People are single for any number of reasons: They just got out of a breakup, they have an independent streak, they're saving themselves for Idris Elba, and so on. Despite the multitude of reasons for being single, though, society tends to treat all singletons the same — specifically, by hurling backhanded compliments at single women until they view any social gathering as a veritable gauntlet of having to defend their life choices against the matchmaking efforts of well-meaning couples.
OK, perhaps the single life isn't quite that dramatic, even if it does feel like it sometimes. But any single person, and especially any single woman, is intimately familiar with the mixture of condescension and pity directed at single people as they age. Being single is often treated like a problem in desperate need of fixing, and this goes doubly so for women, who are taught from an early age that marriage should be at the top of their list of life goals. If a woman doesn't already have a partner, surely she must be in the market for one — right? (Wrong, obviously.) And if a woman wants a partner but doesn't have one, the conclusion is that there must be something wrong with her.
Obviously, such logic doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Yes, a single woman might be in the market for a partner, but she just as easily may choose not to be tied down, especially in a time when Millennials are marrying less frequently and women have more financial independence than ever before. As Sara Eckert wrote for The Date Report in 2014, "Now that women no longer have to depend on men for financial support, we are enjoying a historically unprecedented luxury: to hold out for the right relationship, or to not have one at all."
Unfortunately, society hasn't quite caught on to the idea that women can lead fulfilling lives without a partner, let alone that anyone would choose to be single. Let's take a look at seven backhanded compliments single women are so over hearing.
1. "You Must Have So Much Free Time"
Do I? Or do I find other ways to fill my time that aren't dependent on a romantic partner?
2. "You're The Best Third Wheel"
No matter how nicely it's put, pointing out anyone's status as a third wheel immediately draws a sharp division between The Couple and The Single One. Ouch.
3. "You're So Strong For Being On Your Own"
Life is cool with a partner. Life is cool without a partner. Going about your business without a significant other doesn't require any quiet reserves of strength, nor are single people sobbing into a hanky as they eat a microwave burrito standing up in a poorly-lit kitchen. In all likelihood, they're out with their friends or marathoning Netflix like everyone else.
4. "You're Still Young, So You Don't Have To Settle Down Yet"
Thanks for the subtle reminder of my mortality and the assumption that older people need a partner to lead fulfilling lives.
5. "Single Girls Have It So Easy"
There's a perception in some particularly heteronormative circles that it's easier to be a single girl than a single guy. The general theory is that single women can supposedly get laid whenever they want, while single guys are... also getting laid, because sex generally requires at least one partner. (And as someone who's interested in men and women, let me tell you: Dry spells are dry spells, no matter what gender you're into.)
6. "It's Cool That You Don't Make A Big Deal About Being Single"
I'm 200 percent sure that whoever says this just made a big deal about being single.
7. "You're Too Pretty/Funny/Generally Amazing To Be Single"
It's nice to have someone acknowledge that you're a Very Cool Person, but in light of your awesomeness, it's pretty clear that you're single for a reason: You like it that way. Saying you're too "whatever" to be single implies that there's something wrong with people who don't have a partner — and that's just not true.