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Single girls are rewriting the narrative

From Jane Austen to Bridget Jones, everything points to the idea of all-consuming love for a single individual, preferably one who looks nice in a dripping wet shirt and a pair of moderately tight trousers.

From Jane Austen to Bridget Jones, everything points to the idea of all-consuming love for a single individual, preferably one who looks nice in a dripping wet shirt and a pair of moderately tight trousers.

Published Dec 24, 2013

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Washington - Incline your ear to the sounds of the holiday season: the tinkling of bells, rustling of firs and weeping of single women.

It is time to obsess, if you’re unattached, over having no one’s hand to hold and no reply when your relatives ask you whether you’ve met anyone nice. The singular snowflake, so lovely in its un-duplicability, seems instead so inexpressibly lonely — or something. The point is, if you’re a single woman around Christmas time, you’re supposed to be sad.

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On the internet, single girls are fighting back, sort of. By now you may have seen this picture (Single Girl Reacts Perfectly to Friends’ Engagements; http://on.mash.to/1kArXG5), which shows a group of girlfriends squealing over three newly beringed members. One girl, off to the side, mimes shooting herself in the head.

The photo has so far had more than 17 000 Facebook shares. Then Huffington Post ran a piece called Is Being Single Really that Bad? (No, it is not that bad, the story argues, except when “it sounds like a tragic Taylor Swift R Kelly collaboration titled Make Love to No One”. Comforting. http://huff.to/18vqHnu).

A law student who blogs at Sister of the Yam wrote a fiery ode to “women who are difficult to love” and thus single; www.sisteroftheyam.com/?page_id=19.

On Thought Catalog, unmarried Chloe Angyal explains that while she and her boyfriend will be spending December in Paris, the city of romance, a proposal will not be happening: http://bit.ly/1ckObHH.

“He knows full well that I have no interest in getting married,” Angyal says. “More than that, I would rather – and I’m only being mildly hyperbolic here – gouge my own eyes out with a rusty fork than be proposed at.”

God, yes, I would rather be cast into a pit of flesh-eating aardvarks than have some man tell me he wants to be with me for the rest of his life.

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As a single girl myself, I liked reading all these single-girl essays. Sure, they all sound a little defensive, but they’ve convinced me that single girls still need defence. Even now, no one thinks women stay single by choice.

Consider Tracy McMillan’s 2011 book Why You’re Not Married Yet, which tells women they’re alone because they’re “shallow,” “a bitch,” “a liar” “selfish” or “not good enough”.

Or note, as others have before me, how the word bachelor doesn’t hold a lot of stigma – we’re happy to assume an unmarried man of a certain age savours his swinging lifestyle – but “spinster” elicits our pity or scorn.

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In the face of all this judgement, we single girls take to the internet to try to rewrite the narrative.

We like flying solo! We are busy focusing on our career/friends/mental health/pet! We find all the breathless paraphernalia of coupledom – cutesy pictures, fairy-tale proposals – stupid! We wrestle with our singleness – a status as entwined with a lack of validation as it is with a lack of companionship – in a thousand funny, angry, sarcastic, thoughtful ways.

Yet behind so much of it seems to lurk the fear Candace at Sister of the Yam makes explicit: that single women are single because something is wrong with them. That single girls are “difficult to love”.

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Singleness can be voluntary, can fulfilling, can be the best choice on the table at the moment, even if it’s not always a fountain of bliss.

 

I did not set out to write a single-girl essay.

But if I had, I would write that I’m not satisfied with the old narrative calling us desperate or sad (or unlovable: a descriptor that will drive single ladies crazy with insecurity even as they have no idea what the hell it means).

I would say that my singleness comes down to a mix of things that sound clichéd until you live them: not quite being willing to commit, wanting to figure myself out first, high standards, lack of opportunity, fulfilling work.

(If there’s some fear or self-sabotage thrown in there too, I’ll try not to stress about it.) I won’t pretend that I love every minute of singleness, though I doubt I’d love every minute of being someone’s girlfriend either.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve noticed a pointed lack of single-guy essays. That is probably because society doesn’t view unattached men as failures, so the whole issue fails to trouble them overmuch.

Yet maybe it should: while women’s happiness “fluctuates significantly based on the quality of their marriages”, married men are as a rule more content than single ones. So if anyone should be scrambling to settle down no matter what, it’s guys. – Washington Post

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