Love, oh love. There are certainly better four letter arrangements that describe my general mood more accurately, but this little one's been on my mind lately.
Perhaps it's because autumn has plucked the light from the evening skies in a move as swift and graceless as my first sexual encounter, and all I can think of is the fact that yet another winter in which I could be snuggling on the sofa and saving for a deposit on a one bed flat above a chicken shop (thanks London, for your endless property opportunities) will in fact be spent bankrupting myself at the pub with my friends, spilling cider everywhere and swearing endlessly.
More likely it's because my little sister, Myki, is getting married this weekend, and in-between finding the right pants to wear and preparing biting comebacks for the relatives who suggest I look further afield - perhaps to a country wherein the men are desperate for UK visas - to find a willing partner, I find myself stopping to wonder how, not when but how, I could find someone whose idea of ideal is me.
My sister was fifteen when she met her fiancé, the same age my parents were when they met. When I was fifteen I bought a karaoke machine and spent my weekends performing both the Danny and Sandy parts of Grease. It is telling that on the first occasion in which my brother-in-law-to-be managed to cop an under the bra feel (of my sister, not me. Obviously), I burst into the room with the elegance of a salt-coated slug, singing "tell me more, tell me more, did ya get very far?"
I am now twenty-eight, and while the karaoke machine, solo-weekends and exceptionally persistent virginity are long gone, my singleness lurks. Happily, I am not alone in this. In fact, I would estimate that around 90% of my London-dwelling cohorts are single. My friends are hilarious, successful, eloquent, ridiculous and beautiful women. I don't mean that in the 'oh you should go out with Kayleigh! She's amazing, such a laugh. It's unbelievable that she's single' way. Everyone knows the only unbelievable thing about Kayleigh is the fact that she's still mobile. What I mean is that they are ballsy, brilliant ladies who have more love and life in them than a 90s power ballad.
I could try the internet, of course. The world is at our fingertips and what better way to exploit that than by flicking through reams and reams of potential suitors. I invited a bunch of my nearest and dearest to dinner recently, and while I was checking on the pasta I couldn't help but notice a silence fall over the usually cackling crowd. When I turned around everyone was staring into their phones, their faces blue-lit and wired.
"Er... guys?" I ventured. "You're with everyone you know."
The response was a familiar one.
"Tinder." They all said, swiping their fingers across the screen.
All of your single friends are on Tinder. Six of the eight people around the table had been or were about to go on Tinder dates.
The problem with dating apps is that they give the illusion of choice. If one date isn't perfect we move onto the next, because a plethora of potential mates are on tap, grinning inanely at us from our screens, waiting. They are a little addictive, these games - there is something reassuring about a stranger seeing your fastidiously chosen picture and saying "yes" - and why not? We belong to a species that holds ourselves up to the light and winces, knowing that we can and should be better. Anything that encourages confidence is welcome, although if you find yourself swiping your fingers left and right at strangers on the tube, it may be time for an intervention.
Confidence is key in this game, of that I'm certain. I recently rebuffed the advances of an oafish man, and when my friend asked me why, I found myself horrified to be saying "well, he's desperate, obviously. He'll only hate both me and himself afterwards." If someone said that about one of my friends I'd unleash the wrath of Satan and Russell Crowe combined upon them, but about myself? Sure. That's fine. I hate to sound like Captain Cliché here, but perhaps the single pandemic could be cured with a little more self love (and no, you cretins, I don't mean to wank yourselves blind) and a little less criticism.
So to my fellow singletons, let me preach my own epiphany: You are exceedingly, excellently, wonderfully you. If you go bright red when you shake a strangers hand, if you laugh loudly in silent rooms, if you bang on about the same band day in day out, if you're still waiting for your Hogwarts acceptance letter, if you only wear mustard coloured cardigans and trainers for teenagers, if the smell of bananas makes you want to punch someone in the face... all of that is you, and there is a banana-hating cardigan fetishist out there waiting to find you, but they aren't going to reveal their flaws on the first, second or third date, so persist, for heaven's sake. Peel back the layers and find the weirdo you deserve.