It is a truth universally known that a single Pakistani woman over the age of 25 must be in want of a marriage. A single Pakistani woman over the age of 30, however, has marked her place on the shelf where she will sit childless and alone for the rest of her life. Of course what nobody mentions is that when we’re younger we’re told off for talking to boys, for looking at boys, for even thinking about boys. So when an aunty comes over to the house and tuts sympathetically at you and asks why you haven’t found a nice man yet you can’t help but feel you’re trapped. How am I meant to magic this perfect husband out of thin air when you’ve been telling me off for any interactions with the male sex all my life? It’s enough to give you a headache.

My mother fed me Jane Austen when I was little. I remember being 9 years old and watching the last episode of Pride and Prejudice with her on the BBC. Elizabeth admits to being wrong about Darcy and proclaims her feelings are quite the opposite and they marry, with Jane and Bingley, and live happily ever after. Jane Austen’s books always have her characters finding their true loves, after a little bump in the road first. But life isn’t always like that. Life takes on a darker, less romantic sheen.

I don’t believe all men are assholes but I know a lot of the men I’ve dated have been assholes, that’s mostly because of my nature to look for acceptance in the men around me. Being disowned by your family when you were young, losing all your grounding in that department, means that you end up looking for love in the wrong places. I wanted to create my own family, but when you’re a teenager or in your early twenties that starts with finding your other half. I believed so hard that I had another half, that there was one single man that would understand me and all my problems and just fix whatever was broken. I was looking for my Jane Austen Hero. Someone who didn’t start out as perfect but in the end was the peanut butter to my jam.

Single is always looked down on, I don’t think it’s a South Asian thing, it’s a global media thing. Women’s Magazines tell us how to get the man, how to keep the man and how to please the man. TV shows and movies that focus on dating, people constantly falling in and out of love and all the drama that happens with it. No-one really seems to emphasize that it’s entirely healthy to be single and like being single. You can’t like being alone. It’s absurd. Single women are always mocked, cat ladies, spinsters, even in Jane Austen novels they are always ridiculous.

But being single is sometimes what we need to fix ourselves and to look at what’s going wrong in our string of relationships and hookups. Do I like Tinder? No. Do I like meeting people at shows or at bars? Yes. Do I want to date right now? I’m not entirely sure. I took a large amount of time away from any kind of dating to figure myself out. To enjoy being alone, to look in the mirror and feel good about myself just for me and to be honest with you I find a lot of getting back there and dating a little scary.

But this is where I guess my mentality about dating has to change. I used to be so down on myself when I liked a guy, there was always no way I could see someone liking me back. But a little therapy and a lot of self-love and I don’t feel bad about myself anymore. I needed to be aware of the fact that I’m an intelligent, creative, funny woman who is not defined by her past. Jane Austen would maybe see this as my bump in the road moment, I had to get over my own insecurities in order to be able to actually find someone who isn’t a complete tool.

I no longer believe in fated romances. The older I get the more I seem to appreciate my own company. Being single isn’t scary, being by myself has its sense of freedom in a way. How would Jane Austen write this? A single lady over the age of 30 who is more in want of bettering herself and growing in her own ways than finding a man. Who would rather have someone who would support that growth rather than date many boring guys and slug her way through swiping on dating apps. Would she be disappointed with how we’ve taken courtship and turned it into a chore? Another weird aspect of modern life, where we swipe on a person based on appearance and one line of who they are rather than actually meet and develop relationships that turn into something more.

What happens now to counteract how jaded I’ve become? I’m not entirely sure. New experiences, less of a guard up, pushing myself a little more to reach outside my comfort zone. Moving house will help that, and maybe getting my ass out of that house a little more to go to new bars, find new bands, figure out some different music scenes in Chicago and also regaining my love for the music scene I was already a part of. I’m done with believing in a Jane Austen romance, but I’m also done with this part of my life where all I do is hook up. I guess it’s now a journey to discover what the happy medium between those two extremes is. Jane Austen can’t help anymore.