Popping The Question: So, Why Are You Still Single? September 5, 2011Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: awkward questions, responses to why are you single, rude questions, rude singles questions, why aren't you
This post originally appeared in the book Singlism, by Bella DePaulo. It reprises earlier posts–here and here and here–where Onely and our Copious Readers discussed awkward questions about relationship status and how to respond to them. Readers’ responses originally appeared in the comments sections of the above links. We look forward to hearing more ideas about how you all would “pop” unsavory or singlist questions.
Long before Lisa and I created Onely.org, I was on the phone with a friendly, interesting guy I’d met at a party (let’s call him Ralph). Some minutes into the conversation, Ralph hit me with the question, “So, why are you still single?” I paused, unsure how to reply. I felt as if he had judged my life and found an inadequacy I’d never noticed–the way I might feel when someone says, “You’re wearing that?” So I hemmed and hawed and cancelled our coffee date and never called him again. Extreme? Maybe. Defensive? Perhaps a little. Probably other things about him bothered me, too. But all I remember is that one question, and the feeling of a switch clicking over in my heart. I couldn’t figure out why Ralph’s words bothered me, not until much later.
Our friends, family, colleagues (and even strangers!) usually intend to be helpful and friendly when they ask:
You’re so [complimentary adjective here]; so, why are you still single?
However, when they pose this question, they imply that being single is a sickness no one would possibly tolerate if they could help it – as if singlehood were a gross, drippy nose that could and should be cured by a swallow of Sudafed.
In a series of posts on Onely, Lisa and I identified two major problems with the question:
First, posing this question suggests that because an individual has [insert complimented-upon superb qualities here], that individual must be 1) seeking a relationship, and 2) happy when in a relationship because of impressive personal attributes. It’s a case of faulty logic, really, to assume that a person’s personal qualities have anything to do with whether they should be in a relationship, will be successful or happy in one, and/or even want to be in a relationship.
Second, the question evaluates the single person on account of his or her single status – it seems to ask, “You are in this less-than-ideal state, but you have the ability to extract yourself from this state, so why haven’t you done so?” In other words, this question ignores the fact that a single person may not agree with the questioner’s assumption that an individual’s single status is less than ideal.
So, we asked ourselves and readers of Onely, what’s a happily single person to do when confronted by this question – or one of its many variants? The retorts ranged from snarky to goofy to politely educational. We’ve collected some of our favorites below:
Q: Why are you still single?
A: Why are you still stuck in the 18th century?
OR: Why are you still with that creep?
OR: Because a relationship would interfere with my plans for world domination.
Q: How’s your love life?
A: Fantastic! I love my life!
Q: Why aren’t you married yet?
A: Why aren’t you dead yet?
OR: So I can be unhappy or divorced like most normal people?
OR: Why are you?
OR: As soon as you get some home-training, Miss Emily Post.
OR: Just lucky I guess…
Q: When are you getting married?
A: When are you moving to Tucson?
OR: As soon as you have your fifth kid.
OR: As soon as marriage has lost its … patriarchal baggage.
OR: When are you getting a Pomeranian?
Q: Where’s your boyfriend?
A: In my bedside table drawer.
OR: Why do I need a boyfriend?
OR: The batteries are recharging.
Q: When will you have children?
A: I tried that, but the state kept taking them away.
OR: When the world population [begins] shrinking.
Minutes after Ralph asked me, “So, why are you still single?” I thought, Because I keep meeting guys like you. I didn’t say it though, because I’d already hung up in a polite fury. And also, my retort wasn’t quite true. A little voice deep inside me had begun to whisper: I’m single not because I can’t find Mr. Right – but because I don’t care whether I ever find Mr. Right. I didn’t fully articulate this radical idea at the time, but it percolated up until the day Lisa and I invented Onely.
If I could go back in time to that phone call, I know what I would say to Ralph: Thank you.
–Christina (and Lisa)
Photo credit: crystaljingsr