Author: has written 142 posts for this blog.

Chally is a student by day, a freelance writer by night, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. She also blogs at Zero at the Bone. Full bio here.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

104 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm |

    With straight men, there is a sort of romantic aspect of bachelorhood. (I know more about heterosexual coupling than homosexual coupling) No one would ever critique the decision. But underneath all the posturing, there is a very real desire, even need to be coupled up. I always have viewed a successful, cohabitating relationship as proof that adulthood has been reached.

    I don’t especially have any desire for children, but many men do feel that way. I know my father wanted me around, for example. I think both partners, male and female, need their own friends and their own social outlets. I don’t think either of them needs to apologize for taking time apart. Nor do I think any partner needs to completely assimilate into their partner’s friend network unless it’s a good fit.

    I think if men were more willing to talk about their fears and desires around this issue, we’d all understand more fully. That may be changing slowly and I hope it does. And I’m curious to know how this plays out in the context of a homosexual relationship, also.

  2. groggette
    groggette August 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    Thanks for this, Chally. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often, but I do find myself having to remind well-meaning friends that I’m perfectly ok with being 1)single and 2)for long periods of time.

    I’ve seen so many divorced and older single women pushed out of their social worlds.

    Maybe it’s just the people I choose to spend my time with but I haven’t really noticed this at all around where I live. I’ve definitely noticed however how much “little girls [are] expected to organise their lives around finding a sole and central heteronormative relationship around which everything else in their lives must then revolve”. A few of my friends have infant girls and common talk is the “trouble” they’ll be (specifically to their fathers) when they’re old enough to date. Actually, it’s not common talk, it’s pretty much the only talk about them.

  3. Emilybites
    Emilybites August 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    So this. ‘Single’ isn’t some kind of limbo you’re stuck in until you finally become ‘married.’

    I was at a conservative Christian wedding this weekend and the traditional throwing of the bouquet was inflicted on all the ‘single ladies’. We were cut out of the guests like naughty sheep and rounded up onto the lawn so everyone could laugh, point and take pictures of us (they hoped) desperately fighting each other for the magic flowers that would rescue us from our sad, unmarried existence. It was the positioning of the thing as a favour that was so irritating – the conviction that we were incomplete, and seeking a husband.

  4. groggette
    groggette August 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm |

    groggette: Maybe it’s just the people I choose to spend my time with

    Specifically, I choose to hang out with a lot of people who stay (or become) single as they get older since I have no plans of getting married ever myself so that could very well be the reason I don’t see what you describe above :)

  5. Aydan
    Aydan August 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm |

    Thanks for this, Chally. Especially:

    I’m really quite troubled by the centring of romantic/sexual relationships at the expense of all other ways of organising lives.
    I’m aromantic and asexual, and while I would be perfectly open to the idea of getting married because marriage is a way to (potentially) spend the rest of my life in a deep meaningful relationship with a best friend, I’m not exactly most peoples’ ideal spouse, for obvious reasons. So I’m probably going to (and already do) find my most fulfilling relationships outside the bounds of what’s considered “normal,” what’s centered, and I’m perfectly okay with that… but being so societally “abnormal” makes things really hard, logistically and emotionally speaking. I don’t mind being the cool spinster “aunt” in my friends’ families– I think I would really like that– but I don’t want them to ditch me once they get married, for someone whose relationships fit better at dinner parties and on Facebook.

    So… yeah. Thanks for this post, a lot.

  6. Tori
    Tori August 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

    Emilybites: So this. ‘Single’ isn’t some kind of limbo you’re stuck in until you finally become ‘married.’I was at a conservative Christian wedding this weekend and the traditional throwing of the bouquet was inflicted on all the ‘single ladies’. We were cut out of the guests like naughty sheep and rounded up onto the lawn so everyone could laugh, point and take pictures of us (they hoped) desperately fighting each other for the magic flowers that would rescue us from our sad, unmarried existence. It was the positioning of the thing as a favour that was so irritating – the conviction that we were incomplete, and seeking a husband.

    I’ve always hated that aspect of wedding receptions — not the bouquet toss as a general thing, but the idea that all single women must and must want to participate. With the weddings I’ve been to, there’s been no polite way to decline, because saying, “Thanks, but I’d prefer to stay single” is met with confusion or derision.

  7. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    Hmm, I haven’t seen this myself, but I’ve seen the other side of it. Most of my friends (college and high school) are single, but the married women tend to stop coming to gatherings or just can’t make plans because they have no time or they’ve moved away. I suppose there are more single women in the ‘States, and that the pressure varies by locale. As a single woman living in an urban area, I’m not the oddity that a single woman in a rural area is. For the record: not married, never gonna be.

  8. reluctant alchemist
    reluctant alchemist August 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm |

    Thanks so much for this! I find it so disappointing and annoying that most people around me seem to think that living with your spouse and kids and no one else is a requirement for responsible adulthood. And people are so defensive about. I’m poly and nearly every time I tell someone I don’t want a monogamous marriage, or simply that I think there are other ways of living a fulfilling life, I have to listen to a lecture about the benefits of marriage and how other lifestyles don’t work and can’t last and are just phases and I’ll get married when I grow up and WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  9. Jackie
    Jackie August 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm |

    Seems many people thinking being single and childfree is something to be fixed.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous August 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm |

    Yes! Especially the life organization part. I think it would be really cool to live in some kind of arrangement that doesn’t revolve around a couple, like a group of friends and/or family.

  11. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe August 30, 2011 at 8:22 pm |

    For me, being married or in a relationship brought a sense of normalcy that was…OK. I liked being able to say “my wife” or “my girlfriend” because it made me seem more like a normal person.

    That was mildly pleasant, but it wasn’t much, really. Certainly not enough to motivate me by itself to seek out a relationship.

  12. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 30, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    You mean not every person (and by person I mean woman) desires a state sanctioned relationship? I AM SHOCKED.

    Also, wouldn’t it be awesome if people could also arrange their childcare relationships however they wanted?

  13. brooke r.
    brooke r. August 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm |

    i appreciate this. i am 38 and single. i am also not normal in a multitude of other ways. the one place where this has REALLY cut deeply is in church. i am a liberal christian and most of the churches i’ve attended are centered around couples and families. if i don’t fit into that then there really isn’t much of a place for me in church. yes, i could stop attending church, but i don’t want to, because my faith is important to me. i shouldn’t have to feel less than at church, especially when i know what christ spent his time here on earth doing – accepting everyone. for me, to do any less goes against the teachings of christ. i do not know why churches are like this, but like the rest of society telling me that i’m less than, or not okay, and to hear it from church, while my head knows it’s wrong, makes fighting that message at my heart level even harder.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey August 30, 2011 at 10:12 pm |

    One of the many ways in which my mother is my role model is the way that she transitioned to being a single woman after her divorce. It was never something she planned on or desired, but she realized her relationship with my father was destructive for her and she needed out. (Note: it wasn’t abusive per se, but one of those traditional relationships where the wife sublimates her entire identity to her husband.) During this, she went through a huge process of self-discovery, and while being single was terrifying and lonely for her at first, she found a way to make it work. She did date some guys, but never found the relationship that was right for her, and eventually realized that if the right person came along she would go for it, but the actual dating process was not right for her and she could go it alone if needed. (To be fair, a sustainable income was not an issue for her, as it is for so many.) She spent her time making new friends and rebuilding old friendships, with single and coupled people alike. Actually, I think her closer friends tend to be couples.

