KINGSPORT, TN—Just six months after claiming she was ecstatic about moving in with her boyfriend, and a mere eight weeks after announcing that she "couldn't be happier" with their decision to take a brief time apart, administrative assistant Ann Castlen, 26, told friends Monday that she was absolutely thrilled to be single.
"Free at last!" Castlen said, nearly a year to the day after she informed several coworkers that she was emotionally ready to settle down and have children. "It's like this giant weight has been lifted off me and I can finally breathe. I'm just going to enjoy this time alone and do all those things I was dying to do when I was bogged down with [ex-boyfriend] Brandon [Weiter]."
According to friends, Castlen has expressed nearly identical feelings of elation upon returning to the dating scene, entering the initial phase of monogamous courtship, getting back together with an ex-boyfriend, developing a crush on a coworker, going on a series of blind dates, trying an open relationship, trying a long- distance relationship, and meeting a guy in a bar and having a passionate fling that she doesn't expect to go anywhere.
"When Ann was dating Brandon, she would never stop gushing about how sweet he is, and how he 'might be the one,'" said Castlen's friend and former college roommate Bridget Mauresco. "I thought she'd be crushed when they broke up. But the next day, she's going on and on about how 'amazing' it is to be able to stay out late without having to call somebody to check in."
"I haven't seen Ann this happy since she and Brandon promised to give their relationship one more shot two weeks ago," Mauresco added.
The newly single Castlen said she is delighted to finally have the chance to achieve several personal goals that she had no time to concentrate on while in a relationship, such as painting her apartment, catching up on the past three seasons of Project Runway, and training to run a marathon. According to Castlen, she plans to embrace the "me time" offered by singledom until she is ready to date again, at which point she will become overjoyed by the exhilarating feeling of a blossoming romance and repeatedly claim that she "deserves to be spoiled" by a nice guy for a while.
"I'm so happy right now!" said Castlen, who uttered these same exact words after Weiter first said 'I love you' to her, during the period in which she and Weiter underwent a brief split and were seeing other people, and when she had to choose between two boys who had crushes on her at sixth-grade summer camp.
Despite reporting no significant changes in living situation, availability of free time, job security, financial independence, or self-confidence since last Wednesday—when she told friends she was relieved to have finally escaped the bar scene—Castlen said she is now at the "best point in [her] life" to be single, and has already called her friend Mara Delung to arrange a night out to meet available men at Snooker's Pub.
"Last time I talked to Ann, she tried to set me up with one of her boyfriend's friends so I could 'have some stability in my life,'" Delung said. "Then she calls me yesterday and asks if speed dating is still a thing. Apparently, she's always wanted to try it but just couldn't when she was stuck with Brandon."
Added Delung, "Weren't they buying a house together?"
Having such an optimistic outlook on her love life is not uncommon for Castlen, who since reaching dating age has undergone more than 23 changes in relationship status, ranging from long-term abstinence to a brief but intense affair with a married man. The 26-year-old has also celebrated three serious relationships that lasted the perfect length of time, five just-what-she-needed dumpings, two hookups with ex-boyfriends that "gave her closure," and an abruptly canceled engagement that Castlen said she couldn't have planned better herself.
"I'm glad Ann's finally doing what makes her happy," ex-boyfriend Sam Lorz said. "She's a great girl, and she deserves to be single, or dating, or taking time off from dating, or getting married—if that's what she wants."
Lorz went on to say that, in the coming months, he may try to once again begin a relationship with Castlen, as their on-again, off-again casual flings "always seem to cheer her up."