Hellosie, it’s Maisie. From her empty bed. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her thoughts on her sex life.

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Single girls have never had it so good. The worst thing about being free, is that it generally doesn’t last.

No sooner have you dusted yourself down, picked up the pieces and returned to that blissful state of emotional tranquillity and delicious self-indulgence, then along comes somebody to mess it all up again. Within weeks, your social life has been pruned down to the occasional dinner party with other couples, while weekends are spent fighting over the remote control and trying to lure the lumpish body next to you out for a walk. A life that you managed perfectly yourself becomes a minefield of tricky situations brought about by attempting to share responsibilities.

Yet the coveted state of singledom continues to be seen as a compromise. When was the last time you heard somebody say pityingly, ‘Poor thing, she’s still dating, you know?’ – yet that’s exactly the sort of presumptuous insult that’s hurled at the single dweller on a regular basis. This despite the fact that many relationships involve more misery and compromise than most people who choose to go it alone will experience in a lifetime. The accepted wisdom, that from the day we’re born we’re duty bound to seek out a like-minded person who’ll make two become one, defies logic. You only need the most basic grasp of mathematics to know that two is always two.

I had my macro Damascene revelation on the joys of being single about six months ago. It was early morning and the pale light of a wintry sun trickled through my bed-room blinds as I stretched myself diagonally over the expanse of my double bed. Wearing my pyjama bottoms and tee, I shuffled into the kitchen and prepared myself a coffee and a bowl of cereal. Then, picking up the newspaper from my doorstep, I slipped back between the still-warm sheets.

As I lolled around on my bed reading the news and trying to remember my plans for the day ahead, I experienced a quiver of smug contentment. No more breakfast television, no more checking my watch when I was enjoying the company of friends, no more declining of invitations from people who bored her or vice versa, as much theatre as I wanted. The list of my blessings was endless. I was free. I was single again. After years of whining self-pity during my regular phases of being single I’d suddenly realised that, far from a being punishment, it was an idyllic state to be savoured.

Of course, you can write me off as being a smug yuppie with a comfortable lifestyle and a selfish nature. But you’d be wrong. My modicum of financial security is hard earned, and as for being single, I’ve tried as hard as anyone to make terrible relationships work. Yet it never occurred to me to rise to the converse challenge of creating a worthwhile lifestyle alone. Some of my ex-girlfriends remain good friends, but as I watch them fall like skittles into new unions, I find surprisingly that I don’t envy them at all. I’ve no doubt that despite my best efforts I won’t remain in this heavenly state uninterrupted, but the chances are I will return to it again, and again, and again. Marriage has an undeserved reputation as the only way of life worth aspiring to, cohabitation comes a close second, and the popular misconception is that no one would choose to be single. A faintly hypocritical scenario when you look at the state of modern relationships. In the clear light of day, and with the right attitude, going it alone offers many advantages.

Nevertheless, being single, particularly as a woman, continues to get a bad press. Pitied (poor thing can’t get a man), vilified (single-mum syndrome) or condescended to (isn’t it time you grew up) but never celebrated as a chosen way of life. A woman finds no respect forthcoming, and can only pray that the day the label ‘single’ turns to ‘spinster’ is further away than her menopause. For centuries, men have been prolonging their ‘merry bachelor’ days. Is it mere coincidence that women only reach a similar jovial state when they become ‘merry widows’? I suppose it stands to reason. If a woman has never had the ‘official’ stamp of approval from a man, then what on earth has she got to be happy about?

Any declaration on the joys of being single is invariably met with a sympathetic smile and a pat on the head for being brave enough to pretend you’re not suicidal. If you don’t answer questions regarding your love life with a resigned shrug and an ‘I’ll try to do better’ attitude, people think there’s something wrong with you or your gay. No matter how good a time you’re having as a single woman, you are expected to be a bit ashamed. It wouldn’t do to turn up to a party and boast about the incredible sex you had all weekend with a woman you met at a fabulous party two weeks previous.

Sex for the single girl is unquestionably a tricky issue. Even in these supposedly emancipated times, it’s still regarded as an activity that men should take pride in doing a lot of and women should try hard to pretend they never indulge in – unless it’s in a monogamous, long-term relationship. Well, we all make mistakes and the longevity of the relationship is something none of us can guarantee when, overcome by passion, we find ourselves cavorting on the sofa.

Women may be less profligate with their sexual favours, but they get just as bored by regular bad sex, or indeed just the same old sex.

Most of my friends question me relentlessly about whom I’m dating. My independently minded friends aren’t less interested, they’re just way too busy living their own lives – something I’m afraid cohabitees stop doing the minute they start sharing a front door. How else do you explain the wistful look in their eyes when you tell them you’re off to France for a month?

