There’s a single stigma, ask any single person over twenty-five, and they are aware of it. Single women often get asked, “Are you dating anyone…yet?” by every couple they know. Because they’re in a couple, why aren’t you? There must be something wrong with you if you can’t find happiness as they did. The side eye we get from every married woman, the pat on the shoulder and the head tilt followed by the phrase, “Don’t worry, he’s out there. Just keep looking.” and “Have you prayed on it, sweetie?” Are they trying to make me feel like a loser for not being on my way to the fairy tale of happily ever after? That’s what you’re doing, so if you could stop that would be great, thanks.
Most single women are not losers; they are occupied; working at kicking ass in their career, being a homeowner, raising children on their own, taking care of ailing parents, or the 874 things they’re expected to do every day because they’re single women and they can get shit done. But some people still treat them as though despite all their accomplishments, nothing matters because they are missing the Holy Grail, a husband. So not only do they carry around their heavy workload, they carry around the stigma of being single.
Bella DePaulo Ph.D. coined a term called singlism, the stigmatizing of adults who are single. She writes in Singled Out,” People who do not have a serious coupled relationship (my definition, for now, of single people) are stereotyped, discriminated against, and treated dismissively.” Being single and having experienced all of these things, I agree with her. However, she goes on to compare singlism to racism, sexism, or heterosexism; I think that’s pushing it a little, actually, a lot. A relationship status can be changed. Race or gender cannot (gender can, but a gender change brings even more sexism, so it’s a moot point).
Single women feel this stigma from happy dating couples, married couples, and Ph.D.’s are creating new words for the weird vibes we get in public. Where does it originate? Are we overthinking? Have we created a delusion that something must be wrong with us because we’re women and that’s what we do? This fairy tale idea has been perpetuated since we were children and our bedtime stories were about a princess being rescued by a prince. But, do we still need to be rescued?
« Divorcée: presumed to be on the prowl for another woman’s husband »
The single stigma women have is just a little stronger for the divorcée. I’m a divorcée so if I didn’t feel bad enough about my marriage ending then singlism is another chance for me to feel bad all over again. As D. A. Wolf writes, the divorcée conjures a sexy little ex-missus in a cocktail dress and kitten heels, presumed to be on the prowl for another woman’s husband. And this is where the stigma lies; I couldn’t possibly prefer being without my big strong man to take care of me, so married women see me as a threat and a cautionary tale. Calm down Susan; I didn’t want my husband, I sure as hell don’t want yours to replace him.
And the men, oh the men, where do I start? The husbands of your married friends don’t want you around because you might give their wife the idea to leave them. No, Lenny, that’s all you. Some men can’t imagine how you’re navigating this wicked world without a man to take care of you. They’re all over you (and in your DM’s) with offers to do repairs and “trim your bushes.” And we can’t forget the men who think of you as the ‘thirsty” singleton or divorcée; they send constant invitations begging to cure your loneliness by DMing dick pics (we all know that guy, don’t be that guy).
After my divorce, the first one, not the second one, I found myself starting all over again. As a divorcée, I was dealing with a new life and a new set of fears and attitudes — the people who only knew me as married never seemed to treat me the same. I felt like a failure around my churchgoing Southern Baptist family, and I felt like a “thirsty” husband hunting single mom around my friends. Being a divorcée was my life now, I was the same person, but everything was different. Why was this happening? I got married like I was supposed to yet here I was, alone, with everyone looking at me like I was a loser.
« I was the same person, but everything was different. »
Being a newly single mom made everything in my life go nuts. I had just got my retail career going at warp speed, my son was young and involved in sports, but I couldn’t afford help at the time; it was a chaotic period in my life. I felt as though my friends should be supporting me during all of this but they had something very different in mind. My single friends wanted me to go out and meet someone new although I had no time and my married friends didn’t know how to behave because they did not know me without my “other half.”
After being on my own for a year, my self-esteem was shit; I felt insignificant. I was starting to feel lonely when I finally met someone. My new someone didn’t have to say much at all to convince me that he was “the one” who was going to rescue my little boy and me. I was still youngish and holding onto the fantasy of Prince Charming; I know lame. Eleven years later, I divorced him. My second divorce almost destroyed me, so I did some self-reflection and thought about the idea of happily never after.
During my self-reflection, I went through all seven stages of grief: shock, denial, guilt, anger, loneliness, reconstruction, and finally acceptance. It. Was. Brutal. A good dose of self-reflection mixed with a little bit of self-acceptance always is for me. I became The Crazy Christmas Lady (grief); faced everything he had been doing behind my back (shock); continued my life as though nothing happened (denial); finally returned his call (guilt); decided the smartest thing a woman can do is to never need a man (anger); signed up for Tinder (loneliness, and fun, tbh); and started working again (reconstruction).
When I started working again, part of that work was this blog, and I started this blog to tell my story. Through telling my story, I have realized that it wasn’t all my ex-husband’s fault, it’s never one person’s fault. I didn’t have to stay all those years (acceptance). When that hit me, I realized I didn’t have to stay for some other situations in my life. While some situations are out of our control, we control our reactions, and we control our destinies. I held onto the dream of happily ever after for forty years, and I still see so many women who believe it’s the only role they were created to play. This stigma single people feel may be from the fairy tales we hold onto and others push onto us. I also believe we need to take responsibility for the energy we are putting into the Universe. The whole we get what we give holds in every situation, and the single stigma is no exception. Awaken The Greatness Within concurs that, “How we feel is determined by our emotions.” and “Our emotions are influenced by our thoughts and beliefs.”
« The only role they were created to play. »
Some women have been conditioned into the belief that life would be better if they had a partner. These women are waiting on happiness until they find “the one.” They don’t want to go anywhere unless there’s a possibility of meeting men. God forbid they waste a face of Maybelline on a day with no prospects. Examples of phrases I have heard from women include: “I am so much better when I’m with a man.”, “I don’t want to go there; we never meet men there.”, “We were put on this earth to procreate.”, and “You know you would be so much happier if you had a man in your life.” Yeah, I have heard these phrases come out of a woman’s mouth. I died a little inside each time. While it is perfectly fine for each woman to have her own set of beliefs in what will make her happy, why does a man need to be the only possibility for every woman?
It’s not! I was that woman who had been conditioned into the belief that marriage was the way to happiness. Did I help perpetuate this fantasy in some ways when I was younger? I believe I did, and I believe that it took heartbreak and a lot of self- love to find “the one.” I am the only “one” I will ever need to complete my life; I am whole just as I am. I hope this is your take away: the way to happiness is whatever works best for YOUR life. When you find a partner that makes you a happier and better person when you’re together, by all means, be together because you want to; not because you feel like you’re supposed to. I’m aware that I often sound like a man-bashing feminist, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although I know that I do not need a man, I have realized that I want a man, there’s a big difference. Now I’m looking with discernment, not desperation.
Stop waiting for “the one” because you are “the one”. Live your best life for you. Alone or with someone who makes you want to be your best self. Pay attention to the energy you are putting out and pay attention to the energy you are receiving. If you are receiving bad energy (single stigma), you can leave. After I labeled myself as, ‘The Single Woman’s Spokesperson,’ I no longer feel the pressure to find “the one.” But I’m still looking, stay tuned…
Do you ever feel single stigma around couples? If you’re in a couple do you ever ask you’re single friends when they will find “the One”? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.