[Bella’s intro: When I first started studying single people, there was something I found perplexing. It seemed to me that single people who were happily single and said so were viewed more harshly than those who were miserably single and looking to become unsingle. I only had anecdotes at first, but now there are several studies showing just that. In fact, that research shows that people are sometimes actually angry at single people who say that they want to be single.
Recently, Daz Pearce told me about his experiences along these lines and some of his thoughts about the psychological dynamics. He offered to share his thoughts with my “Single at Heart” readers. You may remember Daz from a previous guest post in which he introduced the charming term “solo birds” for those of us who love our single lives.]
So Solo Birds – Why Are They Mad at Us?
By Daz Pearce
Hello again – lovely to be back.
Something that struck me immediately when considering the issue of singlism was the massive (and therefore impossible not tot talk about) way in which two different types of people are treated. If you look at those who are single but express a clear wish to ‘meet someone’ and ultimately ‘couple up,’ you’ll see an unfortunate cocktail of conceited condescension, smug sympathy and patronising pity. Of course, I wish that would stop – they just told you that they are single, not that they’re about to die of some vaguely exotic tropical disease.
But this is nothing compared to what’s lined up for you when you insist, politely but firmly, that your single status is either a choice or a reflection of your ‘feeling like a Solo Bird’ on an emotional level, in much the same way as some, for example, have a deep desire to be a parent. I should stress that this isn’t all or even most people, but a significant minority will feel the need to aggressively challenge you on the matter. I wonder how they would feel were I haranguing them to ‘get a divorce’ as soon as possible.
There’s a really nice way to do this, but it never actually seems to happen with the people who are actually doing it. Let me explain. You could tell me that all you want is for me to have my very own personal ‘happily ever after,’ to which I would say thank you and reassure you that I’m already on my way towards mine, so don’t worry. Alternatively, you could suggest that it’s ‘a waste’ that I’m single and that ‘somebody out there needs you’ or something like that. Well that’s awfully sweet of you, but going out with somebody because ‘they need you’ sounds like a terrible move.
What do we get instead? Anger, rage, and passive aggressive behaviour. When I was in romantic relationships, I kept going after the wrong people and sabotaging myself; everything seemed to end up as some sort of disaster. When those relationships were over, I felt relief rather than pain. People like me are told things like, “you’re not the first person this stuff has ever happened to” and that you should get back in the “real world” which, coincidentally, only they live in.
So I wondered…why the anger? Well part of it surely comes from the removal of ‘superior status’ from those who are married or in ‘a relationship’ by those who are happily single or single of their own volition. Those who are happy and thriving tend to just want others to thrive as much as they are, whereas when you’re struggling, the concept of ‘someone to feel better than’ can motivate some rather toxic and hateful behaviour. Isn’t this the very concept on which racism, homophobia, and other prejudices are based? Hey, my own life may not be going too well but at least I’m superior to someone else.
‘Single but looking’ people facilitate this toxicity, sadly (although I hope every last one of you finds that right person soon enough; be assured the sympathy will stop immediately).
Happily single people turn the applecart upside down, change the rules of the game completely.
It’s worth asking…do they really want you to ‘meet someone’ or just wish that you would? Is it your refusal to consider yourself a loser in the game (in which they apparently won) that they have such a problem with?
The second part of the answer is this: What someone says they are isn’t necessarily what they are.
So…is it just possible that some of the singlists amongst us are actually ‘repressed Solo Birds’ themselves? Could their anger be based on a mix of their own misery and a curious form of jealousy, perhaps a wish that they’d had the ability and/or courage to go down the solo-bird route but couldn’t? Perhaps parents, nosy neighbours, someone in church, the knowledge that being married is good for your career or just all the relentless matrimania got in the way? I’ll say it again – happy, thriving people just want you to thrive too – and don’t care how you got there.
I won’t lie – I ask all this at least in part because I have sound reason to believe that in the case of one of my antagonists this is EXACTLY what was (and still is) going on. It makes me wonder how many repressed Solo Birds there are out there, soldiering through soulless and miserable marriages (I very much doubt a natural Solo Bird could EVER be truly happily married). They were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the ‘real world’ and can’t quite fathom how you managed to escape from it. Jealousy, anger, bitterness and rage kick in accordingly.
The thing that always struck me about the ‘real world’ was how fake it was.
I’m not sure what the answer to this conundrum might be, but understanding, empathy and compassion rather than ‘meeting anger with anger’ probably has to be part of it.
Thanks for reading and much love. Do your thing and be yourself.
Dazza is a musician, poet and writer from Preston, UK. After several (by his own admission) disastrous attempts to start relationships with ‘the wrong people’ he finally began to ask himself if this was all ‘subconscious but deliberate’ and he was actually a solo bird at heart. His other interests include sports, psychology, and philosophy.