Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Treat your Single Friend (like a Real Human Being)

Not a witch…well, not on Sundays.

“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke.” — Gloria Steinem

As a single female in my 40’s living in a predictably beige suburban area, I’m frequently the victim of needless social suspicion.

Never been married? And without child? Clearly she’s a witch whose come to eat our young and lure the men folk away!

Friends, family…even the man you’re dating might wonder:

What did she do wrong?

Strangely, you’re slightly more accepted if you have several failed marriages under your belt.

Well, at least she tried, right?

It’s not done purposefully or even consciously, but this type of social shunning of the Stigmatized Single Female (SSF) is isolating and weird.

So here are a few pointers so you can treat your single friends like (wait for it) your equal.
Don’t assume you understand modern day dating better than us. Just because you “found your match” doesn’t make you an expert on how it’s done. Especially when you’ve been with the same partner for eons. Chances are, you have no clue what its like to date in today’s world. So keep your advice at bay and respect the bizarro nature of modern day mating.
Don’t feel sorry for us. We outnumber you. There are now more single adults in the U.S. than married ones according to economist Edward Yardeni. So the next time you consider us the “outsider” statistically speaking if you’re married, you are. We’re not an anomaly but the majority, baby.
Limit your usage of the Royal We. If asked, “How are you?” don’t answer, “Well, George didn’t get that promotion so we’re really stressed out.” You and your partner aren’t joined at the hip. Your SSF most likely just wants to hear about you. (We may not even care about George. Sorry.)
We’re not your Perpetual Plan B. Coupled friends grow to expect your availability (what else could she being doing after all?) yet we’re often the last on your list, after your family, hubby, etc. So if your SSF asks about your plans this weekend, don’t respond, “Well it’s your lucky day. Jorge is taking the kids camping so we can hang out!” Yay…lucky us.
Dare to invite us to couple-heavy events. A few of my married friends have invisible categories when it comes to social functions that you’re welcome to attend and others, well…you’d better not. It’s couples afterall. You’ll feel awkward, right? We probably won’t feel weird at all. But maybe it is you who secretly fears our single juju will poison your party. Not to fear. We’ve adapted to a variety of social situations without bursting into flames or stealing your husbands and fleeing town.
If unhappily married, don’t compete with us or “cock block” if we’re in pursuit of another. We get it. You and Dante have lost that lovin’ feeling like, a decade ago. You’re frustrated, underloved and undersexed. Suddenly the life of a single woman isn’t look so bad afterall. So you act “as if” you’re one of us when we’re out together. But guess what? You’re not single. And we are. So back off.
Side story: Recently while having my hair done, I commented on a handsome guy getting a haircut. My hairdresser without missing a beat said, “He lives with someone.” “Oh shit, I guess I’ll have to cancel the wedding plans then,” I responded. What could she have said instead? “Yes, he sure is handsome. If I weren’t unhappily married, I’d go after him. But since I can’t, you shouldn’t have him either” which often feels closer to the truth.
There is no Mr. Perfect for us so don’t critique our choices. This is my personal favorite: If I date a guy at the tail end of a relationship: “Hmmm….sounds like he has baggage. Better watch out.” If I date a man who has never been married, “Never been married? Sounds like he has baggage. Better watch out.”
Most single 40-something women have probably dated men who were involved with someone or in the process of ending a marriage or have sole custody of a handicapped child or just completed a stint in jail for tax evasion. Baggage simply happens after decades of living.
We don’t care how much of a player you think he is or how we could “do better.” We found this person for now so we can have some needs met. Congratulate us on our resourcefulness and adaptability amidst a crappy dating pool.
We’re not in a constant state of wanting someone to “put a ring on it.” Don’t assume that just because we’re single, we have only one goal in mind: to not be single. Sure we’re looking for love and passion like anyone else, but we may have grown to enjoy our freedom. Crazy, right? We might also see what our friends endure in their relationships and secretly think, “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”
And don’t try to hook us up with someone just because he’s single and you’ll assume we’ll date just about anyone in our “desperate state.” We don’t want to date Ugly McPherson anymore than you would if you were single.
If we’re talking to your significant other, be flattered not threatened. Consider yourself lucky that we even like your significant other (since a few of you have made some seriously questionable choices). Remember: we don’t have to like your partner just because you do. We’re gifting you by liking them.
We see behind the smile. Just because you’re coupled up doesn’t mean we believe you’re truly happy. Women who have embraced singledom often see the strain of the role you’re trying so hard to play. Sometimes you resent us for seeing the truth so clearly. But don’t. Consider us unbiased and excellent judges.
So there you go. Stop treating your SSF like she’s a weirdo or has done something horribly wrong to be in this “unfortunate position” that a majority of us occupy. Don’t think you’re going to save her with your sagely but dated guidance. She’s you and you’re her afterall. The only thing that differentiates us is circumstance and choice. Besides (on a happy note), we all die single anyway!

[Thanks to single sisters Shannon and Aimee, and coupled friend Lynn for their contributions.]

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