The first time it happened, I took it as a compliment. A hundred times later, it started to feel a little backhanded.
"How are you single?" A friend asked, with the same 'computer says no' tone usually reserved for questioning Kim Kardashian's fame or Donald Trump's presidential ambitions. I showed her Tinder Nightmares and explained that this was my life:
Lately, the circle of interrogators has expanded beyond old friends, my mother, and hairdresser, and includes parents' friends of friends, a random 45-year-old dude at my gym, and the guest speaker of a women's networking event I went to recently. It has reached the point where I am now reassuring them. ("It's okay," I soothe. "It'll happen someday! Don't worry.")
To avoid the fun game of 'why is SHE single' I try to twist any interrogation into a sociological direction: hey, why are WE (generationally speaking) single?
Has too much media meant heightened and unrealistic expectations? Has female empowerment erased the financial imperative to be with a man?
Or is this simply a global epidemic of commitment phobia? By this age, I feel like most of the men who want to be in relationships are in them. The ones left seem to be experts at window-shopping for sex (thanks, Tinder) or the male equivalents of Bridget Jones.
Having been accused of hosting "unnecessary fears around commitment" from various guys (and my mother) I started researching commitment phobia with full nerd power. I found that it is emotional claustrophobia and that it cannot be cured, only managed. It's like having romantic ADD. When someone gets too close, you start to feel suffocated. What about the other options? Could there be someone better?
The beauty of being single is that you have a lot of time to think. After a lot of thinking, I've noticed that I don't want to 'get married' - I want to fall in love and build a life with someone who feels the same way. If we happen to have a big party and a piece of paper to go with that, then great.
A wedding is an event. A marriage is a journey. Some people need more time than others before they are ready for that journey.
I see any anxious sprint to the alter as a collective hangover from an antiquated era where women were treated as men's possessions. To be married was to have a point to your existence: if you were man-less, you were pointless. If your life is loveless, then yes, perhaps it's hard to see the point of it all sometimes - but surely the love in your life is derived from more than relationship status.
Ideally, we live in a world where we marry because we genuinely want the best for another person and we believe we can give that to them. In reality, I see a lot of people marrying because they want to get something from another person. It's only lately that I've realized the meaning of this quote:
"Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.'" (Erich Fromm)
What's funny to me is that something must be off or else you would be in that 'utopia' called togetherness. If you're awesome, you should be taken. If you're single, you must not be awesome. But hang on - if you're awesome AND single... WAIT. This makes NO SENSE!
Whenever someone in a long-term relationship gives me the third degree, I sense that they must be having some doubts about their own relationship.
If you're comfortable with your own choices, you don't feel the need to question those of others. If you're questioning your own choices, you often attack those of others as a means of defending your decisions to yourself.
Maybe life in a happy, healthy relationship trumps being single, but being single definitely trumps being in a crappy relationship. I've seen booty-call buddies with more fondness for one another than loveless married couples and it's made me realize that at any age love is an ongoing experiment.
Friends have tried to game fate - 'if I meet 100 potential partners, surely one of them will be right?' Yes, to meet Prince Charming, you have to kiss a lot of frogs... but it's called 'falling' in love for a reason - you stumble, trip, and boom. Every time I've tried to predict the future, I've realized the meaning of 'we plan, God laughs', and every time I've trusted things to simply work out, they do.
Now I trust that it works out for others whenever it's meant to. I used to ask it myself: 'but why are you single?' Now I see that it can inspire awkwardness: is there spinach in my teeth, but the spinach is some personality defect, and everybody can see it but me?
Maybe this person already knows their future partner. The more freaks I meet, the more I understand stories about couples who were best friends for years (Monica and Chandler), felt no sexual spark, then suddenly ended up in bed together, cue relationship.
I now also chalk up bad dates to story time material for my future partner. We'll laugh about it on our first anniversary - 'oh, the men I met before you!' By our tenth, I will use these tales as silent self-reminders as to why we got together, when he forgets to pick up the milk or flirts with our kid's sexy drama teacher at the school play.