It was not until I took a class on Tolkien in the third year of my undergrad studies that I started thinking about this more seriously. My professor pointed out the distinct lack of female characters in The Hobbit, as well as the lack of a love story in it, and asked us what we thought. Aside from the implication that a woman would necessarily act as a love interest (an infuriating assumption that my professor didn’t intend, but that is another conversation) there was the subject of romance brought into the open, and its absence noted. I do wish that there had been more women in Tolkien’s work, not least because I love those that he did write as fully fledged characters. The lack of a love story, though, did not (and does not) bother me.
By that point I was past the age of pretending to be above such things as romance: I’d realised that I did like it, I liked reading about it, I was a little uncertain about myself in regards to it, and I wasn’t keen on the notion of sex. It was nice that other people liked it so much, but I wavered between thinking that I was too young for it (I was perhaps 21 at the time of the course) and thinking that I was too busy (I was, as mentioned, a third-year undergrad and one of those who was constantly overwhelmed by something or other). The fact that there was no love story in The Hobbit had frankly gone over my head.
Bilbo never seems inclined toward romance, certainly. From the beginning, he lives comfortably alone, welcoming visitors—the consummate host, and probably an excellent friend. Following his adventure, he settles down again to enjoy his newly increased wealth and later adopts Frodo, finding familial fulfilment in the role of cousin and guardian. There is none of the emptiness or brokenness that accompany stereotypes of single people, and though the neighbourhood thinks him eccentric, Bilbo remains confident and popular right up to his famous disappearance on his eleventy-first birthday.