During brunch with a friend, we witnessed a heartbreaking, all too common scene: a newly-engaged young woman showing off her ring to a table of her girlfriends, none of whom sported any ring that could resemble a sign of engagement.
“See?” I grimly declared. “Single people really do serve a purpose in society.”
“How?” she asked.
“By making couples feel superior!”
Joking aside, there is some truth to this. Our culture consistently portrays happy couples as having won something, while singles lose out. Couples are to be lauded, singles pitied – or worse, set up. The “Single For A Reason” adage is as common as “Happily Ever After.”
I have sisters who are twins. For as long as I can remember, they gave the impression that they never needed anyone outside of each other.
But this is secondary to the reality that they haven’t gotten married. I have noticed that this makes many people uncomfortable. One well-meaning aunt, for instance, introduced them to her friends by saying, “They have no kids and aren’t married, so don’t ask.” She also, in a decidedly less-than-well-meaning moment, referred to them as “ready for the soup.”
Perhaps you have equally obnoxious friends or relatives who ask why you’re still single. Or maybe you have more tactful loved ones who feel the same way as my aunt but don’t mention it. In any case, I’m sure we’ve all had these moments of confrontation about our pitiable state of singlehood.
So how do single people cope?
One way I deal with it is to remember that these people – well-meaning or not – are simply reflecting the values of our culture. They can’t help but succumb to the “us vs. them” mentality that runs rampant through the country.
Who values singlehood when reality TV revolves around putting strangers through competitions until someone gets engaged? How can solitude be looked at favorably if celebrity couples are broadcast everywhere? How can single people get any respect when they’re portrayed in sitcoms and films as pathetic losers, maladjusted misfits, desperate hermits or just plain mean people?
More importantly, how can the loved ones of single people show support amidst a wholly unsupportive environment?
Another helpful reminder is that the people who pity our singlehood do so out of love for us. They don’t want to see us alone and unhappy. And really, aren’t we showing them we’re unhappy if we become uncomfortable every time they ask us if we’re seeing anyone? Aren’t we also reflecting the bigger picture when we walk around complaining that single people are looked at unfavorably?
I could not blame someone for seeing me as unhappy if all I’m showing them is how unhappy I am. I also could not take issue with someone’s desire to see me happy.
A different perspective
Once I saw things in this light, I stopped arming myself with sarcastic retorts. I gave honest answers when someone asked why I was still single – I wasn’t over my last relationship, I wasn’t ready to commit, or I simply hadn’t found the right person.
In letting go of my defensive quips, I allowed others to soften as well. My loved ones soon became supportive and positive. In so doing, our most loving supporters make our time in singlehood much less lonely.