Every time she hung out with her single female friends, the same gripes surfaced. “Enough already with the how-to-snag-a-guy advice streaming from anyone and everyone as soon as status single was announced,” they said.
Suddenly, Karin Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Concordia University Chicago, found herself keeping track of what these single women were saying, replacing the strict academic research techniques she was used to with more informal polling.
What she found was a deluge of well-meaning advice being issued to singles that, while offered with the best of intentions, not only wasn’t working but was making singles’ skin crawl. “The message to singles tends to be that they’re doing something wrong: ‘You’re too this” or “You’re not enough that.” Being single is treated as a problem that needs to be solved,” says Anderson. “That’s bogus. We should be telling single women, ‘You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong. Enjoy your life.'”
These five snippets of well-meaning advice to singles top Anderson’s list of worst offenses. Here’s why.
1. What You Say: MAYBE YOU’RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH
What They Hear: “This can come off sounding like you’re passing judgment on effort,” says Anderson. “It’s better to encourage a single person to explore new relationships to the extent they’re comfortable and to extend themselves in ways that feel natural and not forced.”
2. What You Say: YOU’RE TOO PICKY
What They Hear: This implies that at some point, she’s no longer allowed to be discriminating,” says Anderson. “This sends single women the message that their time to be choosy is up and that it’s now time to go out and pick up any chump.”
3. What You Say: GET BACK OUT THERE!
What They Hear: This can send the signal that the single person is simply not doing enough speed dating, Internet dating or blind dating — or worse, that she isn’t living a full enough life. “Singles are not, by definition, hiding out in their closets curled up in the fetal position all day,” says Anderson. “Most are likely working, meeting friends out for dinner and events, and working out.”
4. What You Say: WEAR MORE MAKEUP
What They Hear: More than implying that the search for Mr. Right is as easy as brushing a spot of color onto the cheeks, this comment offends further by actually attacking a person’s core identity. “A woman presents herself according to what she defines as meaningful. Whether her style is glamorous belle or au natural, every woman should be allowed to be herself. There’s a man out there who is going to be attracted to her style, whatever it is. If she’s presenting herself as anyone other than who she really is, that’s false advertising and it’s going to backfire.”
5. What You Say: TONE IT DOWN A NOTCH
What They Hear: You ask too many questions. You’re too intimidating. You’re overly-opinionated. You’re too consumed with work. “This is interpreted by single women to mean that they have to dial down their core identity a notch in order to attract potential suitors and make them feel comfortable,” says Anderson. “Suggesting that a woman reduce the fullness of who she is to lure a mate will lead to an inauthentic connection and is a recipe for a disastrous relationship or marriage. Because really, how long can any person fake it and maintain a facade?”