How to be a High Quality Single in Your Area by Hadley Franklin


  1. Use precisely one exclamation mark per text message. Fewer, and you will seem bored. More, and you will sound hysterical.
  2. When he reschedules twice, this should be, “No problem!” You are flexible, unencumbered by sensitive feelings or a preoccupation with others keeping promises.
  3. Dress medium-nice. When your neighbor asks why you are so dressed up, know you have overdone it. Return to your apartment. Stare in the mirror for a full minute with your dress around your ankles as you run your fingers over the stretch marks near your hips, enjoying their foreign sponginess and wondering if they’d fade if you remembered to moisturize.
  4. Arrive five minutes late. You will seem neither eager nor rude. When he ambles in eight minutes late, you can truthfully say you just arrived.
  5. Do not act surprised when he is shorter than he claimed on his profile. He will always be shorter than he claimed on his profile.
  6. Order a beer. Wine will make you feel fussy. Cocktails will make you drunk.
  7. When he proves to be jovial and punchy, go with it. Talk about television shows. Rib him gently when he confuses the names of actors. Drag out your wildest college stories. Feel flattered when he is impressed. You were once free and reckless. You should remember this more often.
  8. Mention your son for the first time between thirty and forty-five minutes into your conversation. He needs to know your priorities, and besides, he may not have read your profile carefully. Do not tell too many mom stories. He will not understand why it feels so miraculous that your son has learned the phrase “over there” or can spoon his own oatmeal. Do not try to explain the feeling of animal completeness when you hold your son on your lap.
  9. Go for a walk. Seek dark streets. The darkness will soften the borders between you, will tunnel its way to the past. He will want to talk of old loves. Welcome this.
  10. Pretend you are friends with your ex, the father of your child, the cheater and liar. Do not discuss the monster of rage that lives within you, how it used to flail and roar constantly, and now only wakes from time to time to belch flames. Share your tragedy lightly– the affair, the woman your ex still lives with. Do not mention how you found one of your son’s tiny socks in the living room that morning while he was at his father’s, and you sobbed, holding it to your cheek, because it felt like such an obvious token of loss.
  11. When he kisses you, be surprised by the force and flavor of it. Take an anthropological interest in its style, how taut or slack the lips are, the travels of his hands. When you are ready, lose yourself.
  12. Allow for the hazy introduction of future dates. There’s a bar with a koi pond he wants to show you some time. There are movies you each have yet to watch. Say yes, even if you don’t know that you want to, even if a future in which you watch a movie with your legs stretched over someone’s lap seems impossible.
  13. Notice the searching, fiery look in his eyes each time he wants to kiss you. This look is embarrassing. It is a mask of passion more than passion itself. Resist all urges to laugh. If you do laugh, he will ask why, and you will spend an awkward interval repeating, “Nothing, nevermind.”
  14. Invite him home. There will be rituals: the removal of shoes, the offering of water, the invitation to sit on the couch, although the bed is in sight. Perform each one as if it were natural, as if he were any other guest.
  15. Do not try to keep your dress on. Do not fold your arms over your belly. Do not wait for him to attempt the long fumble with your bra. Recall that confidence is sexy.
  16. Wonder if his chest is narrower than your ex’s or if you feel broader because of your body’s new shape, the heft and power it has gained in motherhood. Wonder if the noises that escape you sound too guttural, too loud, too enthusiastic. Wonder if he’d notice if you stopped making any noise at all.
  17.  When it is over, allow your head to rest on his arm. Do not reach for him. Do not settle into the shallow between his chest and his armpit. Remember that he remains a stranger.
  18. Do not ask him to leave, even though you’re longing to be alone. Do not ask him to stay, even though the silence when he leaves might bury you.
  19. Do not make a plan to see him again. He will be dressing, collecting keys and loose change that spilled from his pockets, checking something with exaggerated concentration on his phone. If he wants to see you, he will text you. Decide you are indifferent.
  20. Admit you are not indifferent. You want him to want you again. You want him enthralled, remembering your scent as he falls asleep. You want him to crave you and yet expect nothing of you. You want to be the one to say no.
  21. Kiss him goodbye. Like a boyfriend, even though he is not and, you suspect, never will be.
  22. When you are alone, visit your son’s room. Turn on the light. Line up the stuffed animals in his crib so they’ll be waiting for him, their blank little faces turned to the open door. Turn off the light.
  23. Decide tomorrow, you will feel good about this. Lie in the center of your bed. Try to ignore his intrusive smells, the rumpled patterns his body made.
  24. Take a long, long time to fall asleep. Dream of other nights.

Hadley Franklin’s work has been published in Cagibi, Joyland, The Boiler, Narrative, and others. She holds an MFA in fiction from NYU’s Creative Writing Program, and her work has been nominated for a Best of Net award. She lives in Brooklyn.