I have been extremely single my entire life. Aside from a short-lived middle school relationship where, seriously, the only thing we did was awkwardly hold hands, I have never had a boyfriend. I've always been the third wheel to others in relationships. Each year that rolled around, I kept hoping that that would be the year when everything would change. And every year would turn out to be the same, until eventually I stopped holding out every year. Now I'm in my mid-twenties and still single, and it's hard not seeing myself as this weird misfit who exists in a world where EVERYONE has had a relationship at least at some point by now. The higher my singledom age climbed, the less I felt there could possibly be anyone out there like me. And then I stumbled upon Kate Heaney's book, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, and I finally felt that I wasn't alone.
YES, someone who has gone through exactly as I have all her life. I was so excited to read about her journey as a forever single, to relate with her through it all, and maybe even listen to anything she might have to teach me in the end - some passed down words of wisdom or final thoughts on her experiences. And to an extent, that did happen. I empathized with her fleeting crushes, her encounters with boys (both real and imagined), her many failed attempts of making a boy fall in love with her, and ultimately feeling like the Bermuda Triangle in the middle of the ocean where no boy would ever stop and notice her. I laughed along through her misadventures and overanalyzing every boy-related situation, thinking to myself, "Oh, that is SO me..."
To some extent her book served its purpose for me... but to another extent, it didn't quite fully. There was something lacking, a specialness, an authenticity that wasn't there.
I think one of the issues with this book was that, after reading it, I can confirm that it's basically Heaney's diary of her many boy crushes throughout her life, and so is written in the same immature fashion that you'd expect. In this way, too, it made the story much less compelling and original because, who couldn't write about their endless list of past crushes and silly boy/girl pursuits? It doesn't make Heaney any less different from every other girl in her twenties - the only difference is that Heaney's been doing it the longest without success. Yet somehow, Heaney still claims this makes her unique and gives her license to sulk in her lasting single status in a poor, woe-as-me fashion... to the extent that she compares much more dating-intensive girls to lighthouses that are always on and always attracting boys to them, even if they're not trying to... because they can't help themselves! That's just how they are! For someone who prides herself on being a feminist, you can't ignore the connotations that go along with this analogy and Heaney's need to backhandedly put these girls in this role while she herself feels put in the shadows for not getting any attention from boys *cough* girl on girl hate!* This girl on girl hate is built on a patriarchal society where girls are meant to feel inferior when they can't attract a man, and who feel intimidated by other women who can, and thus see these other girls as competition. And Heaney has definitely found herself caught up in this dynamic.
Along with this, the longer that Heaney went on about going from one boy crush to the next, the clearer it became that this is much less a story of being single, and more about the many boys in Heaney's life. And we're all meant to sit there as she goes through all of them. And after a while, I gotta say, it gets pretty boring, which might explain why, at a certain point, I lost interest and the book seemed to drag on ever so slowly. I stopped caring about what boy Heaney liked this time, what his name was, and why it didn't work out THIS time. Honestly, they all seemed to blur together after a while. It's like listening to a friend drone on and on about her current boy of the week. The first time, you're excited for her and think it's so sweet. The second time, you're happy and think this boy sounds nice. By the eighth time, you're just like, Oh my god, I don't caaaare. For someone who feels like the third wheel and resents having everyone else talk about boys, she seems to do a heck of a lot of it herself...
Which leads me to my next issue I take with this book. It's incredibly misleading. For me, and I'm sure others, I took this book as being about a girl who has never had any sort of boy encounter at all. But I guess "single" is a somewhat subjective term. What does it mean to be single? Does it mean never being kissed? Never having had a fling with a boy? Never being in a relationship lasting longer than x-number of days? But either way, Heaney stretches the truth pretty thin in introducing her memoir. The blurb on the back of the book declares, "I've been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face."
Now, technically, Heaney may not have ever had a long-term relationship, but by no means has she been wallowing completely boyless either. She's made out with boys. She's had a boy fall in love with her and follow her around like a puppy, and she would entertain him and let him kiss her, and they had something of a fling. She's danced with boys and kissed them all night long. She's hooked up with a guy friend and nearly went to second base with him as they made out on his couch. She's had some serious flirt sessions with guys and gone on dates or date-ish outings with them.
Now, I don't want to sit here and pout and act like the authority on what being single actually means, shouting from my post, "You're not single enough!" because it's obviously fine that she did these things! It would've been fine altogether if it weren't for the fact that she specifically marketed her book as being a memoir of being completely boyless her entire life, and that she portrayed herself as this poor soul who's never had a boy notice her before... But the reality is, she's not completely innocent, and she has definitely had her fair share of attention from guys, even if none of those resulted in a long-term relationship. Which brings us back to the whole "immature" factor and this book being less of a genuine memoir reflecting on singled that I had originally hoped for.
All in all, is Kate Heaney's book funny, relatable, and enjoyable to read as we all look back on our own romantic blunders? Of course. But for those of us who, er, might be even more inexperienced than Heaney herself, we may find this book a bit misleading and not fulfilling us the way we would've wished.