brandes
being single
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