How to Navigate the "Single" Stigma.
On a recent beach stroll with a girlfriend, the sky was clear, the waves were rolling, there were birds scattered about, and the palms lapped in the breeze. It was peaceful and perfect—until my friend clouded the otherwise lovely mood with an onslaught of complaints. She whined about her husband, her kids, her career, and her lack of freedom.
I gave her the space to vent. But after a while, I said to her, “Do you realize that everything you are complaining about is exactly what you once wished for?”
Well, that comment didn’t go over to well. She got upset with me, and I know why: No one likes the hear the truth—at least at first.
For most of us who grow up in this Western society, we are programmed from a young age to follow a certain way of life, which often looks something like going to college, scoring your dream job, getting married, buying a house, having a few kiddos—ultimately, doing it all and having it all. My friend got this kind of programming. So did I. And we can both relate to the expectation infused into us from our earliest days that in order to be content, you have to achieve all of those aforementioned things. Then (and only then) is it possible to achieve happiness.
Listen, I don’t mean to be crass or abrupt with that adamant “Wrong!” but I am here to tell you that it is OK to not follow that norm. You can be happy without conforming to society's standards.
I am also here to shake up this idolized theory for all my fellow humans who have been criticized, chastised, or been made to feel inferior because they have not achieved this status quo.
Why am I sharing my thoughts on this topic, you might wonder? Because I am this topic. And along my own unconventional path, I’ve picked up a few tidbits of wisdom that I’m hoping may help you navigate your way along your own journey.
Why is a girl like you still single?
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me when I was going to settle down, I’d be a rich woman. For a good part of my late 20s and all of my 30s, I was intermittently single. During that time, I fielded countless questions that went something like: When do you plan on settling down? I have a great guy to set you up with—are you interested? And, possibly my all-time favorite: Why is a girl like you still single? Something about that question still sends shivers down my spine.
For a long time, I filled with insecurity when these questions came my way. I would always answer politely, something like: “I haven’t met The One to settle down with just yet.”
But if I’m honest, what I wanted to blurt things out was things like:
“When you lose 50 pounds, I’ll answer your question.”
“I’ll settle down when you realize that your husband is cheating on you.”
“When will I find a guy? When will you pay attention to the fact that your man has been hitting on me for years?”
I also wanted to vomit every time I heard the song “Single Ladies” on the radio—or worse, when I was expected to dance to the Beyonce hit at one of the many weddings I attended alone. Did I break it down on the dance floor as that song played?
Here’s the interesting thing: Before this single phase, I was on the path to being the first of my friends to get married. My boyfriend of five years had asked my parents for my hand in marriage. And without getting into too much detail about this part, the long and short of it is that we did not end up getting married. I went my way, he went his. Following that breakup, I had countless more relationships, but none crossed the so-called finish line. Some people even called me a serial dater because I was always attached, but every time a boyfriend brought up engagement, cohabiting, or marriage, I ditched.
I understand that at this point, you may be thinking I have some commitment issues and that you shouldn’t be listening to any advice I give. Well, here’s the thing: I do have some commitment stuff. But the real truth is that I haven’t met the person I want to settle down with (yet). Up until now it has been my choice—my choice to stay single, my choice to run away from relationships that didn’t suit me, my choice to walk alone. And my (excellent, if I do say) choice to dislike a Beyonce song and refuse to dance to it.
Side note here: I am a big believer in love and I trust that when my life partner does come along, I will know, and I will embrace him with open arms. Until then, I will continue to live my life my way and do the things that make me happy—all with the help of my love manifesting tools.
Back to our regular programming. Is a single life easy? Hell no. I’ve gone to many events alone. I’ve eaten many meals alone. I have had plenty of orgasms alone. Being single certainly gets lonely. But I would rather be alone than be with just anyone for the sake of being with someone, especially if that someone doesn’t make me happy.
I can’t pretend I am happy for the sake of saving face. I played pretend in other aspects of my life for a long time and it was a detriment to my wellbeing and those around me. (Speaking of pretending, faking orgasms don’t suit anyone, either, do they? But that’s a topic for another article.)