    I asked my mum once if she had ever as a young woman (growing up in the sixties and married during the seventies) envisioned her adult life unmarried, and she said it had never occurred to her that she wouldn’t be, except if her husband died before her. Her separation from my dad was completely an act of self-preservation (she told me at one point she came to terms with the idea that she would leave even if it meant having to leave her kids behind, which fortunately she did not have to), but even if some people would see that and her subsequent life of singledom as selfishness, it’s still one of the things I’m proudest of her for because of the example she set for me. I was a pre-teen screwed up by heteronormative scripts at that point and desperate for a boyfriend, and it meant a lot to be shown that I could enjoy romantic relationships, but that my identity and my future didn’t have to be defined by them. I do like the idea of partnership and companionship, but I don’t feel like my whole life will be worthless if I can’t become “coupled” as soon as possible.

    On a more superficial note, I was re-watching The Devil Wears Prada the other day (guilty pleasure – so much hot lesbian subtext. Also, **SPOILERS** following), and while there is plenty of stuff that’s wrong with that film (oh, the fat-shaming and gay-best-friending), one of the things they get right is the portrayal of the protagonist’s romantic relationship and the fact that her single status at the end is conveyed as just something that happens. It doesn’t detract from or overshadow her triumph, it just shows that life goes on and sometimes relationships end, and while they can be important, they aren’t necessarily the central defining feature of a person’s life. I was just so happy that she didn’t have to get (and stay) together with anyone for the movie to make its point, especially as Hollywood is usually one of the main perpetrators of this trope.

  15. Jadey
    Jadey August 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    One other twist – part of my mother’s self-discovery process following her separation was reconnecting with her Christian faith (my dad thinks religion is a silly thing for losers), including engrossing herself in Bible study and theological philosophy to educate herself on her faith, which she continues to do to this day. She had a bit of a glitch early on over whether it was moral for her to be using birth control and having out-of-wedlock sex, but ultimately decided that God wasn’t a dope and neither was she. She also decided that gay marriage was cool during this period. In summary: my mother is awesome, and anyone who uses religiosity to argue with her that women should be married and stay that way is in for a fight.

  16. Shoshie
    Shoshie August 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm |

    Brooke- that’s totally an issue in Jewish communities too. There’s way much emphasis on building families, and people are shocked, SHOCKED, when people tend to disappear in college. All the Jewish institutions are like, “Oh noes! Why do the 20-somethings (and more and more 30-somethings) not like us? Is it because we smell? We need to use coolhipgroovy language to attract them! Wait…but..why isn’t that working? I know! 20-somethings just don’t want to be part of our communities! Yeah! There must be something wrong with them!”

    And when adult, single Jews and/or Jews without children are, like, “wait but we do want community you just don’t really have much for us,” and start forming our OWN awesome communities that don’t revolve around having children or being married, then Jewish institutions tend to flip a shit.

    ::sigh::

    Also, Jadey, your mom sounds awesome.

  17. argyle
    argyle August 30, 2011 at 11:56 pm |

    Thanks for writing this, it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot.
    I’ve always known I never wanted to get married – I love being single, and I never get lonely living alone. When I think of myself as an old lady living by myself in my own little house I feel happy.

    However, as my friends get married and have less and less time for me, I’m starting to realize an awful truth: that I’ll never be a first priority in anyone’s life. Basically, the emotional heirarchy goes: husband/boyfriend, followed by kids, followed by other family members, then friends. Friends are last, and when you get busy they’re the first to lose out.

    It seems ridiculous to get married when you don’t want to just so you’ll get to be “first” in someone’s life, but I have to admit it’s crossed my mind. Is there someplace where there are tons of cool, over 30 women who want to stay single? I’d move there in a second. :)

  18. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy August 31, 2011 at 12:22 am |

    Good points. This is a huge issue to me; I’ve internalized all of these toxic messages and they do interfere with my self-esteem and contentment.

    Interestingly, I never had a problem accepting my queerness or bucking conventional norms in that sense, but whenever I’m partner-less, I feel very uncomfortable. I actually came out to my grandparents recently. My grandpa said he loves me no matter what, and had no problem with my orientation – BUT – he added, “it’s crucial for your happiness to have a partner and settle down – that’s the most important thing in life.” It left me feeling really shitty.

  19. Doctress Julia
    Doctress Julia August 31, 2011 at 2:08 am |

    Argyle, I’m in a certain college town in Wisconsin… and I am 37, never marrying, never having kids. I find myself excluded from almost any activity, because I don’t have a ‘partner’. Wish I could find some more like us, too.

  20. Natalia
    Natalia August 31, 2011 at 5:08 am |

    This post really speaks to me, because it was a period of singlehood that allowed me to become a playwright. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it if I had a steady relationship going at the time.

    By the time I started getting somewhere with plays, I started dating again. And six months after that, I was good and knocked up!

    It was to my benefit and my son’s benefit and my husband’s benefit that I had that time completely to myself. It allowed me to grow as a writer.

    And OF COURSE, people were more than eager to pity me at the time – I had ended a six-year relationship! With a guy whose family was quite a bit wealthier than mine! (if all of this sounds somewhat Jane Austen-ish, well – it really was that way) I was a loser, according to many friends and relatives. Another ex-boyfriend took me out for a beer and actually told me that “your life isn’t QUITE ruined yet, but…”

    If you’re reading this and happen to be hurting after a break-up, or bemoaning your singlehood – you’re OK, really. You are not a loose cannon, there is *nothing* wrong with you. Don’t listen to the assholes.

  21. Elijm
    Elijm August 31, 2011 at 5:33 am |

    argyle

    I’m starting to realize an awful truth: that I’ll never be a first priority in anyone’s life. Basically, the emotional heirarchy goes: husband/boyfriend, followed by kids, followed by other family members, then friends. Friends are last, and when you get busy they’re the first to lose out.

    It seems ridiculous to get married when you don’t want to just so you’ll get to be “first” in someone’s life, but I have to admit it’s crossed my mind. Is there someplace where there are tons of cool, over 30 women who want to stay single? I’d move there in a second. :)

    It’s such a relief to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way, thank you so much for posting this.

    I agree that marriage isn’t the way to deal with this problem, it’s pretty unfair on the person you marry to. Sadly however, I don’t know what the solution is. It makes me sad, then angry with myself, then sad again.

  22. Rhea Boyden
    Rhea Boyden August 31, 2011 at 6:08 am |

    My name is Rhea and I am 36 years old and I live in Berlin, Germany. I also had a decent German boyfriend who earned a lot of money and who wanted me to settle down with him, quit my job as an English teacher and translator and have his kids. I couldn’t do it and I dumped him nearly three years ago. I felt like I was simply an accessory in his life. Someone to play a role. Not for me, sorry. I then dated a crazy musician and played loads of guitar and had a lot of fun. When that ended I started dating a hot computer geek 5 years younger than me. We had amazing dinner dates and hot sex every few weeks. But that went up in flames too, as soon as I realised how misogynist and cold he was. And I mean cold. Hot sex, no emotions. He messed me up and it ended too. I have now been alone for awhile and I have been writing like mad. Short stories, a cookbook and so on. Nothing published yet (if ever) but a lot of good feedback. I organise softball games regularly, travel a lot, write a lot, work full time and have a very busy and fun life in the decadent city of Berlin. BUT: I am still seen as a loser by smug, conservative married people. ‘Don’t you want to settle down?’ ‘What about having a family?’ The 6-year old girl who lives in my building asked me why I lived alone. What should I say to her? I am happy enough, I suppose, but I am very single and I feel marginalised.I find it very hard to fit social norms. I am not happy really. Then I am happy, then I am not. Loneliness and fear of being alone pervade my life. Hopefully I will find a man. It would be nice. But just anyone? No, thanks. It is a dilemma…..

