I have many single girlfriends- some who’ve never been married, a few who are divorcing, all quite pessimistic about their dating prospects as they work to fully embrace their single lives. My advice, always, is to enjoy being single. For the divorcees, I repeat my spiel on how difficult even the most worthwhile committed relationships are, and how “giving up the I for we” often leaves women feeling like they’ve lost themselves- especially since most men are not socialized to make the same sacrifices that women do in familial situations. I force the single ladies who have never been married to consider the “me time” a blessing- not in disguise- just a plain ol’ blessing. If they are single without children I encourage them to travel, to take chances on new hobbies and careers, to date A LOT, and to remember to laugh.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, settling down and having families means exactly that. Our lives change and thus our capacities to take advantage of certain opportunities do too. We take being single too seriously, and often when we do meet potential love interests we bombard them with expectations too soon because, well, we’ve been waiting and we’re tired of it.
I don’t blame these actions of forcing love and commitment on women alone. We are socialized to partner- actually to be obsessed with partnering, and we have biological factors to consider as well. Mostly, however, we are told, REPEATEDLY, that if we are single it’s because we suck. You know it’s true. How many articles do you read a week that discuss why women are single? Most of them paint women as insecure, delusional gold diggers who are incapable of loving in the now. What is particularly hurtful is when women write articles such as these. Take for instance this post which intends to offer women a bit of straight talk, but falls short by generalizing and gendering certain behaviors. Here’s an example:
"You Play Games…Too Many: You have a rule for everything. You say you don’t, but you really do. You remain mysterious because if you give too much, he’ll lose interest. Makes sense for the most part. And I must say, in many cases this technique gets results. But what happens six months down the line when you got him and he wants to meet the real you? Games are fun and a lot of men like to play them – temporarily. But can you have true love without vulnerability?"
Mind you, the reasoning the author uses isn’t completely off mark. We certainly need to be vulnerable when we say we are open to love and loving. While the author admits that men do play games, she alludes to the idea that at some point they stop and women keep going. What is left out of the conversation is the fact that many men often lead women to game playing, therefore we aren’t alone in our gaming and such gaming isn’t a gendered (particularly a single woman’s) behavior. Mind you, many men have written very successful books that promote game playing amongst women- I don’t need to mention Steve Harvey’s name here, right? Also, for the record, most full-grown women don’t make habits of playing games. They make their own rules in life and love, and expect compromise to accompany romantic interest.
The issue with lists like these is they leave little room for nuance, which I suppose is their nature. They aren’t completely wrong, but the manner in which they are presented can make women who are already fighting feelings of loneliness and lowered self-esteem sink even further into the abyss. In actuality, the greatest reasons that many women are single is because they simply have not yet found someone they want to share their lives with—it's not exactly rocket science, y'all. And there is not one thing wrong that, as long as we wait with joy in our hearts and with hope.
I love Jezebel’s affirming list of why women are single, by the way. I especially love this point:
"You have standards.
You know you could have settled for Mr. "I just don't like your friends," or, "I just don't think women have ever done anything important," or, "so, about that Ron Paul," or even, "I only cheated on you once," but you realized you could do better. And frankly, being alone is just more manageable and makes you happier than being in a relationship that's the pits. So you didn't marry him, even though you probably could have."
Raise a glass, single ladies! Here’s to being single until you’re not and tossing dumb list that say something’s wrong with you.
Chime in! Why do you think many women remain single? Is it really a problem?