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Originally published June 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Page modified June 18, 2013 at 1:38 PM

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A choice to be single in Seattle

Editorial writer Thanh Tan explains why she’d rather be alone and happy than stuck in a bad relationship.

Times editorial columnist

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My mother was ready for me to get married five years ago. She’s still waiting for her grandchildren.

Sorry, mom. I’m choosing to be single. For now, anyway. This isn’t a blanket statement about feminism. I'm not a man-hater. I’d just rather talk to them than date them.

I don't understand why men can make the choice to avoid relationships and are called “playboys” while women do the same and face the “old maid” moniker. I know I hear it from my own family members. Enough. New game, please.

Danielle Campoamor’s recent Times guest column exposed our collective fascination in Seattle with romance [“What’s wrong with Seattle’s dating scene?,” Opinion, June 8]. It spurred vigorous debate in the comment thread and online chat.

Her column hit a nerve for me. I had flashbacks from the last time I lived in Seattle 10 summers ago. One prospect lashed out at me during our first dinner for asking him questions. A creepy bank teller found out where I interned by looking at my paychecks and called me at the office to ask if we could “get to know each other better.”

There are good and bad apples out there. It turns out my dad was right when he warned me years ago to be really careful about picking the right ones.

Throughout my 20s, I was a serial monogamist, moving from one steady relationship to the next in relatively quick succession. I was never single for long, and that was precisely the problem. I didn’t give myself space to figure out what I wanted from a partner. I gave and gave, then equated asking for anything with being weak and needy.

So here I am. Thirty-one. Unattached. Emotionally exhausted. And finally taking care of myself.

I prefer accepting movie and dinner invitations when I know the companion is just a pal. You won’t find me on dating websites, either. For me, being free of the obligations that come with being someone’s girlfriend means having maximum freedom to pursue hobbies, spend my own money, hang out with anyone I want and — most important — work a challenging job that lately occupies the majority of my time and energy.

Loneliness creeps up all the time, but it helps to be around people in healthy relationships. A lot of my friends are in love, and it’s a beautiful thing to observe their commitment to each other. They’ve taught me you really can’t force a connection with someone.

I don’t plan to be alone forever, but I reject the notion that, as Campoamor suggested, it’s someone else’s job to woo me and sweep me off my feet. Dating is an exciting, messy, ongoing experiment. Sometimes there’s chemistry; sometimes there isn’t. I’m getting better at reading the results and knowing what to do.

What matters to me isn’t so much a man’s initial approach as the ability for two people to — eventually, organically — have fun, move forward and figure out whether they can and want to sustain a long-term relationship.

Someday, my eyes and heart will be open to sharing a future with someone else.

When that happens, I won’t regret this time I’ve spent living single in Seattle.

Thanh Tan's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Follow her on Twitter @uscthanhtan. Her email address is ttan@seattletimes.com

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