“How old are you?” I blink, finding myself confronted by a man in his mid-seventies. His white nostril hair sticks out and his eyes are wide, his wife standing next to him with an overly powdered face smiling politely. He doesn’t think it’s rude to ask my age because I am still too young for it to matter. After a pause, I smile, telling them I’m 21.
“Why aren’t you married? My wife was nineteen when I married her.” I wonder how they know I’m not married. The concept of wearing rings struck me as being similar to “for sale” signs outside houses. I also noticed he didn’t say when we got married or when she married me, as though her role was entirely passive.
I decide to be polite and play the game a little – I was at work after all. “That’s lovely, how many years have you been married?” He ignores my question.
“Why aren’t YOU married?” I find his persistence rude and start speaking to other people hoping this will end the conversation. Maybe he is trying to compliment me, but often when people compliment me it has the opposite effect. He stands to the side, expecting me to answer, but I don’t make eye contact. When I turn back he is gone.
I don’t think he would find it acceptable to ask a man why he wasn’t married. It’s different. If a man is not in a relationship it’s an honorable thing, he is a bachelor and far too busy pursuing other things, more IMPORTANT things. The elderly respect that, yet if a woman is not attached people automatically search for reasons why. At this point you might be thinking this is just outdated tradition colouring the opinions of the elderly but it is also an assumption made by most people. If she is single there is a reason why. I’m sure there are people who will accept straight away that a woman is choosing to not be in a relationship and that’s the reason she is alone. There might even be a man who understands and respects that choice. However there is a majority of people who think it’s fine to look for faults as an explanation. The number one culprit here is women who are happily in a relationship and are confused why you aren’t. I’ve been told by women with good intentions that I need to change my sense of humour or put more time into my appearance - you could be pretty if you put more effort in. It doesn’t cross their minds that you are content being alone. Why would you be when they never were? Don’t think for a minute I’m being smug, I’m not. I am happy for every person who is genuinely in a good relationship. But can’t happiness come from other places? Does it have to be motivated by being accepted by another person?
I like to think there are other things people can be enthusiastic about and achieve in their lives other than a successful relationship. Not just something to provide a distraction until the person you want to be with comes along but goals that you want to achieve for yourself that can be as equally fulfilling as a relationship. We all have dreams but they are put on hold or sacrificed for a relationship. Being single gives you the freedom to put what matters to you first and not feel guilty. This isn’t selfish, it means you are making yourself happy and being the best you can be, including a supportive person for those who need you.
The bottom line is something that has already been covered on the site, and something I wish I could go back a few years and tell my younger self.
Don’t settle. Why be in a bad relationship to avoid being single when you can wait for a great relationship? Being alone is so much better than being lonely in a relationship. You can be single and be perfectly happy.