They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is certainly true for the ways the world likes to diminish girls and women. Sometimes this diminishment occurs on a large scale that is hard to ignore. At others, it occurs in subtle, niggling little ways that slowly irritate and eat away at you.
The other day I had a rather curt reaction to someone who was asking me questions about my move to England. These are questions I’m getting a lot lately (thankfully, not from my parents and friends, but seemingly from everyone else). They’re not questions about my new job, what city I’ll be living in, how I feel about the move – all questions I’d be happy to answer. No, they’re questions along the lines of: “Now that you have a proper job, are you going to finally get a husband?” Right, must tick that off my list along with sorting out my work visa. Important admin, this husband business.
What irritates me about these questions are the many assumptions behind them: that a single woman is somehow ‘deficient’, lacking in something until she finds a partner; that she is often an object of pity and disdain if she’s single (what single woman hasn’t received those pitying looks when asked if she’s seeing someone and says ‘no’); that despite my education, my hard work, my years of struggling in a profession to finally achieve something that is quite rare within this profession, instead of wishing me good luck or saying congratulations, it seems perfectly logical to some to tell me that I’m not really a complete person until I tick off the husband box.
Let’s be real here, men don’t get the same level of pity thrown their way when they are single. We may think things have changed, but somehow, these old-fashioned stereotypes of the sad spinster and the fun-loving bachelor still dominate in our collective consciousness. And really, can I just say, enough with the pity. Stop pitying me strangers, acquaintances, everyone else. I think I’m doing pretty great in life – I think I’m a pretty damn fine and responsible person, thanks. I am complete, in myself. I am not relying on someone walking into my life and magically fixing my fears, making me feel whole, providing financial security for me, or stabilising my life. I’m on my way to doing that on my own. I’m pretty happy being single now, your pity is insulting. When, and if, I ever decide to get married, it will be an addition to my life, it will not be its making.
There’s another side to this though – one to which I’m sympathetic, but still suspicious of. It’s the glorifying of single life in the same way as married life is often glorified as an achievement of adulthood that you must perform. I understand the impulse to heighten what’s great about being single in the face of overt judgement from strangers and people you know. Still, glorifying being single is just as silly as thinking that being married is something everyone has to be.
I get lonely sometimes. Some days I think it would be nice to have someone to go see a movie with who isn’t just a friend, or share a meal in a restaurant. It would be nice to have that constant companionship. This loneliness, however, is not the sole domain of single people. I’ve talked to married friends who complained about feeling lonely in their marriages, surrounded by a husband and kids. Loneliness, like sadness and happiness, come in many variations. They are human conditions, felt by us all. I don’t think it’s absolutely wonderful being single 100% of the time, but I bet my married friends don’t think being married is fantastic 100% of the time either.
I don’t expect people to congratulate me for my personal life choices. But, maybe it’s time to stop with the needless pity, because it’s diminishing; it says, ‘you are not enough on your own, as you are’. My brain is my achievement, not my love life.