  23. speedbudget
    speedbudget August 31, 2011 at 7:13 am |

    Personally I think a long period of being single is a requirement for every woman. It’s not until you are single and self-reliant that you realize that those choices you made in men before were really kind of stupid. You lose that belief forced upon you in middle and high school that if you don’t have a boyfriend, something must be wrong with you. I completely changed careers and got a better life during my period of singleness, and yes, I had to deal with EVERYONE in my life trying to convince me there was something wrong with me, but every time I gave in a went on a date or two with a guy, I realized how much better was life was being single, so I didn’t tend to throw myself in it as much. Which made for better choices.

  24. speedbudget
    speedbudget August 31, 2011 at 7:14 am |

    Oops I just realized how heteronormative my comment in moderation is, and I want to apologize ahead of time if it makes it out. I was writing a comment from my perspective, but I could have been much more inclusive. Apologies.

  25. HJ
    HJ August 31, 2011 at 8:06 am |

    I agree with speedbudget: spending some time single and self-reliant is pretty great to get some perspective on things. I’ve been a relationship with my completely awesome boyfriend for three years now, and I love it, but before that I lived by myself, without a(ny significant) relationship(s), for over five years, and I really treasure that time. Being with a partner can be great, and I am definitely happier now than I was when I was single, but I wasn’t unhappy, I learned to enjoy spending time with myself, I was a lot more productive/creative (as several people have also noted above), and I know I could do it again if this relationship ended. To me, being in a good relationship > being single, but being single > being in a shitty relationship, and in our society, it’s all too often that people consider any relationship at all (maybe with the exception of truly abusive ones, but that’s not even a given) superior to singledom, and that’s just sad.

  26. Emily
    Emily August 31, 2011 at 8:14 am |

    My parents got together at the end of college and lived with roommates throughout grad school. When they moved to DC they lived alone (together) for one year before seeking out roommates and moving in with a divorced woman and her two daughters. They only lived together for about 3-4 years, but we’ve remained quasi-family and I (oldest child of my parents) LOVED having a “big sister.” There’s a lot to be said for expanding our definitions of family.

    I have a friend whose family of origin was not real supportive growing up, and she was complaining once about her in-laws not understanding how important her friendships were to her. They are of the “family comes first” mentality – which works rather well for people with loving supportive families. But when your family has not been there for you/supportive, your friends may very well be more important to you than your family.

  27. Anon
    Anon August 31, 2011 at 8:31 am |

    @Jadey–I was similarly inspired by the opposite actions of my mom. She married in her late 30s for the first time, and seemed to have a lot of friends who never married. I loved those ladies–so independent and interesting. My mom’s life before she “settled down” sounded so much more fun and interesting to me. I always wondered why she stayed with my dad. He wasn’t abusive but he just seemed like a drag–he didn’t work, and he didn’t do much around the house either (I think he had undiagnosed mental illness–OCD, anxiety, maybe others).

    When I daydreamed in adolescence about my future life, I had my own house by myself, and a dog. My first love tried to cast himself as some kind of great partner because he didn’t beat me or cheat on me, like a lot of guys (in his world). I didn’t fall for that–I told him the question was whether I was better off with him or without him. I ultimately decided without him, but it was hard, because I was very attached to him emotionally. I’m embarrassed to say how influenced I was by a male friend of mine who told me he thought I deserved better. It was interesting when I repeated that explanation to others when I broke up with the guy–”I just think I deserve better.” I had one friend who agreed immediately. My mom, and two good friends of mine who have tended to be in abusive relationships, were totally silent at that. For them, any guy was better than no guy, I think.

    Even more emotionally healthy friends were very focused on coupling–not just sex, but relationships. This made it difficult to stay single because, as others have said, friendships change when people become part of a couple and you do feel on the outside–like the only chance you have of a stable relationship is if you’re part of a couple. There’s also the pressure you feel to couple because people know you’re single and assume you want to be part of a couple. These things plus my conservative view of sexuality pushed me toward coupledom, despite my earlier romanticization of the single life (and tendency to envy the independence of my single friends, who I don’t interact with much now because I have small kids and a chronic illness).

    I think there is a need for alternative relationship structures and I know there are people out there thinking about this (e.g.,Dean Spade). I think it’s probably easier to find such people in larger cities.

  28. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos August 31, 2011 at 8:35 am |

    I do think my singleness is something to be “fixed”. Not because I NEED A MAN!!! but because my life is good, I’m happy, and it would be nice to have someone to share that with. Hate going to bed alone, hate having nothing to do on weekends (because of exactly this – every one of my friends is married and/or partnered and all they like to do is sit on the couch and watch t.v.)

    It feels silly saying this. But its true. There’s no real pressure from family or friends about it – just the occasional “oh, you’re so great! you’ll find someone . . .. someday”. Which is just straight up depressing.

    But, if I have to chose between being me, as I am, or changing myself so as to fit some dude’s idea of a suitable mate, I’d rather be single.

    Most of the couples I know aren’t exactly happy.

    This is a grass is greener problem.

  29. Copyleft
    Copyleft August 31, 2011 at 8:40 am |

    If you’re unfamiliar with the stigma associated with single males, do some Amazon or Google research on the term “Peter Pan Syndrome.” The assumption that a single, childless male is inherently immature is quite common.

  30. Trisha
    Trisha August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am |

    Thank you for this article! I am divorced, childless and spend my days talking with kids and adults about human sexuality, healthy relationships and living life with passion and purpose.

    That said, may I offer the following:

    Whatever you choose for your own life is your own business and your reason fro being alive… and I wish you happiness, peace and success in whatever you choose for yourselves! But please pay attention to the children issue!

    Kids ARE affected by the choices the adults in their lives make … big time! Keep in mind that they may need support in addition to your own to navigate through their culture and help them thrive through the circumstances that adult decisions create in their lives.

    Hopefully our society will continue to move in a direction that is more and more accepting of nontraditional lifestyles and pursuing our unique purpose without judging, but the reality is that evolution is a work in progress.

  31. Zula
    Zula August 31, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    This resonates for me in a weird way because I’m not single, but my boyfriend of five years and I live in completely different states, so for the majority of the time I’m effectively single.

    Sometimes I don’t mind it – or even enjoy it – because I like the feeling of self-reliance I get, and I like not having to worry about my inherent messiness bothering any housemates (besides my cats, but they haven’t complained yet).

    But most of the time I don’t like it at all. Besides the obvious of wanting to spend more (sexy) time with him, I have the feeling that our current relationship setup is unsustainable in the long term, and if we don’t move in together in the near future, it’s going to disintegrate.

    Which is where a lot of the points you bring up come in. Would it really be such a bad thing if we weren’t an official couple any more, but just casual lovers? (We’re polyamorous, so the concept of fluid, malleable sexual relationships isn’t new to us.) Why do we have to live together, with all the technology that allows us to connect over distance? Would the risk and inconvenience of one of us completely uprooting their professional and social lives really be worth it?

    I constantly struggle to figure out what is just nasty social conditioning and what is a legitimate desire.

