"What’s a woman like you doing being single?"

He posed the question flat out yesterday. I was at work, filing a report, and after all my business was completed, out tumbled that can-I-as-you-something-that-most-likely-will-make-either-you-or-me-or-both-of-us-uncomfortable routine “Why is someone like you single?” ===(He was wearing a band, people!)

Immediately, my reaction was one of shame and placation. One of let me defend myself I really am a good person stature. Of course I was speechless at first, and made some cutesy remark about how I was repressed I the emulation of Britney Spears phase and just couldn’t commit to something that would tie down my wild nature. Then, I answered honestly that I didn’t know, and that some days I cared and some days I didn’t.

But what got me most was the shame. It was like he was asking me how a person develops malaria, or, in my neck of the woods, ADHD. What went wrong, doctor, and how do you cure or TREAT the problem?

I don’t have the answer for that one, because so many theories have been bombarded on me from people ranging from my inner circle to complete strangers. Here are some of the theories offered to me, most of them I didn’t ask for:

“It’s because you are too ambitious”
“Your education and profession intimidate men”
“You aren’t around single men enough”
“You need to give the internet proper credit”
“You’re too picky and have too high of expectations”
“You don’t know how to flirt”
“You try too hard, stop looking and he’ll find you”
“Try harder, go pick up some one in a coffee shop or bar some where”
“You aren’t ready to commit”
“You crave intimacy so much that it scares them off”
“You fear intimacy”
“You don’t hang out in bars after dark.”
Oh yeah, and for some peculiar reason, a slew of explanations around my hair: “why did you stop dyeing your hair blonde?” “You don’t blow dry your hair right” and my favorite, given to me on a day that I used an iron “if it [referring to my neglected drapes] looked like that everyday, your chances would improve.”

So, along with explanations, people tend to pair solutions, like the one above. They range from hair color, to acquiring a pet as a lure, to adopting new interests and activities, and boil down to “getting myself in the game.” None of them seem like the proper treatment.

The main treatment involves the question of singlehood at it’s core: How does a person get to BE single when it appears that everything else in her life is in order?

Well, first of all, it is a myth that people in relationships and marriage are more functional or have their ducks in a row than those of us that are single. Singlehood, like it or not, is viewed as a condition to be cured. People react to singlehood as if it is exema or something we singletons need to condition more. The good state is being paired with some one and the bad state is not.

In this world, it is not good for the cheese to stand alone.

It is assumed that people who are paired have somehow done something more right and God has rewarded them with the gift of couplehood. Well, you and I both know that couplehood is often a mistake or punishment as well, so what’s with all the solutions, people?

I think it is always better for us as a community to ask the question “why am I here right now, where I am?” Why am I in a relationship? Why am I not? And how am I both okay and not okay with my state right now?

But again, I don’t have the answers, I just have questions. Perhaps that’s how I should have responded: “Why are you married?” But doesn’t that sound a bit defensive? Like I have something to be ashamed of or explain away?

Think about that next time you want to treat us singletons!

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3 thoughts on “"What’s a woman like you doing being single?"

  1. Ah, I hear you. Earlier this year I backpacked solo through India, and upon returning to work my (female) colleague said, “Oh yeah, but you only did it because you’re single. It’s different when you have a partner, you can have a good time at home.” Ouch.

    It’s a ridiculous myth that because the world enjoyed “Sex and the City” (ugh) single women are totally accepted in today’s day and age. They’re *more* accepted by the media because there’s more of us = more people to consume stuff, not for any other reason IMHO.

    I’m single, 32, and I’m tired of being judged because I don’t have a man in my bed. Because that’s all that separates me from women who enjoy enhanced social status! Sadly, it doesn’t even matter who the man is, or whether we genuinely love each other, or whether we even like each other. In order to be a lot more respected, all that matters is that I am “claimed” as someone “worthy” of “marriage” (whatever that means to individuals) by a biological male!

    Sure, I can see this. But the shame I began to feel at 30 about my social status knocked me sideways. I’d always prided myself in thumbing my nose at society’s conventions, but in retrospect, ever since I was old enough to play with dolls and dive into a dressing up box I’ve been primed for the role.

    Stigma against single women is well and alive, even in big cities. I feel it in the events I’m not invited to, in the assumptions that I’m trying to seduce other women’s partners because I’m single and talking to them, and in the conversations about life and love that I’m left out of. After all, what do I know about life and love? I might have had long-term partners in the past, but right now, I’m single, and I’ve never been married. Doesn’t count.

    The thing is, the more I notice how so many married men flirt with other women at work, and the more I read about how married women get a dud deal with the double-shift, the more I want to get married.

    Who cares if it involves so much keeping up appearances? At last I will belong to a community, I will be known and seen, and celebrated! People will bring me gifts, and invite me out, and ask me my opinion on matters, and have greater respect for my parenting skills if I ever become a mother! Hell, I will even be considered a *proper* mother (because everyone knows that single mums aren’t real mums in the eyes of society, natch.) Should I get divorced I will be shunned by the married masses, and moral judgements will again turn against me, but I will still retain some of their respect because I once had a ring on my finger. Phew.

    And what powers the ring has! Men will not treat me as a potential blow-up doll out of respect not for me but for my husband, and women will not be suspicious of my motives, sadly mistaking their husband’s sex appeal to be universal. With a flash of my rock, everyone I come across will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Oh, she’s just like us after all! She has the same morals as us after all! OMG she’s our new best friend! Hoorah!

    When it comes down to it, and I’m being honest here, right now I want the social security of a ring on my finger more than I want a man. Oh to have that social protection and automatic belonging! It seems to be a taboo to talk about marrying for social acceptance, but I dare say it’s a huuuuuuuuuuuge motivator among women over 30, and men over 35.

    But I’ll never belong to the club of Marriage or maybe even Parenting, as I’ve decided to take a different life route and become a single adoptive mum.

  2. Some people prefer being single.

    Some people don’t ever meet anyone they’re willing to compromise for.

    Some people prefer being coupled.

    Some people meet someone who doesn’t necessitate difficult compromises.

    Some people don’t know what they want, but just get married because that’s what people do. They usually end up having to compromise quite a lot.

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