Meet Ally Spiroff, a New York City–based freelance journalist, marathoner, and eternal optimist. She is, as she puts it, “freshly 25 years old” and has been single—with some casual dating thrown in—for the past five years.
I was excited to chat with Ally for a few reasons:
One, we sort of worked together in the past year (we were based in different offices and communicated solely through Slack), so I was eager to have a conversation with her that wasn’t about coding a newsletter.
Two, I was very interested to hear about her experience being unattached in the big city versus small town single life.
And three, I couldn’t help but want to hear more of her refreshingly cheerful outlook on singleness, career navigation, and life in general. Read Ally’s interview, and get ready to delete all of your dating apps.
Every Single Thing: Some people (myself included) believe that a major perk of being unattached is greater freedom to pursue opportunities without feeling held back. What is your proudest accomplishment that perhaps would not have been possible had you been in a relationship?
Ally: I’ve accomplished a lot that I’m really proud of, but I think one of my proudest accomplishments was actually how I got to New York City.
It was my dream to live here since eighth grade, and it was my dream throughout college to move to NYC and make it as a journalist in the most competitive media city in the United States. I wanted to come here to be the best at my career, because if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
No one believed that I would actually do it.
After I finished grad school, I moved back home to Wisconsin and worked odd summer jobs while applying to hundreds of internships in New York City. I had absolutely no connections there, and I landed my dream internship from my parents’ dining room table. It took me the whole summer, but I did it—purely based on my hard work and talent. If I had a boyfriend around, I think I might’ve never made the move out here from the Midwest…which I would’ve regretted for the rest of my life.
What are your thoughts on being single in the Big Apple? How is single life different in a bustling city than it is when you’re in a smaller, less fast-paced area?
It’s definitely easier to be single in the city—or harder to meet someone, however you want to look at it—because you’re so busy all the time. People are constantly working here, and if they’re not working, they’re jetting from activity to activity or from social event to social event.
Back to the working portion, though: NYC really is a career-driven city. Most of the time, people move here to work and be the best in their field. When you’re working to make it big in your career, it’s easier to focus on yourself because it’s all you really have time for. It’s also easy to meet someone on the weekend and then just forget about them during the week; you can move onto someone else the next weekend. There are so many people here, and you’re less likely to keep talking to someone you might be interested in since you know there’s a billion other fish in the sea to choose from.
I find people often look for weekend flings and are not ready to commit to a long-term relationship until they’re much older. I see my friends in smaller, slower paced areas settling down and getting married, while I have friends in NYC in their upper 30s and 40s who aren’t married yet. It’s just a different lifestyle here.
You mentioned that you’ve been single for about five years now—what have you learned about yourself during this time? Have you gained clarity regarding what you do and don’t want in life or in relationships?
Being single for five years, I’ve really gotten a strong sense of who I am, who I want to surround myself with, and where I want to go with my career. And just dating around for the past five years, I’ve learned that I cannot be with a man who doesn’t have serious goals of his own or who doesn’t support mine. Every person deserves a partner who respects them as an individual. I’m a really confident person, and I want to be with a man who is equally confident in himself and, at the same time, loves me as much as I love myself. I don’t just want to be in a relationship just because I’m a benefit to him.
I think relationships only work if both people genuinely enjoy each other’s company and are crazy about each other equally. I want a man who’s going to listen to me and make me a better person for having him in my life. I’ve learned what I want because I’ve dated a lot of men in the past five years who haven’t lived up to these standards. It’s all about trial and error, I guess.
Why is it so important to wait for a partner who appreciates you for who you are? Have you ever felt pressure to change yourself for a relationship?
I’ve absolutely never thought about changing myself to up my chances of getting a guy; I’ve never thought about changing myself for anyone. Why would I ever want to be anything less than 1000% myself? I love who I am.
It’s so sad to see people change who they are for their partner. I’ve seen it so many times. My parents raised my brother and I to be confident in who we are. If a guy doesn’t love me for who I am, then I’d rather go on loving myself until I find one that does. I believe that in a relationship, you have to let your partner do them while they let you do you‚ but it doesn’t mean you cannot join forces to be great together–you totally can, but I think it stems from two amazing individuals first.
What kind of negative behaviors do you most often see other singles (male or female) doing, and what would be your advice to them?
I’ve seen so many people who are single moping about it. They’re so focused on the fact that they’re single that they forget to just live life.
I think the best relationships start when you least expect them to. Call me a dreamer, but they kind of happen because they’re meant to be—you’re both at the right place at the right time.
Also, single Millennials just force Tinder dates all the time now. I don’t think the solution is to swipe through men (or women) like a catalog. I believe in the power of personal connection and original, in-person conversation. Maybe I’m old school, but you won’t find me on a dating app for a longgg time. Maybe never. I want a man who sees me in real life, comes up to me, and asks me out on a date—not just someone who swiped through a catalog of other women to find me.
In general, what have you enjoyed most about singleness so far?
I love pretty much everything I do alone. I believe that self-love and self-care is key in life. I’m a huge runner, so I live for my hour plus runs every day.
In my professional life, I’m a journalist and social media strategist, so on my runs I think about a story I’m working on, who I can interview next, how I can phrase a post I’m working on, my upcoming pitches, and anything else work-related. I also think about life, like which friends I haven’t given much love to lately that I need to reach out to. Of course, I think about my upcoming marathon goals!
Seriously, I think time spent outside alone is a lost art. Because I live in NYC, I get around from place to place completely by bike. I freaking love long rides with my periwinkle, fixed-gear bike/real forever boyfriend I refer to as “Bluice Wayne,” and, of course, my Spotify playlists, which are always fire. I sing really loud on my bike when I’m alone.
I also love eating at the bar at cool restaurants alone. If you had a date, a wait in NYC for one of the hottest restaurants in the city on a Friday or Saturday night could be up to three hours. If you’re alone and you snag that random open seat awkwardly between groups and couples at the bar, you don’t have to wait at all. Major perks. You also end up chatting with the bartenders and the other people sitting at the bar, and you meet some of the coolest people from all over the place that way.
Plus, if you’re not relying on another person, you can run your day completely on your own time schedule, which is super nice. It’s great to be able to go out on the weekends and talk and dance with any guys you want to! I’m able to travel a lot, which I love, but I mostly travel with (or at least meet up with) my friends instead of alone. Although I enjoy doing many activities solo, I’m not much of a loner. I love to be surrounded by people, mainly my amazing and crazy fun friends and family, who are located all over the country and world at this point.
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Ally is on a mission to break the world record as the youngest and fastest woman to complete all six World Marathon Majors; along with that goal, she’s also raising money for Back On My Feet, an organization that combats homelessness through the power of running and community support. Visit her fundraising page to make a donation!