  32. Cam
    Cam August 31, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Thanks for this article!

    I have been single for awhile and I am tired of friends, family, etc, acting as though I need to be “saved from singleness”. Single is fine for me.

    Also I have to disagree with HJ, I can’t put a value judgement on singleness vs coupledom. For me a good relationship = single and they are both better than a bad relationship.

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous August 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    Reading the comments from people who feel bad about never being first on someone’s list of loved ones got me thinking. I’ve thought about that before and it worries me a little. I wish I could live in a culture similar to the traditional Mosuo culture in Western China. Apparently, it’s the only known culture that doesn’t (didn’t) have marriage. I read about it in Unhitched by Judith Stacey and it blew my mind. Traditionally, everyone would just live in their maternal home forever. Women were not shipped out to live with their husbands’ family because there were no husbands and wives. Anyway, I was thinking that the family structure people had under that system probably allowed for a lot of strong bonds between people. You probably didn’t have to worry too much about being last on everyone’s list of important people.

  34. RR
    RR August 31, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Single men, as far as I’ve seen, don’t seem to face the same freezing out. Wives, after all, are taught to fear the stealing of their husbands, and that they ought to do everything they can to keep them.

    I don’t see how those two sentences relate to each other, could you expand on that?

    Zula:
    This resonates for me in a weird way because I’m not single, but my boyfriend of five years and I live in completely different states, so for the majority of the time I’m effectively single.

    Reading your post made me sad. My best relationship was with someone who lived 90 miles away. Close enough to see each other on weekends and holidays, and constant emails and phone calls, but our own life otherwise. I miss that.

    I don’t especially have any desire for children, but many men do feel that way.

    There are only a few realistic (possible) relationships for men that want children.

  35. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Chally:
    Okay, so, under this heteronormative structure, many wives feel that they have to freeze out their single/divorced female friends so that the latter won’t “steal” their husbands. Women are taught to be responsible for “catching a man” and holding onto him in a way that men are not. In my experience, single/divorced men are allowed to hang out with married couples and are not seen as threats to the marriages, unlike their ex-wives.

    I’ve always found that puzzling. I don’t get jealously really, but presumably the people you trust most not to do something that you would experience as harmful would be your partner and your friends.

    I dunno…M hangs out with my single friends and *gasp* is even better friends with some of my single female friends than I am. They even *bigger gasp* go do things without me.

    But I do often get remarks from co-workers about “letting” M go “out” with “her” (emphasis invariably on those three words). Which always strikes me as pretty much hilarious.

  36. groggette
    groggette August 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm |

    Kristen J.: But I do often get remarks from co-workers about “letting” M go “out” with “her” (emphasis invariably on those three words). Which always strikes me as pretty much hilarious.

    You should hear the comments I get (when I’m coupled) when me or the partner go on actual dates with other people ;)

  37. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    groggette: You should hear the comments I get (when I’m coupled) when me or the partner go on actual dates with other people ;)

    Lol, I think that might actually *break* my coworkers.

  38. Melissa Wright
    Melissa Wright August 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    I really needed to read this article, thank you.

    When I was younger I was frequently getting the “we need to hook you up” talk from friends. I drifted away from those friends because I did not want to get “hooked up”. I’m twenty-five, single, with no plans of getting married or having children. Marriage might happen, but children will not. I do not want to fit in a nice, neat little box, no thank you.

    I would love if people would just… stop trying to tell women that no, no, they aren’t happy being single, no they NEED someone no really you’ll see you’ll change your mind. Uuugh stop.

  39. Esti
    Esti August 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    When I read things advocating for more fluid relationship structures, I get a little nervous about it. Not because we all need to couple off or because a romantic relationship is necessarily more important/permanent than other relationships, but because of the kid thing. And specifically: right now, even when parents are living together in romantic relationships, women do the vast majority of childrearing work. If we moved to a more fluid relationship structure — one in which people were just as likely to live with friends or other family members as they were to couple up — I think that would just get a whole lot worse. I mean, if mom is currently doing 90% of the child raising even though dad is physically living with both her and the child, what’s going to happen if he’s living somewhere else?

    There’s nothing stopping us from creating more equal childrearing arrangements, other than deeply entrenched societal/personal expectations, but until those things change I think the practical effect would be a lot of mothers doing even more for their children and a lot of fathers doing even less.

    (And apologies for the heteronormative nature of this comment, though I do wonder if same-sex relationships see a similar dynamic — one parent doing vastly more work than the other — and it just doesn’t get as much attention because it doesn’t break along gender lines.)

  40. Jackie
    Jackie August 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm |

    Copyleft:
    If you’re unfamiliar with the stigma associated with single males, do some Amazon or Google research on the term “Peter Pan Syndrome.” The assumption that a single, childless male is inherently immature is quite common.

    This irritates the heck out of me too. Like 40-Year Old Virgin, “Do you read anything other than video game strategy guides?” Hey, video games are awesome, men who play video games are also awesome. They need more women like me, who can respect that, and not unplug the game system in the middle of a game before they get to say something, just to get attention!

  41. argyle
    argyle August 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Thanks for taking the time to post, Elijm and Doctress Julia! It’s encouraging to hear that others are going through these things too – it gives me hope that I’ll find some awesome, single, feminist friends who feel the same way I do.

  42. Amy
    Amy September 1, 2011 at 12:16 am |

    Thanks for the post!

    This is along the lines of a book I read recently called “Singled Out” by Dr Bella DePaulo (which is an awesome read btw).

    I read it recently because at 26, being the only person in my workplace who is not married or in a long term relationship (and with no real need or wish to date for the sake of it) the comments on how I’d change my mind when I met the right guy, or how I’ll realise one day that I actually do want kids, and not wanting kids is just a phase (!) started getting to me. (VERY heteronormitive, conservative office. Co-workers have actually started sentences with “I have gay friends…” without realising it’s the homophobic version of “I’m not racist but…”)

    Dr DePaulo goes through the societal pressures around marriage in Western societies and logically tears each myth to shreds.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially if you’re feeling pressured about being single (and therefore broken in the eyes of smug marrieds) or has been met with that look of utter confusion, followed by pity when you say you don’t want kids!

  43. Emily
    Emily September 1, 2011 at 7:35 am |

    I wonder about the effect of the reason for being single. My grandmother lived 30 years as a widow, starting at about 60 years old. My sense was that she had a very active social life. My parents have a good friend whose husband developed early onset Alzeihmers who also seems to be a vibrant part of her social network. But that’s kind of different than being single in the 20s/30s or divorced I guess. To my knowledge neither of the women I am thinking of has/had an active dating life while participating in these social communities. Maybe women who are actively dating but not partnered are seen as more of a “threat”?

  44. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 9:24 am |

    Jackie: Hey, video games are awesome, men who play video games are also awesome. They need more women like me, who can respect that, and not unplug the game system in the middle of a game before they get to say something, just to get attention!

    Yes, those evil harpie bitches. Because women never play their own damned video games and always have to do douchetastic things to their mates to get attention. BUT I’M NOT LIKE THEM, BOYS!!

  45. RR
    RR September 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    I don’t get jealously really, but presumably the people you trust most not to do something that you would experience as harmful would be your partner and your friends.

    You went off course at “trust most”. I think most extreme jealousy also occurs with (starts with?) extreme fear and anxiety, and doesn’t proceed into trust. It’s not about being rational, so you won’t “get it” with logical analysis.

