Thirty and Thriving

Notes on Singledom

14 February 2024

The ‘single man at thirty’ label comes with predictable stereotypes: from the perpetually lonely and secretly miserable, to the naively idealistic with sky-high expectations; from the freedom-loving commitment-phobe, to either the sexually adventurous or the excessively sexually repressed; from the career-focused too-busy-for-relationship types, to the colossal failure desired by none.

Woof. Living with this tag, I can confirm that the judgments often feel oppressively suffocating, and the inquiries are frustratingly invasive. And the unsolicited relationship advice? Nauseatingly unwelcome. (Chill, bro!)

Why should my identity be reduced to my relationship status? What’s the big deal in being single at thirty? 

Assuming the world is overly concerned with the minutiae of my personal life might suggest an inflated sense of self-importance. Yet, when my dating life becomes the focal point of conversation—whether with friends, family, or strangers, all eager to know if I’m married or what steps I’m taking toward marriage—I can’t help but feel this judgement as a subtle, yet constant, presence in my life.

And it’s not just me: many singles feel this way.

In defence, we singles, myself included, often retaliate: we cite soaring divorce rates, flaunt our freedoms, and endorse self-love.

But, if I’m being honest, it all seems like a bit of a projection. It’s as if we’re all—single, coupled, polyamorous, or otherwise—spinning narratives. We’re trying to convince others (and even unwittingly reassure ourselves) about the validity of our life choices, almost as if we’re in a contest to see who has got it right.

I have no interest in playing that game. So I am not here to extol the virtues of being single. Instead, I am writing to offer a glimpse into the dynamically evolving emotional terrain of a thirty-year-old single man—myself—to make a simple point: singledom is not a problem to be fixed.

I am—and on behalf of many others like me—we are doing just fine.


I will start with a confession: at times when I sit down and think about my singledom, I hear conflicting inner voices.

Voice A: “Bhai, accept it: you are part of the problem. You’re a typical young millennial who overthinks and overcomplicates simple things in life. Why is it so hard for you to couple up? Years of research have shown the person you end up with is less important than the relationship you build. You know this. And yet, you don’t move. If you believe in the value of a life partner, why don’t you just find someone and go on the ride?”

Voice B: “Bhai, accept it: you are not trying enough. It’s okay to be single, but if you don’t put effort, don’t you think you are not giving companionship the chance it deserves? How can you leave things to chance? You have to put yourself out there. Be more active online. Meet people in person. Flirt. Ask women out. Go on dates. Don’t be lazy. You’ll die alone if you don’t act now!”

Voice C: “Bhai, accept it: you just keep falling for emotionally unavailable women—what’s wrong with you? Why do you keep spending your energy there? What kind of Freudian truths are you carrying inside yourself to find them attractive? Why is this a pattern? You don’t have control over your emotions. Seriously, have you ditched the rationalists?”

You see? I do have doubts. I do have my moments of longing. 

In those moments, I sometimes wonder: does the admission of my desire to share my life with someone—wanting to enjoy those mundane yet intimate moments like brewing a cup of coffee in the morning or enjoying a quiet breakfast together; dividing the daily chores or deciding the decor of our walls; to be with someone in front of whom I don’t need to perform, where I can reveal my weaknesses, my silliness, my follies—suggests I am dissatisfied with my current state of being?

The answer, as recorded in the pages of my diary, is clear: no—yearning for companionship doesn’t mean my single life falls short. Wanting more doesn’t mean I don’t value what I have.

It’s like saying hitting the gym every morning to build strength and muscle suggests I’m ashamed of or insecure about my body or health. Nope, not at all: I feel fit and strong, but I’m eager to push further. It’s exciting, fulfilling, and just feels right. So, I go for it.

That’s the point: longing doesn’t signal desperation or a sense of incompleteness.

On most days, I feel so grateful for the life I’ve been able to build for myself. (I just don’t understand what I have done to deserve what I have.)

So, two truths can coexist: I can feel content in my own company (as I do), and I can also want to create something meaningful with someone else (as I would like to). There is no problem to be solved or a gap to be filled; there’s no urgency or necessity.

It is absolutely possible to construct a fulfilling life that doesn’t revolve around romantic love, while still being open to letting someone in to enrich an already ‘complete’ life.

It’s about imagining one among many fulfilling possibilities—but the one that, I must accept, feels a little more dreamy. And I am not so dead inside to not dream.


One of the most common accusations I face is the charge that I have overly high expectations. That I’m single because I’m chasing an impossible standard of perfection in a partner. It’s like hearing “no one is perfect” as if it’s some profound adult revelation, like those “honesty is the best policy” quotes from primary school.

But this perception is rooted in misunderstanding. It assumes that single people are incapable of understanding the complexities of relationships or lack emotional maturity.

There’s this quote from Esther Perel that I really like:

"Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?"

I bring it up for two reasons.

First, to show: I get it. Being single doesn’t mean you’re stuck with childhood fairy-tale fantasies.

By thirty, most of us have seen enough, understood enough about people, about relationships, seen the myth of ‘happily ever after’ debunked by our coupled friends, read the right books, talked to the right people, and our expectations have shifted.