Now, finally, women have the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle they’ve worked hard to create. Only a lunatic would leap off that bandwagon having only just managed to manoeuvre your way on! The second your deposit account has upwards of a three-figure balance is surely not the time to throw in the towel. The fun is only just beginning. Hooking up with someone involves such a plethora of compromises that just thinking about it makes me nervous. I haven’t slogged my guts out for 20 years or so to spend my much-needed holidays with a woman who wants to play Scrabble on a sun lounger while I trail around the cultural hotspots desperately wishing I had a girlfriend there to keep me company in bed in the afternoons.

I want to see the world, meet Machiavellian people, read more books, sleep in, stay out, spend three weeks in a row without switching the television on, eat toast and Marmite four times a day for a month. I can let weeks go by without venturing anywhere near a supermarket. Contrary to popular perception, when I open the fridge door and discover only a bottle of wine. I’m not depressed for a moment. Instead I’m beside myself with relief that it’s not full of snack-sized Babybels and six-packs of hideous fruit yogurts.

The independence of a career introduces the possibility of choosing to live alone, and it’s an improvement to the status quo that my generation seem all too happy to embrace.

Perhaps my own experiences of ‘happy coupledom’ have something to do with my reticence to share door keys at present. They say that living alone is lonely, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as alone as in the twilight moments of a relationship when a once-busy double bed has become as wide and desolate as Antarctica. The possibility of reaching out for comfort from the other side is as ridiculous as warming your hands on an ice cube.

I have a suspicion that spending more time on enjoying your life and less time on seeking a partner may ultimately be the secret to both. One thing’s for sure, though. Sitting around moping and waiting for your significant other is a waste of time. And that’s one thing you never have enough of.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The harsh realities of finding a relationship. This may change your view.

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Can men and women ever be “just friends”? The correct answer is: “Yes, obviously, so why in God’s name do paper editors, authors of dating books and headline-seeking psychologists keep asking?”

My evidence is as follows: one, I’m female; two, a good friend of mine is male; three, the prospect of romantic involvement with him strikes me, as absurd, but friends yes.

What’s striking about the “just friends” debate is how useless it is. If you believe such friendships are common, it’s meaningless to be told you’re deluded. Conversely, if you are a woman tortured by unrequited love for a man friend, it’s little use to learn that some other men and women don’t feel that way: you still have an issue that needs addressing.

The real reason some people continue to deny the possibility of such friendships, I believe, is that they subscribe to what you might call the Harsh Realities of Relationships. Not, let’s be clear, because they’re more in touch with reality, but because they derive such enormous satisfaction from believing they are.

Just as the Harsh Realities position on male-female friendships is that sex always gets in the way, the Harsh Realities take on dating is that it’s a battlefield, where playing mind-games is essential; relationships, meanwhile, are mutually manipulative power struggles.

The problem isn’t that this is always wrong – it isn’t – but that its claim to insight is unearned: if you always pick the most cynical explanation, you’ll sound “brutally honest” every time.

So, might approaching strangers and asking them to sleep with you, as per the old Russian joke. Just because a strategy works as a numbers game doesn’t mean it gets at anything true about human nature. Some cross-sex friendships are more platonic, others less so. Some people are more manipulative, others less so. And so, boringly, on. The real harsh reality is that reality isn’t always harsh.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Every girl needs a best friend to help her laugh every now and again, but should you date her?

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The dilemma this morning is I am a woman in my early 20s hoping at some point in the future is to have a long-term relationship and then eventually to get married. I have been single for a little while, but recently I was surprised by a good friend’s admission that she was “in love with” me and has been for some time.

However, I’m inclined to follow my feelings and let her down, but should I give it a chance to see if deeper feelings follow the considered rationale?

I appreciate there are many who think it’s highly sophisticated to be able to pull out their smart phone and find a partner for passion in the vicinity within moments. Phone apps like Tinder, Grindr, Happn, Findhrr and other vowel-eschewing online destinations have taken the legwork out of our sexual liaisons but have they in any way improved the quality of the encounter?

Putting sex on a Google Map for those in the mood for love is one thing, but it’s curious, isn’t it, that when we’re looking for a partner for more than an instant fix we tend to employ the same criteria? Top of our list of essential components is whether or not we are overcome by desire: a state of being that has nothing to do with reason and thought and much to do with base instinct of sex. However, sex (though on the “to do” list) slips down the list of priorities for daily harmony pretty soon.

It’s definitely important to be able to countenance coupling with the person you select, but long-term passion will dwindle and if you haven’t got respect, friendship and a genuine interest in the person you’re with there’s not a chance of the relationship surviving. That’s why unions embarked on in the haste of desire and sustained on little else, more often in teen years, tend to be the first to crumble.

I’m not usually one to advocate alcohol, but imbibing something that might briefly liberate me from rational decision-making could be the key to figuring out my options. Or a night out with no holds barred could mark the beginning of a new life, and, dealt with decently, doesn’t need to end my friendship if not.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. If you’re unhappy. Days are long, weeks are short. But can you measure happiness?

