Single Stigma

For some of you, the morning after a sexual encounter may begin with groggy words of endearment like, “Last night was fun, gonna call an uber in a sec.” From that point, the exchange may shift to your relationship history. “How long have you been single?” Then, it could end with something like, “You’ve never been in a relationship before?! That’s shocking! Especially because you’re like, so good looking!” As someone who’s been single for 9 years, with the exception of short term hookups and two-night-stands, my impermanent suitors have reacted with this backhanded compliment almost every time I’ve shared my status.

The shock value of their responses may have lost its punch over the years, but I’m left retracing the origins of my dating and hook-up experiences, and often placing the blame on myself for not “putting myself out there enough,” or for “giving off the wrong vibe.” Navigating the dating world amidst these expectations and assumptions is exhausting. When my partners have questioned the duration of my single status, using conditions like beauty and appeal as reasons for their confusion, I become frustrated. Not because they’re ill intentioned, but because being single is so often misunderstood as involuntary, or as some kind of solitary confinement.

The weight placed on beauty in a relationship status— whether “taken” or single— has created a false standard that beauty should serve a purpose, and exist merely for someone else’s taking. Physical appeal, especially that of women, has been learned as something to be observed and enjoyed by others (predominantly men). If one is deemed beautiful, pretty, sexy, or hot, their “single status” becomes outlandish, or undeserved. People are surprised if beautiful people are without partners, as if the concept that one might not want a partner is simply out of the question. Beauty shouldn’t equate sex, romance, or be a determinant of why someone is in a relationship or not. Beauty is exploited and fetishized, which furthers the assumption its primary purpose is to please.

I’m a woman that’s horny often, lonely sometimes, and usually down to spend the night with a respectable, attractive guy if the opportunity arises. Although inexperienced in the world of relationships, I’d imagine that when you’re in one, there are momentseven if they’re fleeting when you want nothing more than to be a maverick, unbound by responsibility.

For me, it’s the same as a single woman. There are moments when I want nothing more than to be loved, spooned, and nurtured by a boyfriend, even though I’m content being single. Of course, I’m not speaking for all singles, but personally, I’ve discovered and explored many parts of myself as an independent that I wouldn’t have been able to embrace otherwise. From the excitement of coming home to my bedroom and spreading my limbs across my comforter, to the endless time I get to devote to my friends and weekends out, the bliss and harmony of being able to do what I want, when I want, fills me up. I’ve had years and years to work on friendships, try out new pick-up lines, learn how to navigate sex with different people, and get a feel for what the hell is out there.

One time, I was chatting with a male friend at a party, and the conversation turned to our relationship statuses, and the pro’s and con’s of being single versus in a relationship. He told me that maybe I needed to try being more open because I came across “stand-offish.” It was awful to feel like my character was not only being judged, but that my apparent isolationism was the reason I was single. Once again, I found myself reflecting on scenarios where I was at social gatherings, questioning whether or not I should have presented myself differently, approached that cute guy, or ventured out from my clique of girlfriends. I replayed the way I carried myself, my gaze. Did I come across “bitchy” and cold? Am I single because I’m that cold bitch?!

These toxic questions made me question the pride I had come to so closely associate with my singledom. I felt incredibly self conscious. After talking to many different people, gathering opinions, and taking the time to just think, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should all try to be better about making assumptions and judgments about people based solely upon the way they’re standing, or who they are or aren’t talking to. While it can be intimidating to approach someone who seems removed, or above it, I’ve realized that nine times out of ten, that person is either…

A) enjoying the evening with their friends, or B) feeling the same way you do. Yes, A and B may lessen the amount of new people you speak with in a night, but don’t let someone project these reasons onto your single status, and certainly don’t let them perceive these realities as inherently negative.

There are assumptions that being single for so long means you’re either a party animal or a recluse, hedonistic or anti-monogamy. The single life is filled with opportunity and autonomy, yet often, it’s met with sympathetic pats on the back, or these baffled remarks.

It wasn’t until very recently that for the first time ever, a guy I was hooking up with responded differently. Instead, when I told him I’d never been in a relationship, he said, “You seem like a strong, independent woman.” Sadly, it took me aback. This is the type of feedback that us singles miss out on, but need to hear more. The aghast reactions of my hookup partners at the “single for 9 years” sentiment is proof that being single is misunderstood in many ways. For some, it’s a choice and for others, it’s not. But either way, the single life deserves far more respect and critical thought for being the absolutely valid and acceptable lifestyle that it is.