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Isn’t it sad that some people are surprised that you can be happily single? April 6, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy.
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Kudos to Contented Single, who (inadvertently) titled this post thanks to her comment at the end of this discussion about whether or not being Onely has made me clueless. In answer to her question, YES I DO think it’s sad that some people are surprised that you (we) can be happily single! In fact, running this blog has spoiled me; I’ve clearly forgotten how unusual the Onely mindset seems in the public’s eyes.

Having my friend Jenny in town last month reminded me of that. We don’t know each other all that well, and I offered to let her stay with me since our national annual conference was here in Louisville. I wasn’t sure how things would go, since we only ever see each other in academic contexts — and since I try to keep my academic life separate from this blog, she doesn’t know anything about Onely. She stayed with me for five days, and during that time, not only did she insist that my friend George was “in love” with me — she also kept mentioning how “happy” I seemed being single.

Her surprise was as great as mine! The second night she was in town, she told me how different I was from most of her single friends back home, who she described as strangely “resentful” when she got married last summer. And a couple nights later, after she met George and couldn’t help trying to pair us up — and I kept resisting her compulsion, she finally “admitted” that if I was really happy being single, then (she supposed) there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

I almost told her about Onely, but then I decided against it because I was just so fascinated by her surprise that I wanted to see if it would last through the whole visit. And it did. So when I saw her off, I felt pretty satisfied, knowing I’d made a good impression on her as a happily single person. I think she’ll carry it with her — I guess we need more Onelers to represent!

Copious Readers, have you had experiences like I had with Jenny, when someone expressed surprise by your happy-and-single status?

— Lisa

PS: Jenny also told me that she felt that after she got married and started wearing a wedding ring all the time, she’d noticed a big change in the way men treated her (less as an object). Made me think that I should start wearing a fake wedding ring on errands or when traveling — as a social experiment! If you have thoughts about this, please share. 🙂

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Comments»

1. io anony-mouse - April 7, 2010

Maybe it’s because some people can’t fathom that others can think or want things that aren’t what they consider “normal”.

Most people aren’t the liberal thinking type – that people can act, think, behave in whatever way they like.

So they don’t think that people can think in ways that aren’t “traditional”.

The biggest example of this must be the gay movement.

Why don’t people accept that there are some people in society that are different to them? Different to what traditionally is considered “normal”? This is maybe a BIG example of what society is lacking … and a smaller example might be that some people are happily single.

Just an idea ……. don’t shoot the messenger!!! 😉

2. Lauri - April 7, 2010

First, regarding the wedding ring social experiment, I’d just like to remind you that it backfired on George Costanza.

My most recent experience with the phenomenon you describe however, was a few months ago. My grandmother is really old and starting to develop dementia and will just talk and say whatever crosses her mind. I usually just ignore it, but one day she her topic seemed to be me getting married, and she kept going on and on about it. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore I said, “will you just stop it, I don’t want to get married, ok!” (which isn’t COMPLETELY accurate, I still don’t know if I would get married if I found myself in that position, but you know what I mean). Anyway, my aunt just gasped and looked horrified. My instant thought was to feel really bad for yelling at my grandmother- I really thought my aunt’s reaction was to my harsh tone at my elderly grandmother who can’t help it. But, upon further reflection, I really think that my aunt’s reaction was the the CONTENT of what I said. Making the statement that I don’t want to get married got the same response as if I said that in my spare time, I enjoy kicking puppies. It was like I had stepped on something precious of my aunt’s. Very bizarre.

3. Alan - April 7, 2010

Can’t say I’ve ever really experienced the kind of bafflement people are describing here. It could be different, being a man. Or it could be that, being seen as a quiet academic type, people don’t expect me to be married.

But as I said over at Bella DePaulo’s website, I think people sometimes react the way they do because they see happy singles as an alternative to marriage, and thus a threat. Because many people want simplicity and predictability and a minimum of choices, because it makes them feel safe. Questioning makes them nervous, because it suggests that alternatives are possible…

4. April - April 8, 2010

I had a conversation much like that a few weeks ago; where I explained to a friend, and he said he understood, but then went on to make a lot of comments about how I’ll find “the one.” It can be frustrating, but I’m glad I found Onely and others who get it!

