THE SUBTLE STIGMA OF "STILL SINGLE"

Being single has often, to me, been another way of saying I'm in between relationships. The unfortunate waiting period after one relationship ends before the next one (maybe "THE ONE!") begins. The message is received in many ways...both from the outside but also VERY much from within. It's only been recently that I've been able to see it so clearly myself.
 

Singlehood is for the first time in history is now a bigger pool of women than married women. And women are choosing marriage later and later in life. I've been obsessed with Rebecca Traister's new book, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES, which I picked up on a whim while traveling. I have been savoring every chapter and insight ever since.

What has hit me lately is the ownership within myself to BE SINGLE. And it's not "still single", meaning the point is to NOT be single but for the moment I am. Like an unlucky situation you are hoping changes very soon. It sounds obvious and simplistic but I don't think it is. At least hasn't been for me and the last group of women that attended my BUSTING THE GOOD GIRL workshop on LA. We spoke about the subtle difference in relating to yourself that way. One feels like you're waiting for someone to come along and pick you from the bench for their kickball team..."Oh you're STILL not on a team yet?" versus just owning the fact that your life is busy, you are really fulfilled, incredibly happy, and you're not going to hook up with just anyone who comes knocking just to check off that box.

To be honest, it takes a LOT to proudly own being single as a woman. It feels like a false affirmation technique you tell yourself when you have lost. "No, it's ok. I WANTED to lose." But that's NUTS! And not even true. But it can feel like it. The pressure is from outside and within. And it takes something to not fold or apologize or make excuses. To OWN this is a very conscious choice, one that I am making based on what I want, what is important to me, and who I want to become. Does it mean I am ANTI-having a boyfriend? Not in the least. But there's a bar, a standard in myself where compromising is not interesting or worth it. At one time it was. It was more unconscious but the need to have a boyfriend, to be IN a relationship was a void that MUST be filled. Having NO boyfriend was somehow worse than having a mediocre one. Which I've had many of. Now THAT'S nuts. But so ingrained. And that's why at the moment, I'm having an epiphany of sorts about "singlehood".

When I post photos now on Facebook my mind starts churning out the familiar critiques of what my life must look like, and oddly a fear of being seen that something is WRONG sneaks in, there MUST be a reason I'm "still single"...what could it be? Not being approached every single time I enter a bar or movie theater or Starbucks at some point does trigger the fear that I'm not "pickable". What is wrong with me? Why am I not date-able? So and so is always on dates. Then the comparisons start...oh well maybe I should be more like this or that. Ugggg. Pretty insidious stuff. Now I went to therapy and read those books too...yes, sometimes it's that we're pushing intimacy and vulnerability away. Or we're secretly angry and mistrust men. That's always a possibility and on me to figure out my different motives for everything I do. But of course those are not the only reasons why someone would chose to be single. Single isn't "wrong" and the reasons why someone chooses singlehood aren't from a lack or problem. But THOSE beliefs run deeeeeeep. It's quite possible a woman chooses to stay single simply because she prefers to not be in a sexual relationship. Boom.

Now that argument often leads to another little voice...a voice that often pops up when I think about what my life must look like from the outside or from my akashic record known as Facebook. I imagine someone looking over my photos concluding, "there Holly is again with another female friend, and ANOTHER...hmmm, haven't seen her cuddling up to some dude in a long time, wow since 2013? Really? Ok well, I know she's very vocal about being pro-LGBTQ so, yeah, come on, when is she going to come out already???!" Ah yes, the good ol' highly intelligent argument that a single, strong woman MUST hate men. She must be a big lesbian. And as much as I hate that I have that, it is a crazy and weird 'fear'...which makes no sense clearly. For everyone who knows me, that is not a comment whatsoever about lesbians or a gay or bi-sexual lifestyle. That's just not mine. But the rub is that there's an assumption somewhere out there that only a woman who does not like men sexually would choose to go without one for this long. And the older I get, having never been married, well the "proof" keeps adding up. And the weird thing is there's a part of me that is programmed to CARE about what people think of me and my dating life...as if they are all waiting to "like" a post where I telegraph to the world I AM IN A RELATIONSHIP!!!!! SEE????? I'M NORMAL!!!!

I recently read an article that the amount of women who create fake boyfriends when asked out by a guy they're not interested in - it's a crazy huge percentage. There are apps for it and websites dedicated to help you craft the perfect fake boyfriend so you don't piss of guys who ask you out. Saying "no thanks" clearly doesn't suffice. How could we prefer to stay single when being offered a date or more? Mixed in there is that we also are overly concerned for other's feelings and the aggression many gals receive in turning down a guy. That's another CRAZY can of worms for another post. To me creating a fake boyfriend helps prove that we don't want to go on a date with whomever asks BUT never fear, I am still dating. I don't "hate men" I am just not single. 

However as I mentioned, the more I study singlehood, the more I am seeing what a VERY powerful club it is and has been. One that is making me more and more PROUD to be part of it. One that we hardly celebrate...more apologize for or feel shame for. Reading Traister's book, she points out that most of the significant and radical change that has occurred for women's rights over decades and decades has been taken up by women who were single...either never married or married but said adios to their husbands when it was clear being a wife was more limiting than they preferred in order to give their time, energy and attention to women's issues. A few were married with supportive husbands but just a few. Susan B. Anthony, when asked about love and marriage said, "I've been in love a thousand times!...But I never loved any one so much that I thought it would last...I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man's housekeeper. When I was young, if a girl married poor, she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealth, she became a pet and a doll. Just think, had I been married at twenty, I would have been a drudge or a doll for fifty-five years." Instead she was instrumental in changing the world and liberating women - as in half the population.

These single women were ridiculed and pitied far worse than today...but the roots of feeling bad about being single were clearly laid back then with terms like "spinster" (unmarried women who worked as 'spinners' of thread), "thornbacks" (if you were sadly unmarried after the age of 26! Oh my!); "mannish maidens" and "Amazonians" were single women who were labeled unfit for marriage. In 1853 it was written in THE NEW YORK SUN, "The quiet duties of daughter, wife or mother are not congenial to those hermaphrodite spirits who thirst to win the title of champion of one sex and victor over another." So...married or a hermaphrodite. Ummm, got it, thanks. Message received.

So I am experiencing stronger than ever before pride in my singlehood. At the moment I need to own that I am choosing singlehood to a large degree. I am not willing to sacrifice the life I have constructed for myself for just any relationship. I'm not letting myself get distracted by guys who would take me off my path or out of my sense of power and self-worth. A few times I've veered too far in that direction and it felt AWFUL. The GOOD GIRL believes the fairy tale. A happy ending and fulfillment lie on the other side of that magical kiss by Prince Charming. And she feels like crap until that happens, she hasn't been picked yet and that MUST be her fault somehow. But the other part of us, the "FUCK IT" as I like to refer to it in my talks and teaching, is already full and fulfilled. Sometimes it takes work to get from one side to the other but it's always doable. And knowing there's a legacy of incredible, brave, pioneering women who made the same choices for the same reasons actually helps a lot. Maybe the next phase of the women's movement will be to own and celebrate singlehood not as an "in between" state but as a conscious, empowered choice to live our lives to the fullest and value the life we've created and the person we've become. If a guy enters my world and compliments it, supports it, pushes me and helps me grow and experience life in new ways...right on! Sign me up. If not, sorry...I don't have time, I've got bigger things to accomplish.