I’ve realized for a while that in general society doesn’t trust single women. According to the Japanese, single women over the age of 25 are called “make inu” (losing dogs), and those over the age of 30 are called stale cake. I’m sure there are similar expressions to express single women all over the world. It may be 2014 but it still seems like the world doesn’t trust single women over a certain age. Society seems to still be clinging tightly to convention and tradition; supposedly life should follow a preordained path, and things should be done in a certain way. Anyone who happens to not adhere to that formula is looked upon as an oddball and someone in need of fixing.
When we are young we believe in fairy tales. We believe that a prince will whisk us away and we will find complete and utter contentment in a domestic setting. Well, we soon learn that things aren’t that simple. And luckily for many of us we have choices, and this is something that I’m very grateful for. However, what is perplexing is that there is still a stigma associated with single women.
Women are still judged based on whether they have a partner and/or kids. I am obviously not knocking married women or mothers but my point is that I should not invite people’s sympathy just because I don’t belong to these “exclusive clubs”, and because I am not following the “conventional route.”
When it comes to sociolinguistics, you can see how problematic this all is. People who haven’t seen you in a while will often ask you, “Are you STILL single?” The word “still” implies failure; you tried and you failed, you must be miserable especially as you’re not getting any younger. It doesn’t matter that you have a new job, you’ve just come back from a trip to Mexico, that you’ve lost weight or taken up a new hobby, the only thing that is important is your relationship status. If you say yes, you’re still single, you get the sad looks and the “awws.” How demoralizing.
Often we are fed platitudes like, “Don’t worry, you will meet someone when you least expect it.” And there are times when the person in question believes you are being lazy and not taking your impending miserable spinsterhood seriously. They may say things like, ”You need to put yourself out there”, “You should try online dating” or “Don’t be so picky!” So much unsolicited advice.
Another thing I find troubling, and I was discussing with a good friend of mine over the weekend, is the perception of single women as being charity cases. Why must friends and loved ones, let alone strangers too, feel sorry for us? I have had a few cases of well-meaning people trying to fix me up with men who, unbeknownst to them, happened to be married. These people didn’t even bother trying to find out anything about these men. They just knew of them, decided they were age-appropriate (and in one case it was simply because we were of the same ethnicity) and they thought that was enough. It vexed me. It made me wonder, don’t I deserve more consideration? Does the fact that I am single warrant this sort of treatment? Can’t the people who are asserting to “help” me be bothered to delve deeper and figure out compatibility before they try to push someone on me?
Why are single women often painted as miserable and desperate? Or as crazy cat ladies? I am tired of the pity. I would like to be seen as a whole person, an adult who is happy with her life, one whose feelings and opinions are taken seriously. I do not want to be seen as a charity case, a failure, a person who should be trying harder to be in a relationship. How can a relationship legitimize a person anyway? This is a mindset that needs to disappear.
I come from a culture where single women are practically at the bottom of the heap, unless they are from affluent households. The position of a single woman with a child is a little better than that of a single woman without a child. Being single in my culture I can only be called Rowena (If I had a child, I’d be called “Mother of so and so.”) I had no idea until I was older that being called by one’s first name means you are a still a child in society’s eyes. The last time I was home I got better service in shops when I was with a male relative or friend than when I was alone. It was quite unnerving to see how differently I was treated in the two cases.
In the past I gather single women were a burden on their families. Getting married was obviously financially beneficial to women, and people got married young at a time when a low life expectancy was the norm. Nowadays things have changed but it doesn’t look like people’s mentalities have changed very much.
What I’d like to tell those people who look down on me or feel pity for me is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my being single. I’m happy with my independence, my educational pursuits, and the plans and goals I have set for myself. Yes I could do with some more money but I am paying my bills and I’m not a strain on my parents’ finances.
Whenever someone asks me why I’m single this scene from Bridget Jones comes to mind. I wish I could use that line in real life but I feel too many people will think I’m being serious. :
COSMO: Seriously, though. Offices full of single girls in their thirties. Fine physical specimens but they just can’t seem to hold down a chap.
WONEY: Yes. Why is it there are so many unmarried women in their thirties these days, Bridget?
BRIDGET: [Laughs]:Oh, I don’t know.Suppose it doesn’t help that underneath our clothes our entire bodies are covered in scales.
A couple of related articles I read recently:
India’s invisible widows, divorcees and single women http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26356373
Single and Educated: the Problem of China’s ‘Leftover’ Women http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/single-educated-problem-chinas-leftover-women-1434671