    I disagree that extreme jealousy is taught – it might be learned, but I don’t think it’s taught.

    Back to the original article:
    It’s instinctive to model people around you – that’s probably the driving force behind the emergence of intelligence: the ability to model the world and people, so you can make predictions.

    It’s instinctive to fill in the gaps in your models with things you are familiar with – “I don’t know why she’s single/that way, it must be for the same reasons I would be that way”.

    Everyone around you was born to parents who were born to parents who were born to parents, stretching back quite a while. The people in the generation before you who stayed single and didn’t have kids didn’t leave anyone around for you to meet, and your unkids aren’t going to be there to socialize with the next generation of people who want to stay single and childless. (books, blogs, writing, and memes do sail into the future…)

    I’m happy with “I don’t know why”, but I’ve seen that it infuriates some people. If you don’t give them an explanation they can understand or believe, then they’ll just pick one from inside. And if they are the jealous/guarding/anxious/fearful type they’ll certainly pick the explanation that bothers them most.

  46. Jackie
    Jackie September 1, 2011 at 10:54 am |

    I play video games, where do you think I got such empathy in regards to men. Oops, I forgot, this is a feminist site, better get my man hating in order, to post!

  47. Zula
    Zula September 1, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Reading your post made me sad.My best relationship was with someone who lived 90 miles away.Close enough to see each other on weekends and holidays, and constant emails and phone calls, but our own life otherwise.I miss that.

    I think I’m spoiled because we dated throughout college. We each had our own living space, but we were a two minutes’ walk from each other. We could spend as much time as we wanted with each other, and when we wanted a bit of space we’d just walk back to our respective abodes. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to that arrangement.

  48. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos September 1, 2011 at 11:06 am |

    Yes, those evil harpie bitches. Because women never play their own damned video games and always have to do douchetastic things to their mates to get attention. BUT I’M NOT LIKE THEM, BOYS!!

    LOL. Seriously. All I hear is tap shoes. Faster and Faster.

  49. RVCBard
    RVCBard September 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |

    I’m going to say something publicly that I never admit very often: I have not had a single romantic relationship. Yes, I’ve had sexual encounters, but I’ve never dated as such. But that’s not the weird part.

    I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with me. I don’t see being single as this weird alternative limbo state (as someone said above). I find singleness the default, with coupling as the something extra. I truly don’t understand the idea that, without a romantic relationship, I’m somehow incomplete as a human being (WTF?), and I doubt I’d find someone attractive if they came to me with that “you complete me” line (more like slap a restraining order on them).

    If only the rest of the world saw things that way. It’d make things a lot easier.

  50. Jackie
    Jackie September 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    I tried to post that it appears I’ve been shunned for not falling in line with the traditional man hating that’s associated with feminism, but it seems that post has been deleted. Hopefully this one will go through.

  51. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    Jackie:
    I tried to post that it appears I’ve been shunned for not falling in line with the traditional man hating that’s associated with feminism, but it seems that post has been deleted. Hopefully this one will go through.

    DEAR GOD WILL THE OPPRESSION NEVER END???

  52. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    Sheelzebub: DEAR GOD WILL THE OPPRESSION NEVER END???

    Silly Chally, deciding how she wants to mod her own post and not letting people’s comments through on their time table.

    Though I do like how pointing out that not all women be bitches (unlike me, of course *wink wink*) means I hate men. That’s a new one.

  53. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    Wait, I think I just accidently called my self a bitch in an effort to be sarcastic. I’M OPPRESSING MYSELF!!

  54. Alison
    Alison September 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    argyle, Elijm, Doctress Julia: I am another of your ranks, though in the big picture I’m still somewhat “young”, at 31. But I have been single for a while, and feel like this might be what is meant for my life. And I mean that in a positive way, not a sad one! I think about remaining on my own, into older age, and it actually holds some beauty for me. I do fear losing my parents (who I am currently living with as I’m dealing with chronic illness) and I hope to solidify some close, supportive friendships with similar-minded women. The idea of being a free and independent older single woman, sharing my time with myself, my pets, and my close friends sounds very appealing.

    I say we find a nice woodsy town somewhere and start our own Satisfied Single Women commune :)

  55. Alison
    Alison September 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    (My first comment is awaiting moderation, so hopefully this will come after and not be confusing – just wanted to say that when I said I am of your ranks but still generally “young”, I didn’t mean to imply that argyle, Elijm or Doctress Julia *weren’t* young, as I don’t know all of your ages and don’t want to seem to be making assumptions. I meant more that even though to most of society I would be considered too “young” to decide that I might be happy living the rest of my life as a single woman. Hope I didn’t come across poorly, and hope I’m not even more confusing now! :))

  56. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    Jackie: This irritates the heck out of me too. Like 40-Year Old Virgin, “Do you read anything other than video game strategy guides?” Hey, video games are awesome, men who play video games are also awesome. They need more women like me, who can respect that, and not unplug the game system in the middle of a game before they get to say something, just to get attention!

    More funny in light of the recent video game thread…

  57. Jackie
    Jackie September 1, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    Chally:
    Jackie, I see how this may shock you, but I do have to sleep sometime. I realise that not being awake 24 hours in order to make sure that Feminists Don’t Appear to Hate Men is the best use of my time, so hopefully you’ll excuse me for failing in my womanly duty just this once. Now if you’ll stop bringing “I’m not like them, I’m good, I’m like one of the boys and and and STRAWFEMINISTHATER!” to this thread, which is actually more misogynistic than anything, we could return to the topic.

    Okay, so me as a woman having a view other women disagree with is wrong?

  58. raya
    raya September 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    This resonates for me even when I’m not single. When I’m at work, around my family, and sometimes at uni and other occasions, I don’t feel safe disclosing that I’m not single (but not in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship either) and therefore still get this whole “you’ll find the right man someday”/”just wait a few years and you’ll definitely want kids”/”why don’t you have a boyfriend”/”we should hook you up” crap.
    Being excluded and assumed to feel incomplete and desperate because you happen to be single and a woman sucks. Being treated like that because some people can’t grasp the concept that you like to be in a relationship/fuck people of not (only) the opposite gender sucks, too.

  59. Jackie
    Jackie September 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm |

    I didn’t mean to do that, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it would be received like that. I just thought that women and men could just get along. I thought that was a good thing.

  60. Esti
    Esti September 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    Jackie, no one is disagreeing with your view that women should not just yank the power cord out of the wall while men are playing video games. They are disagreeing with your assertion that lots of women do that, and then your follow up that people taking issue with your silly assertion are trying to shun you because you don’t hate men enough. Both of which are completely ridiculous statements.

  61. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    Jackie: I just thought that women and men could just get along. I thought that was a good thing.

    1) No one here has said men and women can’t get along.
    2) That’s not the point of this post.

  62. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    Sorry, Chally. I was responding when you were!

    I do want to thank you again for this post though. When I saw this I was already on the process of writing a similar one about people telling me “I can’t understand why you’re single” and not accepting “because I like to be” as an answer.

  63. groggette
    groggette September 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    It might take a while since I’m writing it for a local alt paper and am still in the dark about whether I’m getting the column space at all, but I’ll definitely post a link even if it just goes up on my personal blog.

  64. andie
    andie September 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    Jackie:
    I didn’t mean to do that, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it would be received like that. I just thought that women and men could just get along. I thought that was a good thing.

