Greetings, readers! I hope you had a pleasant Christmas/Federal Holiday/Day Off. On the whole, my Christmas was quite good. There are always those little annoyances, though, aren’t there? The remarks you really didn’t need to hear. What follows is an extended rant. If you’d like to avoid reading rants, ignore this post.
I’m a longtime-single male, so you can guess which button was pressed: “How’s the dating life?” As it happens, I’m a more private person than most, so regardless of my actual state, I consider this question rude. If I wanted someone to know my social status, odds are good that the magic words girlfriend, partner, lady friend, fiancee, or spouse would drop out of my mouth within a minute of starting the conversation without prompting. Well, for years now my response has been, “I’m single, thanks for asking.”
This is often followed up by an expression of anything from curiosity to sadness to actual horror. Because there’s nothing a single person loves more than being pitied, right? Anyhow, this expression is then accompanied by the usual follow-up question: “Why?”
My honest answer is, “Because I’m happy. Why screw things up?” And if someone pokes a little harder, I might explain that I’m too lazy to court and too selfish about protecting my free time.
I’ve used that response a few times, and usually the snark closes the subject. Others, however, are more persistent, and here is where the rudeness really amps up: “You should…” It’s at this point that the single person on the receiving end is treated to unsolicited advice about what they should be doing with their personal life:
- You should try online dating.
- You should get out more.
- You should join X group/church/organization
- You should meet my friend X.
- You should have someone in your life.
The first four suggestions fall under the category of practical advice. As if, at the tender age of 46, I wanted to find a woman, but just didn’t know how to go about it. The coupled person might think they’re being helpful, but here’s the thing: if I or any other single person wanted a partner in life, odds are we’d be doing whatever we could to fix the situation, yes? And if we were serious about about partner-hunting, we might even ask for advice. Again, that assumes that I am seeking someone or that my situation is a problem that needs to be solved. That fifth bullet is merely an assumption on the coupled person’s part: You should have someone in your life. Again, my response is usually, “Why? I’m happy living as I am.”
Admittedly, this is not just an introvert thing, as I have a LOT of introverted friends who have navigated the dating mine field and managed to find someone they love enough to marry. Great! Good for them. This is simply a Bart thing. In the spirit of full disclosure and authenticity, I’ll just say it: I don’t date well. It brings out the worst aspects of my personality, and the problem has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. So that’s out there, thanks for asking.
But let’s get back to the coupled person who’s determined to “fix” the “problem” of the single person. Again, you might think you’re helping, but really, don’t unless you’re asked for help. The short version of this blog would be: shut up. You have no idea what the life of the single person in front of you is like. Now as it happens, I spent Christmas Day before the above conversation opening gifts I’d bought with a gift card received from a friend, baking cookies, and taking a long walk in the Florida sunshine. I managed all of that on my own and quite enjoyed it. “Oh!” the concerned coupled person might say, “But it would be better/more fun if you had someone to share those experiences with!” Maybe. You don’t know that, and shame on you for assuming so.
I have single friends who have been dumped just before Christmas; who have family members who are convinced they are spinsters and doomed never to marry because they are a particular gender and above a certain age; I have friends who are single parents and so must balance work, family, and a romantic life; I know others who have been burned badly by contentious divorces and others who have been physically abused by previous partners. And then some of us are just happier living alone–it’s not a problem, it’s a lifestyle choice. Bottom line: a single person might have any number of reasons for why they are in that social state, and most or all of them are none of your damn business. If you are unable to contain your curiosity, you might ask what the person’s status is or, at most, why. Once you move from inquiry into the realm of “you should do X,” you are intruding.
Imagine this: I learn that you are married. A horrified (or pitying) expression covers my face, and I say, “Oh my gosh, why are with someone? You should be single! Do you need the number of a good divorce attorney? Do you need someone to help pack your bags?” What do you suppose the reaction would be? I’d be considered rude, and rightly so. So whatever compulsion people have to fix the social state of their single friends, it needs to stop, and it needs to stop being socially acceptable to do so. Some individuals might, in fact, be unhappy with their singularity and wish desperately that it were different. How does poking at that wound help them? Like I said, I’m happy in my current state. What really bothers me is the presumptive and intrusive nature of the inquisition.
Again, back to the short version of “What do you do if you’re in a relationship and you encounter a single person?” Shut up.