Earlier this year, the magazine Marie Claire invited four women to contribute essays on the topic, “Love and the Single Girl,” teased as “Single Girl Trend – Women Staying Single.” Three of the essays were insightful and fresh.
Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry, wrote the opening essay, “The single girl revolution.” Quickly reviewing the many buzzy books and magazine articles about single people that have grabbed headlines for the past year or so, she notes that “We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood.” Single women, she observed, are now
“being recognized as an independent person rather than as someone’s daughter, wife, or mother is a new, shiny kind of liberty for women, one that has unlocked all sorts of doors. Just 50 years ago, most women needed their husband’s signature to open a bank account.”
Toward the end, she says this:
“Whatever the effect on “smug marrieds” and whatever blowback single women receive, their growing numbers offer a crucial lesson: There are many ways to live lives full of love and meaning. Our worth no longer hinges simply on whether we have found the right partner by a certain moment of our lives.”
In the second essay, “My matchmaker dad,” Kim Gamble expresses her exasperation and disappointment with her dad, whom she typically adores, when he gives her a three-month subscription to an online dating service for her 30-something birthday. He didn’t really understand her reaction.
I like how she ended her essay, too:
“I plan to e-mail eHarmony, get a full refund, and use the money to buy myself a massage — now that’s a birthday gift.”
I’m skipping over the third essay for now – that’s the one I don’t like – to get to the fourth. In “Single in a married world,” Katherine Lanpher opens with a telling anecdote:
“I’m having a simple supper at the bar of a neighborhood trattoria when the hostess taps me on the shoulder. Would I mind sliding down a seat so that a couple can use the stools on either side of me?
She was nice about it. But as I move my bruschetta, purse, coat, and drink, it occurs to me: It’d be hard to find a more literal example of a single person’s lot in our two-by-two world. Um, could you move over? A couple needs that space. It’s date night.”
Katherine Lanpher married, then divorced, then realized how clueless she was in her treatment of single people when she was married. In the essay, she relates, with great humor, some of the insensitive questions she has fielded in her newly single life.
Here’s her ending:
“Last year at a Thanksgiving feast I hosted, there were 24 people at the table — married couples, single parents, single men and women, gay people, straight people, newlyweds, and children. I’ve built my own ark, and it’s come as you are.
And there’s always room for one more. Or even two. But next time, if I move over for you, maybe you can pick up the tab for the bruschetta.”
The essay I skipped was not badly written. All of the essays were stylistically impressive. But the outlier essay ended in an utterly conventional way – with the author’s wedding. It seemed out of place in a set of essays about “women staying single.”
[Thanks to Sheila for the heads-up about these essays.]
Three women photo available from Shutterstock