The loaded question is usually triggered in one of two ways. Either I reconnect with a lifelong friend who I haven’t talked to in years. Or, I meet a new person who finds out that I’ve been divorced for over 7 years. Then there’s the predictable quizzical look, the slight tilt of the head, and the well meaning question, “Why are you still single?” If it’s a really well developed thought, he adds in supporting evidence. “I mean, you look great for your age. I can’t believe you’re still single.”
Sigh. I know these are well meaning comments and intended as a compliment. And I reacted ok for the first year. Two. Maaaaaaybe three. As the years go by, I am less passive about this question. I’ve talked to other single female friends who have the same experience. Maybe guys get the same question and react differently? I don’t know. I’ve gotten this line of questioning twice in the last five days and finally decided I needed to get musings out.
First musing: Heck, I think I’m pretty unique and a quality person, married or not. Not to say that someday, I wouldn’t like to meet that person who I could spend my life with. However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, if I don’t ever get married again (because to me personally, that’s the ultimate end game of a relationship), I think I still can have a complete and fulfilling life. Being single in my 50’s is different, but not necessarily bad. In fact, there’s a lot about it that’s really excellent. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but what I see implied in “Why are you still single?” is “What’s wrong with you? What’s lacking in you that you’re not married?”
Now, let me tell you, there was a good chunk of time where I thought this way too. And to be entirely honest, on my occasional bad days, I sometimes still let this negative thought into my head. “What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want me as I am?” And the truth is, for a period of years, I’m not sure I would have wanted the person I was either. Oh, there were a ton of good things about me, but I also spent a lot of time letting unhealthy thoughts into my head and chasing outward fulfillment rather than focusing on being a solid person inside. About 2 years ago, I said ENOUGH. I stopped trying to date and started praying that God would continue to shape me into the person He intended me to be.
Prior to my decision to actively not date, I dated a lot. A LOT. Some casually and a few more seriously. In retrospect, I know without a doubt that if I had gotten married during that time, it would have been disastrous. There are so many reasons for that, but primarily, I was pairing myself with people who were unhealthy themselves or unhealthy for me, just to feel like I wasn’t alone. I have spent a lot of time focusing on me in the last few years. Time getting closer to God. Time learning about what I need from myself and others. Time learning what I have to give. Time learning to communicate. Time exploring. Time to be uniquely me. So if and when that person comes into my life, I know I won’t be someone I myself wouldn’t want to be with.
Second musing: There’s one other part to the dreaded question that bothers me on a broader, less personal level. It’s the backhanded compliment—you’re attractive, so why are you single? Today, I saw a new member post her beautiful selfie in an Orthodox singles Facebook group and several men commented along the lines of “I can’t believe someone as pretty as you isn’t married.” Um, does that mean it’s more understandable for average looking people to be single? Or if you are “pretty,” you are more deserving of a relationship? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ll admit I’m way more likely to notice a man who is attractive to me than one who isn’t. However, noticing isn’t the same thing as having a successful relationship. I’ve dated several very good looking men—and for various reasons not related to looks, none of the relationships lasted. Attraction, while important, only goes so far to sustain a relationship. I try to maintain my appearance, but I’d like to think that my quirky personality, intelligence, faith, commitment, and about 100 other things would ultimately contribute more to forging and holding a relationship together.
So, last week, when I was asked the “Why the hell are you still single?” question, I finally had a reply I felt somewhat comfortable with. “Because it’s where I’m at right now. Maybe someday I’ll have that spiritual partnership that enhances both of our lives. Until then or if not, I know I’ll be ok.” Which, by the way, was met with another quizzical look and tilted head. That’s ok too.