    Accepting singlehood as a perfectly legitimate way to live your life and recognizing that single people may be so because, hey, they LIKE it that way, is not about men and women not getting along.. it goes back to that old principle that frames pretty much every feminist coversation on this site… CHOICE. Deciding you like being single and preferring to stay that way doesn’t mean that men and women don’t get along (let’s just avoid what a heteronormative argument this is.. non-hetero folks also find themselves pressured to ‘pair up’).

    That being said.. wow.. I really loved this post Chally. I have a lot of responses to it, that i may have to parlay into a blog post, as I’m at a point, kind of like Jadey’s mom where I’m on the cusp of deciding that I’m still open to one day having a long term relationship or getting married again, but dating is a pain in the ass and if I stay single, well that’s not so bad. (Have been more or less single for the last 8 years since my marriage broke up with one or two ‘psuedo-relationships’ thrown in)

    I could be wrong but the feeling of ‘being squeezed out’ of social circles may be felt more amongst single women who formed their social circles while in a LTR, because the base of their circle may be more ‘couple-based’, than people who form their social circles while single and may be more varied.. single folks, people casually dating, some people in LTR’s etc.

    There is a problem with the generally accepted meet>>>date>>>cohabitate>>>marry>>>breed trajectory. I’ve known couples that were absolutely great together.. until they tried to live together, so they’d break up. Then start seeing each other, and things are great.. then they live together and things turn to crap and I just want to say Holy Hell, you’d have a lot more fun if you just STOP trying to live together.

  65. andie
    andie September 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    Sorry I didn’t see the Jackie thing until after I finished my spiel.

  66. argyle
    argyle September 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm |

    Cheers, Alison! :)
    I wish there was an online meetup group for people like us. Maybe someday!
    I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining – I love being single, love living on my own, and I wouldn’t give up this freedom for anything. I just wish I had some good friends who would invest as much into their frienships as I do. I’m starting to think those friends will have to be people with a similar lifestyle to mine, because my married-with-kids friends seem to have too many commitments, and often tend to just see friendship as a fun distraction, not an important relationship in itself.
    It’s been really heartbreaking to see myself drop further down their priorities lists after they got married and had children. These were deep, mutually-supportive friendships that I thought would last forever, and now they seem more like aquaintances.
    I guess I’ve got to really get out there and look for some new friends – I know they’re out there! :)

  67. andie
    andie September 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    Chally: Ah, maybe! The way I’ve seen it is that married people (invariably man-woman marriages) are pressured to give up their single friends they met whilst single, particularly those of “the opposite gender,” too.

    I definitely feel it more with my guy friends than girl friends.. I feel like i have to ‘step back’ or else risking the insecurity of their SO.

  68. Alison
    Alison September 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    Argyle – I so feel you on that. I’m at an age now where most of my friends (and I don’t have that many to begin with) are married or in committed LTRs, and/or have children or are planning to soon, etc. The few people I know who aren’t in a committed situation are actively looking for it. So I definitely end up being the odd one out in that I am single and not looking to end that status. (I also don’t have children and do not ever wish to.) And yeah, it seems like people just see a friendship with someone like me as a side thing, a hobby, rather than something to be nurtured like a romantic relationship or a parenting one.

    I’ve known a couple folks who are pretty good at maintaining other friendships while being married or in another form of committed LTR…but yes, unfortunately most of my experiences have been that the person’s attention and interest slowly slackens and then you realize you haven’t seen or talked to them in weeks (or months as the case is with a few people). Now, that can happen to anyone, life gets complicated or busy or whatnot…but what has really hurt me has been when I actively reach out to these people and am either ignored or outright rebuffed. I email or text or write on their FB walls and say I miss them and how about meeting for tea, or maybe one of us could drop by the other’s place, whenever works, etc. And the vast majority of the time it goes nowhere, even when I attempt to follow up. That just makes me sad…and often this happens alongside seeing those people planning events or meet-ups with other couples, other people with kids, or whatnot. So then I feel like it’s my status as a single non-parent that is causing the divide. Honestly, sometimes I feel like it’s a holiday gathering and I’m being made to sit at the kids’ table, as an adult.

  69. andie
    andie September 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    Alison:
    Honestly, sometimes I feel like it’s a holiday gathering and I’m being made to sit at the kids’ table, as an adult.

    Oh My God Yes. I can totally relate to this (even as a parent!). I remember going to my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday and I swear it was 20 married couples and me. Depressing.

  70. Alison
    Alison September 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm |

    andie: Oh My God Yes.I can totally relate to this (even as a parent!).I remember going to my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday and I swear it was 20 married couples and me. Depressing.

    Heh, a Bridget Jones moment! I’ve had those as well…

    I’ve also noticed that even people who are right around my age seem to view me as younger due to not being married or otherwise paired off and not having kids. *That* is very frustrating, especially considering since childhood I’ve always naturally aligned more with people older than me due to generally being “mature for my age” or just having more things in common with older people than with my peers.

    And besides, it’s certainly not as though getting married or having a kid necessarily makes you wiser and more mature. It *can* but it’s no guarantee…

  71. Hypatia
    Hypatia September 2, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    I just found this site and this piece when someone posted it to her facebook page. I was rather startled by it because my own experience is often feeling just the opposite – that, as someone who is single and not happy about it, the pressure is always there to be OK on my own, that I’m a bad feminist if I can’t do everything happily by myself, that my very deep desire for a partner in life is somehow a reflection of some kind of inadequacy in me.

    I do agree about how society is structured around coupledom, at least US society, some places being different in different ways, and do agree we’d all be better off if it weren’t so, if the government got out of the marriage business altogether, if there weren’t legal or social structures that revolved around who we spend our time with and what we do sexually and with whom.

    But I personally haven’t experienced pressure from friends, family, or aquaintences, to be in a couple. When I express my personal sadness about being single, more often than not, I get some variation on the theme of how something must be deficient in me for wanting a partner as much as I do.

    I’m 50 years old and have had significant relationships, but none that has become the lifetime partnership I wish for. I’ve been pretty much single for the past decade and hate it. Even when I’m in a relationship that isn’t going so well (and I’m not talking about abuse, which I have no tolerence for), I’m still happier than being single. I’ve generally been able to enjoy most things on my own, have done the things I wanted, reguardless of whether I had someone to do them with at that point in my life, but for me, something is just missing.

    A couple of times over many years, I’ve had friends try to set me up with someone, but only a couple and I’d welcome their help. Even when I’ve been really clear with friends and relatives (in a very gay-friendly family) that I’d welcome their introducing me to anyone they think I might like, it rarely happens. I don’t even have people trying to set me up with men.

    So I’m trying to decide why my experience is so different from what others are describing.

    One factor in my life and in my difficulty meeting potential partners is that I’m blind. I don’t ever remember that being part of the discussion where my inadequate embrace of singleness was the topic. Usually it’s framed in terms of feminism or psychological health – the assertion that I should be happier being single than I am. I also know about and experience and complain about, perhaps too much, the experience that disabled people in general and blind people in particular are seen as or assumed to be asexual. And we are also often seen as or assumed to be somewhat mentally deficient. I am constantly made aware of this, and spend a lot of time, probably too much, analyzing these assumptions. But it never occurred to me before to link this with all the adamant assertions that I need to be a better, more comfortable single person. Because, well, it just doesn’t seem like the kind of thinking I’d expect from the people I’m close to, with whom I do have the discussion about singleness and my desire for a partner. I’m not sure I even want to go there, to think that what they are really thinking, perhaps even subconsciously, is that, as a blind person, my desires *should* be different than those of sighted people, or that there isn’t likely to be anyone around who *would* want to “marry” me so I shouldn’t be focussing on it – I don’t really know what people could be thinking, but I wonder, if all of the women who are writing here about the pressure to be coupled are women who don’t have disabilities, and if this is the standard mainly for non-disabled women, whe – if there are other disabled women whose experiences are more like mine, who are not writing because the topic doesn’t speak to them the same way. I don’t know that this is the case, but I’d be interested in geting more feedback on this.