5. samantha - April 12, 2010

I don’t even bother telling most people anymore. They can’t fathom it. The default position in our society, for women, is coupled. Whatever… I’m just happy the way I am and every day I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to deal with someone else’s crap!!

6. Lauri - April 12, 2010

“I don’t even bother telling most people anymore. They can’t fathom it. The default position in our society, for women, is coupled. Whatever… I’m just happy the way I am and every day I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to deal with someone else’s crap!!”

i think it’s the default position for men these days too. hence the lack of single men around…while I enjoy being single, I do still like men- I wish I could find one that wasn’t married!

I recently told a friend about guy I had been dating who was in his late 30s, yet still was a little immature when it came to scheduling things…anyway, she was like, “has he ever been married?” and I was like, “no” and she was like, “well there you go. If a guy’s still single at that point in their lives, it’s probably both the cause and effect of them acting like that.” I found that so insulting, to both me and the guy I had been seeing. “Still not married”? It amazed me that a young, educated, independent (though married) woman would see things like this…

Onely - April 12, 2010

Lauri — I have had similar responses to my flaky-guy experiences, too! The irony is that one *truly* flaky guy I dated *had* been married before. Marriage does NOT equal maturity! DUH.

— L

Lauri - April 15, 2010

The ridiculous thing about the assumption that “still” single guys are flaky is that, um, I am in my 30s. If I shouldn’t date a guy who is “still” single in his 30s, then what do these people want me to do? I’m supposed to limit my dating to the pool of guys who got married super young and subsequently divorced? Yeah that sounds like an excellent plan. I’m sure those guys are WAY higher quality than the ones who are “still” single…

7. Sixty and Single in Seattle - April 15, 2010

As David Brooks said in his infamous recent post about Sandra Bullock and happiness, the thing that most contributes to unhappiness is — commuting. That should be way up there on the list above singleness. Imagine single AND commuting…

8. RachelA. - April 16, 2010

When I was in college I used to wear a fake engagement ring to avoid being hit on. It worked very well and made my life a lot easier. I highly recommend it, particularly if you hate constantly having to deflect unwanted attentions.

9. Exchurchmouse - May 11, 2010

I am a born again Christian and a recovering Bible beater, so imagine how wierd it must be for a Christian single woman to be happy with being single at 30 when marriage and nesting is what a Christian girl should long for.

There is a website that really champions marriage above being single and breeds a lot of insecure single people – not surprisingly Conservative women in their late 20s and 30s. Something’s gotta give…

Onely - May 14, 2010

Exchurchmouse,

As someone who grew up as a Christian fundamentalist (my dad was a minister, even!), I *totally* identify with what you’re saying. In the Catholic church, you can remain single and be happy if you’ve dedicated your life to God. But in the conservative Christian environment, there’s not even an option like that. I’d be interested in your take on “singles groups” in the church…?

— Lisa

10. Karen Roe - June 5, 2010

If someone is miserable or upset every time their friends get married, then I would have a hard time believing that person is happy to be single. A very hard time. Sorry, but I just know too many single women who get mad about every shower or wedding invitation they get in the mail. Yet these same women claim to feel empowered by their single status. Uh-huh. Right.

Onely - June 6, 2010

Hi Karen,

Although I certainly can’t speak for your single friends, I would like to suggest that you consider other reasons why these women may get upset about weddings and showers… Perhaps it’s not because they are unhappy being single (or, as you imply here, jealous of other people getting married), but because of the privileges that married people receive just by being (or becoming) married. Christina and I are always happy when our friends are happy — including when they get married — but we have both experienced ambivalent feelings when confronted by the fact of marital privilege, especially when marriage is assumed to be “normal” over and against being single as an adult.

Like I said above, I can’t speak for your friends, but I wanted to offer this alternative way of understanding them. It is only one among many possible explanations for why they get upset and angry, but I’d encourage you, if you’re confused about their responses to wedding invitations and such, to ask them why they get upset. I think this would be a more respectful way to regard your friends, rather than treating their thoughts and feelings with such skepticism. Human beings are such complex creatures, it’s hard to assume we actually understand others.

— Lisa

Onely - June 6, 2010

I am I allowed to say that this is a great, measured, mature, and calm response? Or is that kind of like tooting my own horn, because Lisa is my co-blogger?
= )
Christina

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