Last night I was out. As usual on my own. I met a male friend, Tom, at the bar for a drink and shortly the conversation turned to the inevitable.
Why do you dislike men? I heard you have issues with men?
What do you mean? I implied…..”well, you don’t like men, you are always single…” I have heard this before and I remember the parting words that rang out when my last serious relationship ended….have fun being single and forty. Ummm, yeah, you as well pal. Ouch. I have heard this montage from my sister and brother in law who firmly believe I have “issues” with men and relationships simply because of my lack thereof. That somehow I am a failure because I lack a partner and can’t possibly seem to “capture” one. Surely I am fucking it all up somehow in their eyes. I am damaged and miserable. Epic failure.
What about last year? I was seeing an artist. I liked him alot. Not enough to dive into a relationship but I was sure a long term friendship was in the making. We made each other dinners, danced together, spent time at each others homes, made love. I even went to a family event and met his mother and kindred folk. I held small babies and played with kids. Then after making more love, I was ghosted. In confusion, I reached out for answers. No response. I tried for a week, maybe two. I felt like a fool. This was no average ghosting we had spent time together. I reviewed every comment I made in my head because I am a human being and surely I had said something stupid or insensitive. I had tried not to but I fail. Eventually, I let it go. Until he contacted me a year later to tell me my picture on FaceBook was soooo pretty. What? He apologized for his behavior, saying he was “afraid.” Afraid. Had he talked about it a year ago I would have assured him there was no fear to be experienced. The ride could have gone as fast or as slow as he would have liked. There was no pressure. He chose not to talk to me. I got the ghost. Not even a friend. Valueless. It was painful because I was excited to have a new friend in my life and did not know what to tell people when he disappeared. Did not know what I did that was so wrong. I know I forced nothing on him, and the only person pushing any relationship type behavior was him. He did not meet my mother.
Tom then led into a series of helpful advice that danced me down a path to make myself better, more suitable for relationship status. I tried to tell him I indeed liked men, I found them to be rather brash and hardened. Unemotional creatures. That if I were to settle down long term, I would like a man who would talk and not pacify me. I would like a man who possessed feelings and opinions on items, not a man who tells me my pies are delicious just to make me happy (I know they taste like crap I eat them too). I would like a man who is bold, skips his bills to buy books because he dreams of opening a bookshop one day and has no regard for the normal process of things. The bills will get paid when he is ready. I want a man to tell me I am ok, that he accepts me, even though I am a college drop out. Even though I live differently and punch a factory clock because I hate the office. I want him to do the dishes while I write and be a voice in my podcasting dreams. I want a partner, not a burden. If I can’t have these things in a man, then I have male friends I sleep with.
Tom wasn’t listening. He asked me then…what makes you so special? Meaning what makes me so special that a man should have to be what seems to be more than a man to be with me. The answer is two-fold. It is nothing. I am not special. I want what a man wants, something specific. I also wake up every day and love myself shamelessly just like a man does. I don’t question my confidence. It is there, always has been. A confident woman who loves herself is a frightening item. Ask me. I am in trouble all the time because I am not modest and meek and it goes against the grain of all things believed feminine. When a woman loves herself the world tries to tell her she is not allowing others to love her.
I then asked him why he thought I was unhappy being single? Why did he assume I wanted a relationship? He looked shocked for a moment and his answer was…I don’t know, I don’t want one either.
So I asked a few of my male friends, why men felt “compelled” to fix women who weren’t in relationships? And here are the answers:
“…we are all duped into believing the agriculturally based myth that women need to be taken care of and if they don’t have someone to take care of them…they will be in trouble…that might be simplistic, but that’s the first thing that came to mind also they might believe that a woman can’t be happy if she doesn’t have someone. I don’t feel compelled to tell anyone about relationships. I’m too old for that anymore.” C.S. 54
“And as far as the relationships thing. I think a lot of people think that being in one is “normal” and not being in one is “abnormal”. I prefer to not be in one myself. A lot more freedom that way and if I need to have a casual hookup, then the option is there also. Just bc someone isn’t in one or wanting to be in one, doesn’t mean anything is “wrong” with them.” J.K. 34
“Most guys push their own faults onto others to make themselves feel better about their own miserable-existence” L.H. 24
“Women need self-reflection…not just women though..but men too. Its how we grow as individuals. What better way than to see the best and worse in yourself through someone else’s eyes” J.M. 38
“I get it from women so it might be just your perspective. Or the opposite gender in either case. As progressive/liberal/inclusive gender/queer positive the general populace is, there seems to be a natural propensity towards slut-shaming those who either choose not to be in a relationship or choose relationships with multiple people. A cultural lack of understanding and acceptance.” O.P. 38
“I think alot of guys actually believe they are paying a woman a compliment with the old “you’re to pretty to be single” rhetoric. most people are just stupid.” W.F. 37
The popular stories of our time do not make it easy for single people to define themselves without referring to marriage. And they make it especially challenging for single women with no kids to discuss their lives without mentioning motherhood or family.