  72. argyle
    argyle September 2, 2011 at 2:48 am |

    Alison,
    That’s been pretty much my exact experience too, and it really sucks.
    Personally, I’ve had to pretty much cut some of these people out of my life, for my own peace of mind. I wish them well and will always think fondly of them, but I’m not going to chase after them for whatever crumbs of their free time they have leftover to give me. I’d rather focus on friends who might actually be there for me if I need them.
    I’m so sorry you’re going through this too. Sending encouraging hugs your way!

  73. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos September 2, 2011 at 7:47 am |

    Hypatia – I totally hear you. I feel the same way. Don’t like being single, can’t just accept it – because it feels wrong to me. I don’t know how much of that is societal pressure, and how much is just how I am, but its true, it’s there and I don’t know what to do about it.

    I live in a dying city, which hemmorages people by the thousands year after year. The dating pool gets smaller and smaller. But all of my family is here and I hate the thought of moving away just to maybe meet someone.

    This doesn’t make us “bad feminists”. This makes us human. I think the feminist position (if such a thing exists) is that one can and should strive to be happy with themselves, regardless of the form one’s life takes, and – perhaps more importantly – not to feel “less than” because we might not fit the cookie-cutter definition of “woman”.

    Like I said upthread, I am happy. I like my life. It would just be nice to have someone to share that with.

  74. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 2, 2011 at 9:44 am |

    I’m sort of disabled- learning disability, possibility of being on the spectrum, and the only way I might have been treated differently from my sibs is that my parents made a vague promise to help out with expenses if I wanted a tubal ligation (my idea, not theirs). I dunno if my sis would have had the same help, but then again, they are pretty liberal.
    Personally, I don’t read people that well, so I’m pretty happy to be single and not walk on eggshells all the time. My feelings about coupledom are the same way I feel about joining a religious community- I’d have to change too much about myself for it to be worth it. (Don’t start with the zie’d love you for you bullcrap, please.)

  75. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 2, 2011 at 10:42 am |

    I’m disabled in that I have depression and OCD, but I haven’t got a lot of crap from friends or family about being single (as I am) or being with someone, which is nice.

    There is the sort of cultural narrative of crazy people being a burden on their significant others, and that has certainly always been on my mind. I need a lot of “me” time (I’m also a total introvert), I’m not very touchy-feely and I like having space that is mine alone, so living with someone like you’re “supposed to” in an intimate relationship would be tough. What I would like would be more like a roommate-I-love-and-fuck sort of situation, where we hang out sometimes and are friends and I guess have sex occasionally, but I spend most of my time independent and don’t snuggle much — and I feel like that’s a tough sell in the model of “couple” that our culture has.

    I also end up feeling guilty when I do something like last-minute cancel a date or don’t get back to someone in a timely manner, both of which have happened because of my crazybrain — which puts a lot more pressure on dating or trying to find someone. I certainly would hate to make a partner miserable by neglecting them, but I wouldn’t want to be miserable either by having to overextend myself, and there aren’t many good models for what a relationship would look like that might suit my needs.

  76. Lovely Links: 9/2/11
    Lovely Links: 9/2/11 September 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm |

    [...] “The romantic narrative of the West has no way to deal with women who aren’t seeking a man, or holding on to one. It definitely doesn’t know how to deal with women who don’t experience romantic or sexual desire. Single womanhood as a sustained and satisfying state just doesn’t compute for a lot of people.” [...]

  77. Mary
    Mary September 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    I was with you until this: “Maybe all this could also open people up to sexuality and love we’re taught to repress: if you’re not told you have to find a nice fellow to marry, it’s easier to realise you actually want to settle down with the girl next door.”

    Aren’t you just perpetuating the problem with this statement? I’m single, and have been for a long time and I’m ok with it. I’m happier with this than an unhappy relationship (I’ve had those too). It does not mean I’m gay but just to repressed to act on it. Really it doesn’t.

  78. groggette
    groggette September 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    Mary, I obviously can’t speak for Chally but I took that comment more as speaking to/about queer people who don’t realize they’re queer until later on in life because they never know there’s an option other than heterosexual. I know people here at feministe have expressed those sentiments themselves. I didn’t read it as “everyone’s a little bit gay.”

  79. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    I didn’t read it as “everyone’s a little bit gay.”

    Sure, we’re not gay yet, but singledom will definitely drive all the ladies to lesbianism. And to adopt cats. It’s nature’s way.

    ;D

  80. argyle
    argyle September 2, 2011 at 11:36 pm |

    Mary, I’m pretty sure Chally didn’t mean it that way.

    I understand your annoyance though – I’ve gotten people assuming I must just be a deeply closeted lesbian too and it makes me furious, because if I WERE gay I’d 100% out. Do they really think I’m so cowardly/in denial that I’d spend my whole life pining after women and too chicken to act on it? It’s insulting.

  81. Mary
    Mary September 3, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    argyle:
    Mary, I’m pretty sure Chally didn’t mean it that way.

    I understand your annoyance though – I’ve gotten people assuming I must just be a deeply closeted lesbian too and it makes me furious, because if I WERE gay I’d 100% out.Do they really think I’m so cowardly/in denial that I’d spend my whole life pining after women and too chicken to act on it?It’s insulting.

    This.
    I get that this isn’t what you meant, Chally, but in the context of the article, that piece went a little off-purpose in my view–I guess I saw it as replacing heteronormativity with a more liberalized view where couples (whether opposite-sex or not) are normative and singles still aren’t. And in the end there is still something wrong with me, because I can’t come to terms with my own sexuality, etc. (My sexuality is fine.)
    thanks for writing. this stuff needs to be talked about more.

  82. groggette
    groggette September 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    Bagelsan: Sure, we’re not gay yet, but singledom will definitely drive all the ladies to lesbianism. And to adopt cats. It’s nature’s way.

    Well, I mean that is the path I’m taking, but I know it’s not for everyone. Besides I think I got off that train in Bi-Ville and I’m liking it here too much to move on to the next stop.
    /strained metaphors
    /bad jokes

  83. Jen
    Jen September 4, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    brooke r.: i appreciate this. i am 38 and single. i am also not normal in a multitude of other ways. the one place where this has REALLY cut deeply is in church. i am a liberal christian and most of the churches i’ve attended are centered around couples and families. if i don’t fit into that then there really isn’t much of a place for me in church. yes, i could stop attending church, but i don’t want to, because my faith is important to me. i shouldn’t have to feel less than at church, especially when i know what christ spent his time here on earth doing – accepting everyone. for me, to do any less goes against the teachings of christ. i do not know why churches are like this, but like the rest of society telling me that i’m less than, or not okay, and to hear it from church, while my head knows it’s wrong, makes fighting that message at my heart level even harder.

    I’m 26, single, and go to a conservative Baptist church (but am a secret filthy liberal, lol). You wouldn’t believe how I don’t fit in– we have a college class, then a recently started “young couples” class and then there’s several married couples classes. I’m considering started a singles class for all ages. . . where am I supposed to hang out if I never get married/coupled? What if I decide to adopt a child in a couple of years? You want me to hang out with the college agers until I die alone?

