a one woman band: the stigma of being single
A colleague once asked me: ‘So, you don’t have a boyfriend and don’t drink alcohol… so what do you do with your life?’ In response, I said: ‘I consider myself a career woman.’ However, three months later, and alcohol intolerance cleared, I feel as if I need to reconsider my opinion on the matter.
It is common knowledge among my friends about my status as a single woman, and apparent to the customers that I serve on a weekly basis. Once a customer said: ‘A woman cannot survive without a man’, to which said customer received an earful. Fortunately this customer has given up on pestering me whether I have a boyfriend yet and prefers to be served by someone else.
However, they’re are not the only ones. The moment I mention that I’m happily single, twenty-one and never have been in a relationship, people often treat me like a it’s travesty. Some assume I’m gay, and others – well, others wink and tell me ‘wait until you fall in love’.
Then why is there such a paramount importance placed upon someone’s status as being single or not? I needed some answers, so I decided to do some research.
Biologically, our sole purpose is to procreate. That’s right kiddos, we want to make little babies. This is achieved through sex, followed by a successful conception and gestation afterwards. This theory works for most cases of the animal kingdom, but us humans, we’re a little more complicated. And no, it does not relate to how fantastic sex is.
We’re consciously aware of our emotions. We can decide whether to act upon these feelings or not, regardless of whether they’re the best survival tactic. Humans jump off bridges for fun, not particularly the smartest evolutionary move….
It’s this complication of emotion that helps us form relationships. These relationships ensure that a child is raised in a safe environment, regardless of whether the couple is straight or gay. It’s just an added bonus that we receive the delight of “love” during these relationships.
Historically, we’re lucky we can choose our partners. Girls often were married off at a younger age; child marriage still occurs in parts of the world, i.e. Chad, and often the relationships go to shambles (not to mention the marriages are often pedophiliac).
Additionally, women who were single were seen as “unnatural” or “infertile”. There’s your first stigma attached to being a single women. A biological case of the clock’s ticking.
From my experiences, the stigma is often felt more from fellow female companions. With the men I have spoken to, being single is not as much an anathema compared to women. Just barely though, considering how the media constantly associates your happiness with your relationship status.
That’s right, it’s felt on both ends. It’s a booming business with a plethora of magazines, forums, columns dedicated to relationship advice. People want to be in relationships, but what the media forgets is some people want to be single.
In her Sunday Column, Fifi Box mentioned a misconception associated with being single:
“To begin with, everyone wants to set me up. It’s as if I’m walking around with a ‘Help! I can’t function without a man’ sticker stuck to my forehead.” (The Sunday Telegraph 27/11/2011)
Firstly, this is exactly how I feel despite having never been in a relationship. Albeit the acceptance from my family and most of my friends, the issues still stands.
There’s advantages to being in a relationship – your partner reflects, and shows you your best qualities. You don’t have to play the dating game, and we all know how uncomfortable that is. There’s a level of intimacy and trust that can only be achieved through a romantic relationship. You’re less likely to get STDs as well, if both partners are faithful that is.
If you have a melancholic disposition you’re more likely to ruminate while being single, and as women, our innate emotionality puts us at a higher risk of depression. If you’re self-deprecating, you’ll be irritated with yourself for experiencing loneliness and wishing to be in a relationship. If you enjoy sex, well, you’ll miss the regular sex.
There’s advantages to being single – you have more freedom, and more time. More time to pursue hobbies you enjoy, more time to further your career without emotional attachments, more time to read all those books you haven’t read yet, and much more. Being single forces you, especially if you don’t live with parents, to be solely independent. You don’t have someone to share the load with, so you have to learn to do the domestics while simultaneously being the “breadwinner”.
Despite all of this, the rate of young single people has increased in the past thirty years. In 2008, a CNN article titled, Young Women Choosing Careers Over Love, published that ‘men [were] more willing than women to sacrifice achievement for a romantic relationship’. This may be due to women being offered the opportunity to pursue a career unlike our foremothers. The first woman elected into the Australian Parliament happened less than a hundred years ago, and some people expect women to return to roles they occupied one, two generations back? I don’t think so.
Therefore, is the stigma attached to being single traditionalist, rather than opinion? I think so. Regardless, that’s up to you to conclude.
For the meantime, I’ll just continue to be happily single.
By Avrille Bylok-Collard