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How do we measure happiness?

Do we measure happiness based on how many true friends we have? On how much time we spend with family? On whether we have found true love, and what we did with that discovery? On whether we’re chasing dreams or just living one day after the other? Is happiness measured on how many times a day we feel scared and face that fear, or how many times contempt takes over? How can we say we are truly happy, or happier than another, if measuring happiness can be so… difficult?

When I was young — not just young, but at the specific age of 5 — I thought happiness could be measured by how much people loved you. That theory proved to be wrong as soon as I was old enough to understand love can’t be easily measured, either. Then, I remember thinking — at the age of 13 — that happiness was measured by success. If I had the job I wanted, I would be happy. If I was studying in the college I wanted, I would be happy. If I was at any level walking towards professional success, surely that would mean absolute happiness.

I don’t know how to measure happiness, exactly. I just know when it’s there. It’s when we breathe in and it isn’t only air that we bring to our lungs, but a sparkle of something very close to life itself, which is obviously ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant. That’s what I feel happiness is — being ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant.

In my honest opinion, happiness crawls under your skin the same unexpected way sadness does. It piles up but you don’t see it, and then all of sudden it’s there, and you can’t even plan an escape. You’re happy. You don’t know how much — if you ever learn how to measure happiness, do tell; I’ll be forever curious — but you know it’s there. You’re breathing in life, and yet breathing out love. I’ve never been especially good with biology, as I don’t understand the mechanisms of life, but I’m not clueless enough to ignore it when it happens.

I can only hope you’re not clueless, either.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Should you fall in love online? These are some things all romantics should know.

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Not long ago, online dating was a bit embarrassing – an implied concession that you’d exhausted your options among friends, friends of friends, and the children of your parents’ friends “in the real world”.

Personally, I’m all for it: handwringing over the “death of romance” brought about by these apps often boils down to technophobia or moralising over casual sex, when in fact they help people date outside their immediate circle. If you’ve ever been in a group setting and realised, with no small horror, that everyone present is either your ex or a friend’s ex, you will attest that this is no bad thing.

Look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently likes their selfies.

Plus, the algorithms employed by more formal online services such as OkCupid do a lot of the groundwork of establishing compatibility, pre-empting deal-breakers by asking “Should gay marriage be legal?” and “Does living on a sailboat sound like a good idea?”

But even outside online dating platforms, it’s easy to register – and solicit – romantic interest on the internet. There is a dance one performs on social media to turn a platonic friendship, acquaintance or even “internet friend” into something more.

Just as a bird of paradise might display his plumage to attract the attention of a potential mate, a potential partner interested in you might like your three-week-old Instagram post, or send you a direct message (as in, “slides into your DMs”).

“If you’re really putting yourself out there, you could comment on their picture with a heart emoji.”

“When I have a crush on someone and I want them to know I go on their page and like a lot of pictures in a row.”

“Like all of them. Like, like, like, like, like, like all the pictures.”

Several of my own romantic dalliances have been initiated or progressed over social media, particularly Facebook. Allow me to convince you that this is less sad than it sounds: at its best, the platform is like a lively bar – it’s easy to meet like-minded people; you can eavesdrop or join in on others’ conversations; everyone is a bit funnier and more attractive there than they are in daylight.

And from observing banter that’s then gone conspicuously silent as the conversation is moved to private messaging, like a couple who think they’ve very discreetly removed themselves from a house party, I am confident I am not the only one. (Tip: it’s never the people blowing up your timeline with their tedious flirtation who have taken their friendship to the next level. It’s the people who were.)

You’re more likely to use Instagram and Facebook to investigate crushes in your outer circle of friends, particularly to establish whether they’re single or not. (Another tip: look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently like their selfies.)

Now, after all that, you’ve got to work out if you actually like them, particularly if you’re meeting for the first time. Some people’s online presences are not representative, which can be a good or a bad thing. Sometimes you meet someone who is as good value online as they are in person: you should hold them tight and never let them go.

Other times it’s painfully obvious that you’re better as internet friends. When you’ve communicated more – and more intimately – with someone over text than you have in person, it can create a gulf that’s awkward to bridge, and sometimes insurmountable.

How do you cast someone back into the internet from whence they came?

You might try “ghosting”: cutting off contact with zero announcement or explanation. According to the experts, it’s “common and not considered particularly impolite … usually a mutual, conscious uncoupling” (“If you start losing juice, they’ll start losing juice”).

I have mixed feelings about it as a tactic, having seen too many hearts broken more by the absence of explanation than the depth of investment, but it’s not an inappropriate course of action after one fireworks-free first meeting.