The dominant narrative assumes a particular timeline for our adult lives: By a certain age, we marry, and then we have kids. It is considered common sense that people live that way. What is remarkable is that this way of thinking still has such power when it’s such a long way off from how people really do live(link is external). In the U.S., for example, fewer than 20 percent of all households are comprised of married parents and their kids. There are more households consisting of just one person living alone. And there are many people who live with friends, or with relatives other than a spouse or kids, or with friends and relatives.
How, then, do single women talk about their lives? Do they define themselves in terms of what they are not, or do they defy the party line about what constitutes a “normal” adult life and describe their lives more affirmatively, in terms of who and what they are? Or are both threads intertwined?
(very long hyper-link there, psychology today awesome read!)
“Professor Bella DePaulo, 60, a social scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has spent the last 20 years focusing on what she calls “singles studies”: measuring the impact that singledom has on people as well as the way society treats them. “I was always really happy with my single life,” she explains. “I never imagined what my wedding dress would look like or anything like that. Yet for a long time I thought that maybe I was just slow at getting there, that I’d be bitten by the ‘marriage bug’ at some point. I can’t remember when it was I realized, no, I’m never going to want that. Single is who I am. It was so freeing.”
However, she found herself perturbed by the lack of writing on long-term singledom or even any positive examples of it. “All the reports I read in the media were that marriage makes you happier, healthier and live longer, and it just wasn’t in line with my experiences,” she says.
So she started carrying out her own research. “I found there are such huge benefits to staying single. Women, especially, are more likely to enjoy solitude than men are. Single women find being alone is a wonderful time for restoration, creativity, and personal growth. And there are so many more opportunities to create the life you want, such as traveling, following your passions and doing meaningful work.”
Marketing executive Helen Patterson, 44, has been single for 10 years and describes life as “simpler than ever”. “I was 8 years old when I first heard the word ‘spinster’,” she remembers. “I said to my mum, ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ And nothing’s changed!” However, she says this doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy the romantic company. “My friend and I came up with the phrase ‘casual monogamy’,” she explains. “It’s like, I don’t want to meet your parents or move in with you, but I’m happy to hang out with you and have lots of hot sex with you and only you. Sadly, this concept seems to be rather exclusive to me and my friends!
Although she still dabbles in dating, Helen says she finds men her age are either looking for casual sex or marriage. “I think there’s a lot of grey area in-between. I could quite happily date someone until the day I die and not want it to get any more serious than that. My last relationship was this set-up, but after two years he started asking me where it was going. I was like, ‘Does it have to go somewhere?’”
Not all single women are on their own out of choice, of course – some simply haven’t met someone they want to commit to. Melanie, 53, a lawyer at a publishing firm, always envisaged herself settling down with someone because – unlike Bella or Helen – she knew she wanted children. “The pressure was on me to find a relationship so that I could be a mother. However, I never found one that I felt was worth sticking with in order to have a child,” she recalls.
She made the decision to adopt when she was in her early 40s. “It is harder having a child on your own, but it’s not impossible,” she says. “But then again, if I’d had a partner I’d also have the stress of dealing with the relationship on top. It’s not better or worse, it’s just what I’ve been dealt, and I’m happy with it.”
One assumption is that not meeting a partner equals a life of loneliness. But Bella says her studies show the opposite. “When you look at research that follows people over the course of their lives, you see that on average married people become more insular,” she says. “Single women are particularly good at maintaining friendships and social circles, and seeing family more often.” Both Helen and Melanie report having strong circles of friends, with a mixture of couples and other singles around them. “You can still develop meaningful friendships without a romantic relationship,” remarks Melanie, who’s even talking about moving into a communally owned house with friends as they reach retirement.”(https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/why-these-older-woman-are-staying-single-and-loving-it-a3463511.html)
I can’t define myself. I am waiting, disconsolate and soothed. For the man who talks to me, walks with me. Indulges in my creative nature and holds no trespass against me. Someone who lets me cry out like a Princess when I am angry or sad and holds me for hours. A man who understands passion and longs for me as I long for him. He will let me make mistakes and forgive me. He will celebrate with me. Enjoy my racey, dry, sarcastic wit. He will understand my darkness and cynicism, my propensity to live life in the grey area. The part of life that is always questioning and never correct. Perhaps my he will be she? And she will let me be “the he” I always feel like. I don’t know. Maybe I will be alone and love fifty cats and make dog hair sweaters.
But for now, we single women don’t need correction. There is nothing wrong with us. We are unapologetic. Dancing in the street and sitting at bars alone catching the view. We are having random hookups or not. We may or may never indulge in a peer to peer relationship as Standard America sees fit for us. We are just fine with that.