I’ve been an only child for nearly 24 years now, so I definitely consider myself a stone-cold expert at it. Sometimes only children get bad raps, but that’s partially because we’re misunderstood special little snowflakes who crave attention.
So does “only child syndrome” actually exist? Let me break it down for you in a special Oxford Karma edition of myth vs. fact.
Myth: I don’t have a lot of friends.
Fact: This is basically true, but mostly because I think dogs are far superior to people. I’ve always had a few close constants I could rely on, and getting along/hanging out with people from work has always been a plus. I’m totally fine with going to an event by myself in lieu of having someone there just to have someone there. And since I don’t have siblings to latch onto, I’m extremely close with and loyal to my friends and will get all “I’ll cut a bitch” if somebody messes with them. All pluses, for sure.
Myth: I’m awkward.
Fact: If we’re discussing eating habits, dancing or ability to tell a joke sans constant laughter, then yeah, I’m super awkward. But I have a pretty decent grasp of the English language and am able to form sentences/talk to people without spraining a muscle, so my only-childness didn’t scar me too badly in that department. I was an extremely shy kid, though, and struggled with talking to strangers (my mom told me I’m not supposed to talk to strangers anyway), but a solid stint on my high school and college newspapers knocked that out of me real fast.
Myth: I’m used to being the center of attention.
Fact: Well yeah, I can pretty much say my parents paid more attention to me than any other stray kid they came across. But do I like being the center of attention? Eh, not so much. At parties or other social gatherings where I don’t know anyone, I’m usually melted into a wall sipping a drink and scanning the room with judgment-laden eyes to the point of being mistaken for a chaperone. But if I’m kicking it with the homies, as the cool kids say, then I’m down for all eyes being on me. (But please don’t try to embarrass me, because my neck and chest will turn red from all the attention and people think I’m having an allergic reaction or drank too much tequila. It’s not pretty.)
Myth: I never got away with anything growing up because my parents were helicopters.
Fact: Hahahahahaha. No. My parents were basically as chill as they come, but not in a “let’s gather around the bong and sing ‘Kumbaya’” kind of way. They trusted me to not be a brainless moron and allowed me to make my own mistakes — whether or not it was to their knowledge. Without getting into the gory details because my mom is an avid Oxford Karma reader, I got away with some stuff, let me tell you.
Myth: I’m lonely all the time.
Fact: I know how to be content with my own company, unlike a lot of people, especially girls, my age. I’m the type of person who needs to recharge with some alone time after being around people for awhile (read: every day after I’m done with work), which doesn’t leave a lot of time for being lonely. Since I grew up having to mostly amuse myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I live by myself, which means I can come home, eat whatever I want, drink some wine and take my pants off without judgment from some roommate who is trying to entertain people in the living room. Can you say the same? Sucka. I don’t get scared being all alone in a big scary apartment (what’s that all about anyway, people) and I lose my phone a lot, meaning it’s not glued to my face. Now on the flip side, I have struggled with anxiety and depression in the past, but I chalk that up more to being a high-achieving perfectionist than I do to being an only child (or maybe I’m a high-achieving perfectionist because I’m an only child? Chicken or the egg).
Myth: I’m spoiled.
Fact: Compared to a lot of other kids? Probably. But I definitely wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. The major perk of being an only child is that your parents have just one measly kid on which to dole out their hard-earned cash, meaning we were able to go on a lot of nice family vacations and I never had to wear hand-me-downs. But it’s not like the handouts were constant. The minute I turned 16, I was told I would be getting a job to pay for the gas for my dad’s 2001 Acura and (most) “fun” expenses like going to the movies would be on me. I worked at a snow cone stand (which I hated), as a hostess (which I hated) and as a Starbucks barista (which I loved), and to this day I’m extremely jealous of the shit ton of expendable income I had in high school.
Myth: I wish I had siblings.
Fact: Ninety-five percent of the time I’d say absolutely not. Like, what if my sibling turned out to be the spawn of Satan, and then I’d be obligated to love him/her just because we happened to share some genes and chromosomes? Uh, no thanks. As I get older, I kind of wish I had a sibling to help take care of family stuff, but otherwise, I’m good.
Myth: I’m selfish.
Fact: Real-time honesty here: I’ve definitely struggled with selfishness a lot in my life, and I have to pin it as a direct result of being an only child. I got super used to not doing something if I didn’t want to do it (not that my parents didn’t make me do shit, because they did), a practice that will turn anyone into a selfish little bastard pretty easily. This mostly affected relationships as I got older, but I like to think I’ve matured and grown out of that phase since I’ll likely be having a quarter-life crisis in a little over a year. Still, I fully give anyone permission to present me with a solid backhand if I’m flying my egotistic flag.
Myth: I’m bossy.
Fact: I’m bossy. But let’s try to spin this in a good light, shall we? I know what I like and how I like it, and I’m good at getting shit done, something that has served me pretty well so far in life. If all that makes me bossy, then I’m cool with it.