If you’re too old school or fundamentally decent to disappear entirely, you can get out of this mess the way you got into it: by pushing them back down the totem of chat. Answer missed calls with texts, respond to texts with messages on Twitter or Facebook and, eventually, public posts. They’ll get the idea.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. How not to look like a social media creeping troll. This is what you need to know.

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Social media and numerous followers is status and therefore fungible.

One of the most luxurious guilty pleasures made possible by social media is methodically working your way through a new acquaintance’s profile, noting years of bad haircuts, weight gain and loss, and changes in job, partner and political views.

After all, you reason to yourself after 90 minutes’ concerted scrolling takes you to the status from New Year’s Eve 2013: if they really didn’t want you to see, they would have deleted it.

Discussing social media in person is gauche at the best of times – my rule of thumb is to never make explicit reference to any post more than 24 hours old and, when possible, to act as though I’ve been made aware of a recent holiday or break-up via clairvoyance or extreme empathy.

But it is all too easy to betray your presence on your target’s profile by accidentally liking a post, thus prompting a notification exposing you as a creep.

No one likes the ping of that tell-tale heart: “X liked your post from May 2016” (unless X is your crush, in which case it’s an unmistakable come-on). It says: “Don’t mind me, just really digging into your content.” Or: “I am very interested in your old haircuts.” Or: “Yes, this is how I am spending my Saturday night.”

The older the posts, the higher the stakes become. You’ve essentially been caught out creeping: the digital equivalent of making eye contact with someone you’re watching through binoculars, if those binoculars also reached through time.

One ex-girlfriend followed and promptly unfollowed me on Twitter at least three times after our break-up, prompting a notification each time. It got to the point where I would reply to ask if it was intentional that time. It never was.

But it happens to the best of us, and also my ex-girlfriend. If you accidentally like a post, you have a couple of options, depending on your relationship with your quarry and the speed with which you realise your mistake. (None of these options include quickly unliking it and crossing your errant, clumsy, treacherous fingers in the hope they won’t get the notification, because they absolutely will.)

What to do next

If you have a personal brand that can carry off “irreverent” or “good-humoured troll”, you could go for critical mass. Like a lot of increasingly older photos, then when your friend messages you with “wtf” or “???”, reply with “lmao” or something that communicates your unambiguous, deliberate levity.

But until platforms step up and take responsibility for the social anxiety they enable and introduce a bespoke “creeping” mode, the best strategy is prevention. If your target’s profile is public, this is as straightforward as simply logging out of your own account – should your finger slip, you’ll be prompted to give your username and password before any damage can be done.

Browsing private profiles is typically more rewarding, but also more fraught. On the Twitter mobile app, this means scrolling left-handed, on the opposite side to the favourite button perilously included on every tweet.

Then dig in. As the adage goes: take nothing but screenshots, leave nothing but footprints that only Mark Zuckerberg can see.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Do you really think differently when you’re in love?

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When you’re in love, the pretty Starbucks barista, the one who always gawks at you when you enter before work, will say “No, you’re good!” when you hand over your debit card to pay for the white coffee and banana you’re trying to buy. You’ll smile, as though this is nothing new. But inside you’ll wonder how you’ve come this far, wonder who this person is that everyone seems to love now.

See, now that you’re in love, men will hug their girlfriends a little closer as you pass by on the street. Some will look at you with curious eyes, curious, hmm, very curious.

There will be the 25-year-old who sits across from your desk at work, who doesn’t understand her own feelings yet, but makes eyes at you and comments on wine and her empty apartment, with nothing but her cat there and you could come over if you want. You’ll become a master at the passing flirtatious smile. You have to learn to give back to everyone what they dared to give you: a tease at some kind of wonderful.

When you’re in love, you’ll actually look at yourself in the mirror, at home, at the bar, in the bathroom at work, and not cower and tremble, or wince when any sort of your reflection appears in car windows, on laptop screens, in the faces of sunglasses, or in storefronts.

People will tell you “You’ve changed!” as if your loved-up-ness is some kind of badge of honour or trophy from some cold war you’ve finally won with yourself.

When you’re in love, you’ll forget about all the months prior where there were no notes, no come-ons, no looks, no stares, nothing. You’ll forget about the time in school when the “cute” boy in class asked if any of the girls had a mirror and looked straight at you and said, “I know you don’t.” Or the time when you were walking down the street past a group of hungry teenage boys’ eyes who risked their own self-worth by actually calling out to you.

When you’re in love, everyone wants to know your “secret.”

When you’re in love, a girl you’ve spoken to less than twice will text you that she was just thinking about you. Because when you’re in love, people seem to think about you.

When you’re in love, you can actually write stories about love and relationships and have people believe you.

When you’re in love, you won’t believe it. You don’t believe it. You think about all the wishes, and prayers to darkened skies and pubescent bargaining tools you’ve used in the past that went unanswered. But now, you’re in love, and your real life could mimic fantasy. You’ve achieved it. You really did it.