    I feel like shouting sometimes–Jesus was single and in his 30s! If it’s ok for the son of God–back the eff away from me! I’m not something you need to fix!

  84. Kaija
    Kaija September 5, 2011 at 6:25 am |

    Shoshie:
    Brooke- that’s totally an issue in Jewish communities too.There’s way much emphasis on building families, and people are shocked, SHOCKED, when people tend to disappear in college.All the Jewish institutions are like, “Oh noes!Why do the 20-somethings (and more and more 30-somethings) not like us?Is it because we smell?We need to use coolhipgroovy language to attract them!Wait…but..why isn’t that working?I know!20-somethings just don’t want to be part of our communities!Yeah!There must be something wrong with them!”

    Shoshie, that also sounds like *exactly* what happens in traditionally Catholic communities. My older relatives constantly bemoan that the younger generations are “falling away from the church” and when I’ve pointed out that for me at least, a religion that (among other dogmatic problems) offers me the only choices of “virgin or mother” when I’m not interested in either is not a group I feel a part of.

    I agree that a variety of arrangements for one’s personal life is much healthier overall. I adore the idea of living in my own space part-time and sharing space with my beloved partner part-time (a duplex would be awesome!) while also making my circle of friends and extended family members an equally vital part of my inner circle. The fiction of finding The One romantic partner who will fulfill all of your needs is toxic! And most people cycle through a series of partnerships, single life, and in betweens throughout their lifespans anyways.

  85. 12stargazers
    12stargazers September 6, 2011 at 9:28 am |

    Rhea Boyden:
    I am still seen as a loser by smug, conservative married people. ‘Don’t you want to settle down?’ ‘What about having a family?’ The 6-year old girl who lives in my building asked me why I lived alone. What should I say to her? I am happy enough, I suppose, but I am very single and I feel marginalised.

    I have some responses to the questions you get asked. These generally address 99% of the issues others have with my single state.

    For the 6 year old: “Because I like me and who I am. I don’t mind being single. I have friends (and family) for when I get lonely or bored with myself. (Plus, I haven’t found the right person yet.)” The parenthetical bit is for when the first is not enough. I had this conversation with a 7 year old nephew of mine. Being alone by choice was something he understood, but not having kids of my own…for him to play with…was incomprehensible. (Mine is a large, close-knit family.)

    For the adults: “I have standards that I’m not willing to compromise on. Getting married for the sake of being married is not enough.” (If they press the issue, I add “I’m not willing to shortchange my hypothetical children by raising them in an unhappy home.”) The worst your smug conservative detractors can say about you is that you’re too picky.

  86. Kath
    Kath September 6, 2011 at 7:07 pm |

    One thing I think gets neglected in the topic of single women is how reliant on us the world actually is. Single women are more likely to become carers of family members. Single women are more likely to work long hours as professional carers. On average, single women pay higher taxes (in Australia at least), receive little to no tax incentives to work, yet work longer hours than any other demographic. Single women are more likely to volunteer for charity/community work. We are in fact, heavily supplementing our society both financially and in the community.

    In many workplaces, single women get last option for things like holiday leave, shifts and breaks and work through their sick leave, behind families, couples and single men, because they’re perceived as having “no other commitments”.

    We are invisible to the world, yet we carry it on our backs. We are seen as deficient, but are expected to contribute more.

  87. Another Kath
    Another Kath September 7, 2011 at 12:58 am |

    I dunno Kath. Mothering and wifework are pretty much volunteer charity/community activities in my book. And the tax structure in the U.S. is designed to penalize married women for working, effectively to drive their labor back into the home. Marriage is a crap deal. Rather than extending it to gay/lesbian couples, it should be abolished. It just supports the centering of romantic relationships over other ways to organize life, as someone upthread said.

  88. Kath
    Kath September 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm |

    There could be some cultural differences between us Another Kath. After all, “family” is top of the heap here in Australia. Politicians pander to the “family vote”, the tax system is geared to give families bigger breaks and lower rates, businesses cater to the all important family first. Utilities such as water, electricity etc are geared towards families or couples as well – it costs far more per head for a single person than it does for a family or couple.

    Yes, parenting and home duties (it’s worth noting that single women still have home duties too, particularly as they will usually have to do ALL home duties, not those split with a partner) are volunteer/charity work still and women are still pushed back into the workforce (unless they are affluent), but once in the workforce, far more concessions are paid to those in families and even couples, and especially men, compared to single women. Single women are expected to cover the hours that those with partners/children take to be with their families. Single women get last pick of leave times, shifts and breaks because they’re seen as being “commitment free”, even compared to single men. Try getting a workplace to understand that when you have to look after something like repairs to your home or car that you can’t just expect your husband/boyfriend to do it, you need to take time to do it yourself. Many workplaces even expect that one would have her father step in!

    Yet when it comes to the careers in caring for people – health care, elder care, child care etc, these industries are overwhelmingly staffed by single women.

    Even still within family and community, if there is a single woman available, she will more than likely be expected to care for elderly or infirm relatives before it is expected of married people and men.

    Put it this way… if you are fortunate enough to grow very old and require elder care until you leave this world, the last person to care for you is more than likely going to be a single woman.

  89. EG
    EG September 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm |

    it’s worth noting that single women still have home duties too, particularly as they will usually have to do ALL home duties, not those split with a partner

    I wonder about this; the studies I’ve read and seen discussed on feminist boards almost universally show that amount of time spent on domestic labor goes up for women when they marry. I was also under the impression that married women were just as if not more likely to end up doing unpaid eldercare not only for their own elderly family, but also for their partner’s.

  90. llama
    llama September 9, 2011 at 8:55 am |

    argyle: It seems ridiculous to get married when you don’t want to just so you’ll get to be “first” in someone’s life, but I have to admit it’s crossed my mind. Is there someplace where there are tons of cool, over 30 women who want to stay single? I’d move there in a second. :)

    If you want to be first in someones life then they probably need something in return (like being first in you life). It doesn’t much matter what type of relationship this is but it expects something in return which seems to be the point where you have a problem.

  91. Daisy
    Daisy September 12, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    argyle: Cheers, Alison! :)I wish there was an online meetup group for people like us. Maybe someday!I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining – I love being single, love living on my own, and I wouldn’t give up this freedom for anything. I just wish I had some good friends who would invest as much into their frienships as I do. I’m starting to think those friends will have to be people with a similar lifestyle to mine, because my married-with-kids friends seem to have too many commitments, and often tend to just see friendship as a fun distraction, not an important relationship in itself.It’s been really heartbreaking to see myself drop further down their priorities lists after they got married and had children. These were deep, mutually-supportive friendships that I thought would last forever, and now they seem more like aquaintances.I guess I’ve got to really get out there and look for some new friends – I know they’re out there! :)

    I understand totally. Because you can’t and don’t want to do everything solo. It’s hard to play golf or tennis by yourself (and less fun, usually). And for all the fun of poking around in a new place by yourself (that freedom of following exactly your own path and only that), it sometimes can get a little… dull. Having someone else with different tastes, interests, etc. opens up your world. You might stop at a restaurant you wouldn’t try on your own, as a simple example.

    I sometimes think my non-single friends misunderstand when I say “I enjoy being single.” and take it to mean “I enjoy being alone (always).”

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.