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Singles Awareness Day (February 14) approaches and already, I overheard someone bitching about lacking a date. Problems like this are often best dealt with by reminding the offender about Darfur or telling them that they’re fat, but this time I actually stopped and considered the person’s complaint. It got me thinking about singlehood, and how it manifests itself differently in all of us. What follows is not a celebration of that diversity so much as a guide to how to be a good single person; how to wear your solitude—sorry, “freedom”—well.

The Whiner:

You know this person. In fact, you probably know 50 of these people or 49 plus vous. He or she won’t go to Hot Jazz without a date, is bitter about relationships without being entertaining, and will insist on buying a full body pillow and naming it after an unrequited love (who was probably less of a sexual being than the pillow). This person has clearly forgotten that they were born alone and will probably die alone. Try reminding them of that and if they cry, let them cry alone.

This will sound harsh, but indulging this person’s belief that they can’t be complete without another person is a betrayal of their friendship. You can’t grow a backbone for someone else, but pointedly ignoring their spinelessness is the next best thing. Comfort them and run the risk of conversing with a person—probably decent and intelligent most of the time—who speaks with more whine than words. Screech back at them and maybe they’ll realize they sound like a creep.

I fully support the idea that anyone who constantly complains about being single should be penalized with another month of singledom. This generally happens anyway because the more you complain about being single, the more unattractive you become.

The Piner:

Aww, poor babies can’t stop reading their gchats. These people are the epitome of pathos. Every time they see a previous love interest, boyfriend, or girlfriend cross college walk, it’s like the Furies have decided to play cats cradle with their heartstrings. If this is you, find a new idea, theory, person or art project to invest your time in. That said, celibacy is not a valid coping mechanism. Friends who have fallen out of love’s favor have presented themselves before me, declared themselves celibate for college, and waited for me to clap. Being single on principle doesn’t make you glacially aloof and above the hormonal turmoil–you’re sewing your own habit with the word “desperate” stitched into all the lining.

The Walking Disaster:

This person reads the Craig’s List “missed connections” every night looking for their description. This person thinks of Butler as a social watering hole, and describes it as such. He or she hits on strangers in elevators, convinced that finding a companion will lead them to emotional nirvana. Face it: this person, perhaps someone you see wandering alone at strange hours in the stacks, may be alone for a reason.

The whiners and piners are bad, but they can easily be single out of bad luck or awkwardness. The walking disasters are derailed, and people can smell it on them

The Jumper:

This person is in a relationship but for all intents and purposes is single. They never learned to be alone and now, regardless of how personally satisfying their relationship is, they won’t get out of it until they’ve got someone lined up and signed up to full on, balls to the wall, date them. Like most of us, the jumper wants all social interactions to involve no personal sacrifice or potential for harm, but is bound to get hurt anyway, and more importantly, take others down with them.

The Enlightened:

When I think of an enlightened single person, I think of Angelina Jolie. This is partly because I often think of Angelina Jolie and partly because the collective “we” gets the sense that she was doing fine without Brad and is glad to have him around but could just as easily be by herself. Most single people aren’t like Angelina Jolie, but most single people aren’t enlightened.

Being enlightened doesn’t mean that you’re completely fine with singlehood, but it does mean you can negotiate the difference between being single and being lonely. The enlightened single is not waiting for someone to come along and complete them. They know that a night out with friends is more fulfilling than a thousand bar hops. And the enlightened single probably won’t stay single for long. Because backbones are sexy.

The On His or Her Back Disaster:

These ones can be a lot of fun. Essentially, the OHBD has found that love sucks, reality bites, and the best way to handle this situation is to sleep with as many people as possible (or, to quote Peaches, fuck the pain away). If this isn’t you, at least use this person for a few wild nights. If this is you, be careful, because the second you fall for someone—and you will fall for someone—you’ll morph into the Piner. Or you’ll get the clap. In fact, you may have it now. Might want to get that checked out…

Next week: how not to be annoying in a relationship.