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Popping The Question: So, Why Are You Still Single? September 5, 2011

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Your Responses Requested!.
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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: (more…)

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