So, you cleared out the fallout from New Year’s Eve, you settled into your new fitness routine, you’re nearly ready for tax season… and then you notice that the supermarket is suddenly full of red balloons and teddy bears clutching anatomically incorrect hearts.
The Valentine’s Day countdown has started, and with it, single people’s running of the gauntlet of shame.
Mind you, being single was never particularly fun in the West. Some decades, they called us witches. Some decades, they called us bad, mad, or sad. For women especially, being single meant you had no standing and no way of providing for yourself, no matter how smart you were or what your contributions to society could be.
These days, we’re told that singledom is a blessing. That having no romantic partner is great – especially in fields where you are supposed to put in a lot of overtime and be “flexible” and take lower wages than you would accept given your experience. Being single is so great, in fact, we should stop complaining about it already and ruining everyone’s fun in February.
I have a few questions.
If being single is so great, why are friends and family of all ages asking us when we will “settle down”?
If there is nothing bad about being alone, why are we always portrayed in popular media as miserable shrews, skeezy jerks, or serial killers?
If being single is just as good as being in a couple, why does my insurance company charge me more for my health coverage, and promises a premium reduction if I got a man? (Because people in couples don’t get sick as often. I know – I balked when I heard that, too.)
A more honest statement would be that being in a couple comes with a set of problems that being single does not – but we live in a capitalist hell, and we make money by making other people feel bad about themselves. Even if you are the most down-to-earth, un-self-conscious person in the world, you are bound to have your low points.
Don’t beat yourself up when that happens. It’s not a character flaw, it’s a natural reaction to a stressful situation.
Jane Austen said that “It is only poverty that makes celibacy contemptible.” I would amend that to say “It is only poverty of the heart that makes celibacy contemptible.” Not the heart of the celibate person, mind you, but the heart of those who observe them. People who are content in their lives and secure in their relationships don’t see you as an incomplete person or a cash cow.
They recognize you as an adult with autonomy and don’t project their insecurities onto you.
They give their honest opinion, but only when it’s wanted.
They don’t try to make a quick buck by selling you weight loss shakes, dating apps, or gym memberships.
Most importantly, when all the social pressure to couple up gets you down, they let you grumble and vent without judgment or sanctimony. “Well, if you only smiled more, or put yourself out there…”
It doesn’t matter why you are single. Your people will accept you regardless of your relationship status, and will never interrogate you for it.
And I know, no matter what we say, we still hurt sometimes. I write this piece to help you (and myself) get through to the 15th February, but maybe it won’t be enough. Maybe you will gloss over it, as I have glossed over countless others before crying myself to sleep. But if you take one thing away from it, let it be this:
The next time someone tries to make you feel bad about your life, take the agony aunt approach. Ask yourself: What do they want from you? What are they trying to achieve?
The answer may or may not surprise you, but I know in my heart, it won’t have anything to do with your worth as a person.