[Bella’s intro: Over at the Huffington Post, a married woman got a lot of attention by speaking on behalf of single people. She told married people what she thought single people wanted them to know. Some of us single people were a bit baffled by the way the author presumed to speak for us – we didn’t see ourselves in her characterization. Edie Jarolim was more than baffled. She was incensed. I’m sharing her passionate response below. Psych Central readers may already know Edie from her previous guest post here, which I loved and others did, too: A Woman After Her Own Heart. Thank-you, Edie, for that contribution and for this one.]
8 Things Married People Get Wrong about Singles
Guest Post by Edie Jarolim
Dear Married Lady Who Presumes to Speak for Single People Because You Interviewed a Few,
You’re probably basking in the glow of self-congratulation because you reached out to some single people in an article and interpreted their universe to the coupled. I know your piece got lots and lots of shares on social media. I’m thinking you took that as confirmation that you were correct in your assessment of my world.
Sorry to burst your bubble. The single people you talked to are nothing like me or my single friends.
For that matter, you’re nothing like my married friends — several of whom, incidentally, are not heterosexual and don’t live in the suburbs.
Because you regard single people in an anthropological fashion, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that some of your interview subjects may have lied to you, or at least tempered their responses to your questions. Can you say “confirmation bias”? We singles are not feral. We practice politeness in much the same way as coupled people do – maybe more so, because we constantly have to put up with smug tripe and condescension like that displayed in your article.
So let me offer you my perspective, going point by point, now that I’ve calmed down a bit and have gone beyond my initial response to most of your questions and conclusions: “Are you friggin’ kidding me?”
- Yes, it can be tough to be single in midlife.
Um, yes. It can be tough to be human in midlife. Or in youth. Or in old age. Life is tough and then you die.
But in my experience, it’s a helluva lot easier to be single in midlife than at any other time. Midlifers no longer suffer from the crippling insecurities of youth, but we’re still healthy enough to enjoy the independence that comes with being single.
The examples you served up about why it’s tough to be single in midlife are mind-bogglingly silly.
Some daily tasks are just plain difficult when you live on your own. Stephanie* explains: ‘It is harder to get stuff done around the house; there’s just as much work but only one person. There’s no handy husband and you often run the risk of being ripped off by workmen you hire. When you have to move or lift things, you have to call someone for help. It has to be planned, not spontaneous. You also have to lean on friends for a ride to or from some doctors’ appointments — a colonoscopy buddy.’
What does that even mean? What “stuff” and “daily tasks” are you and *Stephanie talking about? Washing dishes? Walking the dog? Cleaning? Seriously, I want to know. I can’t imagine any activities a hypothetical partner shares in that can’t be done as easily alone – possibly more easily, without someone looking over your shoulder and telling you you’re doing it wrong. And that “handy husband” – *Stephanie, are you living in the 1950s? — is more likely to be dropping his dirty boxer shorts on the floor for you to pick up than helping you.
Most of my straight friends are married to men who wouldn’t know a spanner from a spigot. And talk about ableist. Don’t you know anyone whose partner uses a wheelchair or has health issues that prevent him from lifting heavy objects? If I’m reading you right, all your friends are married to strappingly healthy and helpful men who are just hanging around the house, waiting for their wives to ask them to move heavy objects.
I’m also guessing you own your own homes in the suburbs–not only because of your provincial attitudes, but because you seem unaware that apartment dwellers have superintendents to do stuff for them. It’s been my experience that married people call their supers as frequently as single people do.
If you are getting ripped off by workmen, it’s not because you’re female and single. It’s because you’re a gullible fool. Read some reviews on Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor before you hire anyone. Ask your friends for recommendations.
Also, you might consider going to the gym and lifting weights. It’ll not only help you heft heavy objects, but might also improve your sad self-image.
As for the colonoscopy, if a “handy husband” has an actual full time job, he might not be able to go with you for your colonoscopy anyway. That’s what friends and relatives are for.
- Please include me in your social plans — I promise, I won’t “throw off” the balance.
