For the twenty-some years I’ve been thinking about and writing about single life, one of the things that has always bothered me is how single people get put on the defensive. Especially if they have chosen to live single and are happy with their single lives.
Other people doubt them.
They tell the happy single people that “deep down” they know they want to be married. Single people, in those instances, do not even get to be the authority on their own feelings and wishes. There is even research showing that other people are especially judgmental about single people who choose to be single, even feeling anger toward them. Other people like miserably single people better.
Well, I’m starting to think the tides are turning. A recently published essay began like this:
“I’d rather be married. Why does admitting it feel so shameful?”
The article was titled, “Dear single women, this is why it’s okay to hate being alone.” After admitting to her feelings of shame at wanting to be married, the author went on to bemoan what she sees as the typical script these days for newly-divorced celebrities: “She’s enjoying life on her own, she’s focusing on her work, she and her ex are better off as friends, there are no bad feelings, and she’s perfectly happy to be single.”
I couldn’t find a byline on the article. Does that mean that the author was so ashamed of wanting to be married, she did not even want anyone to know who she was?
The author is a single mother, and she’s the one who wanted out of the marriage. She thinks divorce was the right choice in her situation. What’s more, she acknowledges that as a single person, she knows herself better, she’s more comfortable with herself, and happier than when she was married:
“…although I wanted to get married my whole life, and I was so happy on my wedding day, after I’d been married for a while, all my old doubts and insecurities resurfaced. I wasn’t happy, and getting married didn’t change that.”
Nonetheless, she still wants to be married. And she feels embarrassed to admit it:
“If I say I hate being alone, it feels like I’m breaking some sort of unspoken code: women are supposed to be strong and independent; we aren’t supposed to need men.”
I’ve described this as a victory for happy single women, this turning of the tables, whereby the women who want to be married are the ones feeling defensive. In fact, though, I don’t want anyone to feel defensive. I think we should all get to choose the lives that work best for us, without feeling judged.
We don’t owe other people explanations.