Are You STILL Single?

Statue in Vieux-Montreal- Les Chuchoteuses (The Gossipers)
Statue in Vieux-Montreal- Les Chuchoteuses (The Gossipers)

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

Single and Educated: the Problem of China’s ‘Leftover’ Women


25 thoughts on “Are You STILL Single?

  1. [high five]

    Up until just a couple years ago, people were still asking my mother and I when I was going to have kids of my own. I’m 37. I decided at the age of 13 that I was never going to have kids. Giving birth is just something that has never appealed to me. My mom would just laugh and tell them never (she never gave me a hard time about it–in fact, I think she always understood completely). It was extremely annoying, though, for me to say, “I don’t want to have kids,” only to have the other person respond, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” Um, no, and I’m okay with that.

    Great post, Rowena.

    1. *high five* 🙂 Thanks, Heather. And kudos to you on your decision. It should be a personal decision but it looks like a lot of women feel the pressure to take the conventional route. One of the reasons I wrote this is because yesterday I was talking to a lady, whose 41st birthday it is today actually, and she talked about how although she adores children, she’s never wanted her own and she was worried by that. I find it wrong that as women we are often defined by things such as whether we’re in a relationship or have children. Glad your mom was supportive!

      1. I’m sad that she was worried about not wanting children of her own (I’m assuming because she was worried about how other people view her because of it…or because it doesn’t feel natural?).

      2. I think it was for a bit of both. She is actually from Korea and supposedly it’s worse over there. Luckily she has a husband who supports her decision, I think that’s great.

  2. I agree. The interesting thing is my married friends ALWAYS say to me they wish they would have waited to get married and explored life. While of course there are times I wish I had someone to share triumphant/trying times with. A girlfriend and I were looking at all of our favorite female writers and/or educators and 95% of them are not married. Perhaps divorced but not in long time relationships.

    1. Thanks, Nikki! Likewise with some of my married friends, especially the ones who married very young. I am definitely pro-relationships but at the same time it’s not good forcing them. And I so wish that society would give all people the respect they deserve, not just those in traditional families.

  3. Amen! Love your thoughts on this subject, also the bronze statue…how perfectly fitting. Reminds me of the Dalai Lama’s comment, “The world will be saved by the western woman”. Why not give his position to a woman? It seems that only when positions of power are held by more women will these attitudes change. Yet it saddens me to see how many still buy into such belief systems. I truly believe when enough women “wake up” the whole world will change.

    Funny though, that others have never tried to set me up on a date when I was single. Maybe being gay had something to do with it? 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! I wholeheartedly agree that having more women in positions of power will change the world! I encounter female misogynists daily and it’s sad that they think that way especially with all the options open.

      And thinking of your comment about people not fixing you up because you are gay, it’s so odd to me that single women are often asked whether they are gay.

      Have a great day:)

      1. That is interesting. I am thinking if one is gay they are just as likely to be in a relationship as one who is straight. Why would being gay be associated with being single?

      2. My only thought is that maybe both single women and gay women are viewed as outside the social “norm”. Very sad, but I have seen huge changes in my lifetime, even 10 years ago. Change seems to be happening quicker than ever before. I am actually optimistic. It is people like you who voice their opinions that are pushing us forward. Just by blogging this subject you are making a difference.

  4. I really like your post, Rowena. You hit the nail on the head (I love this phrase!!). And the word “STILL”! how revealing! it’s high time everyone actually lived in the 21st century.

  5. Having been married, and now single, I can speak with authority that being single is so much better than being with the wrong person. I’ve known too many married people who were miserable with their spouses, and envious of my freedom. Many women marry because they’re afraid of being alone when they are old, but the statistics say we’re going to be alone anyway. Women generally (not always, obviously) outlive their husbands, especially those who marry someone much older than themselves. And I’m so sick of that “you’ll find someone when you’re not looking.” Well, I haven’t been looking for a really long time, and guess what? Still single 😉

  6. Great post Rowena! I’m glad you wrote this.

    Although I’m married now, I can definitely relate. The crazy thing though is that years ago I fell guilty to some of these things (even though I “know” better lol): trying to hook up a single friend (even worse with men I wouldn’t date myself). I think I was more looking forward to double dates- selfish I know- and just wanted me and my best friend to connect with a common thread again. It wasn’t well thought out, or particularly sensitive but yes I even suggested online dating. My intentions were innocent but the outcome made her feel like I was implying she was incomplete. I totally get that now.

    Lastly, im 31 (my husband 35). We don’t have kids (may never have kids) and let me tell you people are constantly asking us when we’re going to have kids. Of course, it’s directed more towards me, and I assume being African-American doesn’t help since I think it’s more taboo in our culture to wait to have kids (or opt not to have them at all). In our case, it’s “what are you waiting for”…it’s very intrusive.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Candace! I have probably made the same mistakes myself, but I think it’s common because we were taught from a young age how things “should” be. I have made suggestions to friends about dating only if they have expressed an interest in doing so, otherwise I just assume my single friends are happy:)

      Definitely having kids is a personal choice and I can relate to you as an African woman because in my culture not wanting to have kids is like a slap in your parents’ face! It’s really hard coming from a traditional background sometimes.

  7. When I was seventeen I bet my Dad’s girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend, now also my boss) that I wouldn’t be married by the time I was 30. Not because I thought I would fail, but because the idea just didn’t jive with me. She was so sure I’d change my mind and get hitched that she agreed to be my maid for a week if I made it to thirty without putting a ring on it. Long story short, she’s going to be scrubbing my kitchen floor and taking my laundry to the dry cleaner in very short order, as all people who question being single as a valid life choice ought to have to do.

  8. Hear hear! 🙂
    I’m very happy being single too, and I think my mum is slowly getting over my refusal to have kids… Great to read all the comments and experiences here too.

  9. Nice post, from a male and married couples perspective I would just like you to know that we dream of the days when we didn’t have three children under 3, ( we recently had twins) We love our new family but what we wouldn’t give to go wandering off to the shops alone, booking a pleasure holiday, drink with no thought to the children’s safety or dealing with these kids with a hangover! If people are asking if you are STILL single I would say jealousy is their main angle, I would not change my present situation but I do pine for my old life once in a while,( The single status is underrated) don’t listen to your negative friends, enjoy your freedom until that chain, I mean ring arrives!

    1. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate receiving a comment from your perspective. Congratulations on the twins, by the way! Jealousy, interesting, I’d never considered that angle but it may very well be. And thanks for your kind words, I hope you can find a good babysitter once in a while:)

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