What is this balance whereof you speak? It does not exist in my universe. Again, you seem to be living in a fantasy 1950s world of elaborate dinner parties with men and women occupying alternating seats. I’m guessing you can’t invite a gay couple unless you also invite a lesbian couple because that would throw off the male/female equilibrium? Oh, right, you probably don’t have any gay and lesbian friends.
If you’re the type of person who thinks single people will “throw off” the balance, I don’t want to know you and I definitely don’t want to be included in your social plans. My world is not a see-saw or a place where only even-numbered units get to participate. I invite people to events – and attend them — based on whether they share my interests or not.
From everything I’ve read by and about you, I’d say that you don’t.
- Girlfriends, know that I rely on your friendships
Um, only if you rely on mine. I’m not a supplicant in this relationship. My friendships are a two-way street. I need my friends, my friends need me. You’re deluded if you think I rely on my friendships more than you do because I’m single. Quite the contrary. I’m single because I like my own company. A lot.
- Just because I’m single and 50 doesn’t mean I’m desperate and will date anyone
Just because I’m single at whatever age it doesn’t mean I want to date. Period. Your life may revolve around a romantic relationship but don’t assume mine does. For me, a more relevant question would be, “Just because I’m a freelancer and broke doesn’t mean I’m desperate and will take any assignment.”
Now, that’s a real concern of mine that you might want to ask me about if you’re genuinely interested in me.
- My future is no worse than yours — there are no guarantees in life.
Actually, my future is probably going to be a lot better than yours because I’ve had time to devote to my interests and career and haven’t been depending on anyone else to complete me.
- Please believe me when I say it: I am okay
Not necessarily. I might be blowing you off when I tell you I’m okay because you’re smug and self-satisfied and you have a preconceived narrative about my life that you like to fit my responses into.
Here’s the deal. Sometimes I am okay, sometimes I’m great, sometimes I’m ready to leap off a tall building. But MY MOOD SHIFTS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MY BEING SINGLE. (Yes, I’m shouting.) They may have to do with body chemistry, self-doubts about my writing, financial worries, the political landscape… you name it.
You’re kind of obsessed with romantic relationships, aren’t you? You might consider developing some independent interests.
- Being married does not give you the right to be insensitive
This vies with #2 for dumbest question/conclusion ever. Nothing gives anyone the right to be insensitive. If being part of a couple made you that way, you were always an arrogant twit. Why was I ever friends with you anyway?
- Once and for all, I’m not after your husband.
Or your lesbian partner/wife/gay partner/husband. Gawd, you live in an alternate reality from mine.
For one thing, your SO is not as attractive as you probably think he is, so I’m not likely to want to have sex with him. Indeed, since I am single, there’s a good chance I’m having more sex than you are. I’ve been married. I know how that works. You’re wildly mistaken if you think women in their fifties or older aren’t getting any action – if they want it. So why would I need your captive fish when there are so many others in the sea?
The fact is, there’s a fair chance I actively dislike your husband but am only tolerating him because you’re glued to him at the hip and socializing together is the only way I get to see you.
I speak from experience here. I have had several friends who were married to controlling jerks. I am good at getting along with people if I want to, so I schmoozed these husbands and made them believe that I liked them. This belief not only made the awkward social occasions tolerable but also smoothed the path to seeing my friends on their own. That is, secure in their belief that I wasn’t going to turn my friends against them, the husbands “allowed” their wives to hang out with me.
It’s true, I would never say anything negative about their husbands to my pals; that’s not my job and I’m aware that it would just lead to resentment. But said pals would often complain at great length to me about their husbands – and then, at the end of the evening, offer to fix me up with his friends.
Sometimes I wonder if marriage is an irony-free zone.
Edie Jarolim is a freelance writer and editor whose articles have appeared in a variety of major publications, including National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Book Review, Sunset, and the Washington Post. Her latest book, Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All tells the story of how she quit her New York publishing job and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she learned to drive and found her mojo. For more details, see EdieJarolim.com.