The lesson I have learnt is to have specific expectations based on values and compatibility. The more you understand yourself and the life you envision, the clearer you become about what you want from a relationship, and what kind of life you want to build with someone. It’s about choosing intentionally, yet leaving room for serendipity.

This specificity does lead to a smaller dating pool—and then this gets mistaken for seeking perfection. It’s frustrating: we’re not walking around with a ten-page list of dealbreakers; we just have a better sense of the partner we want by our side.

The second reason I bring up the Perel quote is to underscore the importance of valuing deep relationships beyond romantic ones, particularly friendships.

As a single person, you learn to invest in these non-romantic connections. You show up, and make efforts, despite the cultural conditioning in Indian families that often overlook these bonds.

For me, this has added so much meaning to my life. Prioritizing these relationships means you don’t rely solely on one person for all your social and emotional needs.

This dispels another myth: solitude is not synonymous with loneliness.

You can be seeking, but you’re not in a perpetual state of seeking. You can cultivate a rich social life, foster strong friendships, and find fulfilment from various aspects of life not contingent on a romantic partner.

And so you don’t feel lonely. You’re comfortable with who you are, choosing to love from a place of strength and joy—not desperation.

If that makes me picky, so be it. It’s not a rom-com fantasy—it’s about grown-ups knowing what they deserve, and not being apologetic about it. 

And you know what? When I started truly owning my desires, it taught me a powerful lesson in respect for others’ desires. It hit me that just because I feel I’m quite amazing (that might sound a bit self-absorbed, but I really do feel like that) it doesn’t mean everyone’s going to see me that way.

This acceptance—that attraction is deeply subjective—liberated me from wondering what was lacking in me or why someone else might not feel the way I do about them. It led me to ditch that victim mentality, that endless questioning of my self-worth based on someone else’s preferences. And that, my dear friends, feels incredibly empowering. 


Let’s address the elephant in the room. 

World: So, what about sex? 

Me: Hmm, what about it?

World: Like, are you gay? Or asexual? It’s okay, you can tell us. 

Me: I appreciate the ‘concern’, but no, that’s not it. And even if it were, it’s no big deal.

World: So, then? 

Me: Then what?

World: You don’t have desires?

Me: Of course, I do. 

World: So, then? 

Me: Then what?

World: How long are you planning to just... you know, keep jerking off? 

Me: Who said that’s my full-time hobby?

World: So you’re into casual sex? Are you sleeping around? Wait, don’t tell me you are whoring around? 

Me: Why would you jump to that conclusion?

World: So what’s the deal then?

Me: What is what?

World: How’s your sex life?

Me: What if I say that’s none of your business?

World: Just curious. 

Me: Curiosity killed the cat. Let’s just say, I manage. The details are my story to know and for you to forever wonder about. The only thing you need to know is that I’m doing perfectly fine. Seriously.

PS: A bit of free advice—in a world saturated with heteronormativity, straight folks might find it enlightening to discuss sexuality with queer friends. (Try it.)


A few months back, I read ‘Waiting for Godot,’ the iconic French play by Samuel Beckett. I loved it so much that I haven’t stopped raving about it. 

In it, two men, Vladimir and Estragon, spend their days waiting for someone named Godot—who, spoiler alert, never shows up. Their days are filled with meaningless actions and repetitive conversations, highlighting the absurdity of their perpetual wait. 

The more I thought about it, the more I saw it reflected around me: someone’s waiting for retirement to start their dream hobby, someone’s waiting to have enough money before they start writing their novel, someone’s waiting for a life partner to start seeking happiness.

It’s like so much of life is just spent waiting—and this play made me question, what’s the point of waiting for anything?

It’s not me looking down on those who wait. It’s just that for me, it was a reminder to not put my life on hold waiting for a specific event or person, like the characters waiting endlessly for Godot.

It reminded me that I don’t need to live in a state of waiting to find meaning.

The answer to the big existential question—how to find meaning in an indifferent universe?—is to find it within me, in my present state, not in waiting for something external to bring fulfilment. Definitely not dependent on my relationship status. 

This brings me to my last point: I know there’s this idea of hitting certain ‘milestones’ by the age of thirty, but that’s just not me. I’m not waiting for a partner or anything else to do things of significance in my life.

There’s so much more I look forward to; my days are rich with pursuits and joys: just this past week, between writing and procrastination, I’ve been moving to Hrithik’s bit in ‘Deewana Hai Dekho’ that’s been stuck in my head and makes me want to dance. I’ve finally put down the draft proposal of an ambitious writing project I’ve dreamed about for over a year.

Then there are deadlift records to break, Bergman films to watch, Russian literature to read, stories to report, coffee roasts to brew, funky hairstyles to try, lively tees to wear, and maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky, watch Shakira perform ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ live—so I can yell ‘Shakira, Shakira’ at the top of my lungs in front of the queen of queens. 

So much to do, so much to look forward to. Why wait for anything? What is there to wait for?

Nothing. I am single, thirty, and thriving.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, you might want to check out an essay I published last year, The Romantic Idiot—my unfiltered dating diary, chronicling a year of endless misadventures. For any thoughts or feedback, I am at and @bansalsamarth on Instagram.