When I have shared my feelings on this topic with other single gals, I either get air snaps and a chorus of hell yeahs—or I get sad eyes followed by, “Well, I don’t have a choice when it comes to being single because no one wants me.” To that, I reply: “Have you asked yourself if you really wanted any of them?” Most of the time the women I talk to ponder the question and nine times out of 10 it gets revealed (often with the help of some wine) that they actually didn’t want what they thought they wanted. If and when someone does feel truly rejected (we’ve all be there, right?), I sympathize and acknowledge that it doesn’t feel good. But then I remind the amazing woman I’m talking to that when things don’t work out the way we think we want them to, it is often a blessing in disguise from the Universe letting us know that we either dodged a bullet or that something better awaits.
How I Navigate the Single Stigma
Through the ups and downs of my own adventures in being single, I’ve come to learn some simple ways to navigate the questions, the (possible) anger, and the stigma that often comes along with being single. Here’s hoping my advice helps you live out your own (single or not!) life, your way.
Tip #1: You’ve got to learn how to love yourself. Yes, it’s cliche. Yes, it’s a little hippy woo-woo. But trust me on this one! You cannot love another if you do not truly love yourself. So, go out there and fall in love with you. In fact, I recommend dating yourself for a bit: Take yourself out for a meal, a movie, or on vacation. If you take yourself out to dinner, feel free to order whatever your heart desires. Get the plate of carbohydrates, the glass of vino, and the chocolate dessert. Then, either bask in the solitude or dive into a favorite read. Or, if you’re in the mood to socialize, sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender or another solo diner. If going to a movie on your own seems scary at first, try a matinee. And, if you don't feel comfortable going to the theatre, watch a movie in the comfort of your home where snacks are available and clothing is optional.
These are just some ideas, but the point is to do the things that make you feel good and happy. I have a date with myself every Friday night and for me that looks like yoga, therapy, and then renting a movie and shutting the world out. And, guess what? It’s my favorite night of the week.
Tip # 2: Try to ignore what others say. Dr. Seuss says it best: Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.
Those who truly care about you will accept you no matter what your marital or dating status. Period. They will likely (but, not always) be your family, friends, colleagues, and community. If you are single and loving it, they should support you. If you are single and eager to find love, they should support you in that as well. In good company, you should always feel loved, seen, accepted, and supported.
However, the sad truth is that not everyone in your life cares about you and has your best interest in mind. If you ever feel like someone is prying into your life with ill intentions, you can either choose to offer a generic response or no response at all. If you choose to respond and you get a snarky comment, I would smile, swallow, and either speak your truth or simply walk away.
Side note here: I believe that mean or mean-spirited people are in the most pain, so if a comment about your life has an undertone of nastiness, I respond in true New York fashion: Ignore the bitch or bum.
Tip # 3: Trust your journey. I say this with my whole heart: You are exactly where you need to be! We all have a unique journey, and the more you trust that the easier life will be. Think of the law of nature. Everything in nature flows, as you should too. (I’m not a fan of the word should, but I mean it with tenderness here.) That’s not to say that you shouldn’t put effort into life, because I do believe in the power of setting goals and intentions. But you wouldn’t look at a flower and say, “Grow, dammit!” The same applies to you. Let life flow with and for you. Everything will happen for you when it is meant to happen. If it is a relationship you are after, I promise that it will happen for you. If it is your choice to be single, trust that desire and honor that, too.
Remember my girlfriend, the one who was (understandably, if a little annoyingly) whining about the life she manifested for herself? When we finished our walk, she had to go home to her sick husband and screaming kids.
Me? I took my single self on a date. I ordered the bolognese and a glass of red from my favorite Italian restaurant, and I picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on my way home. I ate that in my fluffy white robe, on my comfy white couch, surrounded by my pretty white orchids. And at one point, I lifted the spoon in the air and said, Cheers to being you!