If you are single, do you feel that you are judged for that reason alone? Do people make assumptions about you that they might not make if you were coupled? Do you think it is worse if you are single beyond the age at which people expect you to be married?
Melanie Notkin, author of Savvy Auntie, recently wrote a popular blog post on those questions. She titled it, “Single and childless: I know what you’re thinking,” and in it, she offers a whole long list of unspoken judgments she surmises other people are making about her. (Actually, sometimes they are spoken.) Here are just a few:
She’s too picky.
She’s not picky enough and made bad choices.
She’s too needy.
She’s not needy enough.
She’s too much of a feminist.
She’s too much of a romantic.
In the end, Notkin offers a rousing response on what her life is really about.
To be stereotyped is to be prejudged. Tell new acquaintances you are single and often, they will think they already know quite a lot about you. They understand your emotions: You are miserable and lonely and envious of couples. They know what motivates you: More than anything else in the world, you want to become coupled. If you are a single person of a certain age, they also know why you are not coupled: You are commitment-phobic, or too picky, or you have baggage. Or maybe they figure you are gay and they think that’s a problem, too.
They also believe they know something about your psychological development and your psyche: You are just not as mature as the other people your age who are coupled. And, at heart, you are basically selfish.
From knowing nothing more about you than your status as a single person, other people sometimes think they already know all about your family: You don’t have one. They also know about the important person or persons in your life: You don’t have anyone. In fact, they know all about your life: You don’t have a life.
Because you don’t have anyone and you don’t have a life, you can be asked to stay late at work or do all of the traveling over the holidays. When you are a guest in other people’s homes, they will know where you can sleep: on the couch in the living room rather than in a bedroom with a door that shuts.
They know how your life will unfold: You will grow old alone. Then you will die alone.
Are you a single person who does not recognize yourself in many of these descriptions? So am I. I am happy, I have a life, and there is no way I will grow old alone (a matter that has little to do with having a serious coupled relationship or even living alone). That’s just for starters. But it is also exactly the point: The conventional wisdom about people who are single is a mythology, a gloss. It is not an accurate description of the textured and varied lives of real people who are single. [end of excerpt from Singled Out]
Yesterday (December 18, 2012), I joined Melanie Notkin, Wendy Braitman, Sandy Rosenblatt, and Eleanore Wells were invited to discuss the issues in a segment on Huffington Post Live called “The beauty of singledom.” The discussion lasted less than a half-hour, so with five people in on the conversation, and with some of the readers’ comments read by the moderator throughout, I did not get a chance to say much.
The point I most wanted to make is that not all singles want to be married or even coupled. They are not single for any bad reasons, such as the ones Melanie listed. They are single because they are “single at heart,” and that means that single life is their best life – their most authentic and meaningful life. They choose single life. For them, living as a married person would be a big step down.
[Note: At Single with Attitude, you can find feeds from the blogs of several of the people who were in on the discussion, and from other single bloggers as well.]
Single woman photo available from Shutterstock