Something about single women makes people uncomfortable. Maybe it's because our singledom is connected to our sexuality, something society has long tried to suppress and control. Maybe it's because we make them think of sad old spinsters who smell like mothballs and eat lots of clear soups. Maybe it's the little horns that grow out of our heads. I don't know!
In any case, there's a rapidly growing number of us demonic she-singles in the U.S. Today, only about 20 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 are married, as opposed to 60 percent in 1960, and the median age of first marriage for women jumped from 23 in 1990, to 27 in 2016.
In her book "All the Single Ladies", author Rebecca Traister examined the reasons behind this shift. "The choice not to marry isn't necessarily a conscious rejection of marriage," she told Fresh Air's Terry Gross last year. "It is [about] the ability to live singly if an appealing marriage option doesn't come along."
Even though the number of single women is growing, societal attitudes and expectations have yet to catch up. When men are single, it's exciting and cool. Think George Clooney pre-Amal, and Leonardo DiCaprio always. But when women are single, it's a problem to fixed; just think back to all of the headlines that portrayed Jennifer Aniston as a barren, jilted, forever-alone sad-sack, years after her public break up with Brad Pitt.
Single men are bachelors. Single women are spinsters.
To be clear, there's nothing wrong with actively trying to find a romantic partner. But if, for whatever reason, you don't want a partner at the moment, that's fine too. Every woman should be able to build a happy, fulfilling life, based on her own wants and needs at the time. So check out some of these phrases below, memorize them, say goodbye, and then retire them forever. Your single friend will be fine, I promise.
"You're too picky."
Ahh, this little gem. It implies both that women should settle for less than they feel they deserve, and that being with someone (anyone!) below our standards or not, is better than being alone, which is is absurd.
As Susannah Weiss points out in an article for Everyday Feminism, calling someone "picky" is imposing your own standards on them.
"What is and isn’t 'too picky' depends on what’s important to you," Weiss writes, "and people can only decide what they themselves find important."
"Hey! Have you met Chad/Trey/Julie/Alex?"
Friends can be a great way to meet new people. We know! If we want you to set us up with someone, we will definitely tell you. So maybe stop inviting random guys from your work/gym/bodega every time we go out.
There's an off-chance we could meet the love of our lives, but most likely it will just make the evening kind of awkward. Plus, taking our dating lives into your own hands is a little presumptuous, and makes it seem like you don't think single women are capable of handling their own lives.
"You just need to put yourself out there!"
When we tell single women to put themselves out there, we are suggesting that 1) they aren't, 2) they need to change something about themselves and their lives to meet someone, and 3) they should be actively trying to meet someone.
The truth is, we don't know everything about other people's lives, even our close friends. Maybe your friend is going on a ton of dates, and just hasn't met anyone she's into. Or maybe she's not, and she doesn't want to be dating right now. Or, maybe she is trying to meet someone, and she needs better, more specific advice than "Put yourself out there," which makes her sound like a moldy piece of produce who's slipped to the back of the box in the grocery store.
In any case, it's not a very helpful thing to say.
"You're going out a lot" or "You're not going to meet anyone good in a bar..."
Single women should put themselves out there, but not too much, apparently. Subtle slut-shaming masked as concern isn't helpful for anyone. If your friend wants to go out and party, let her. If she wants to stay in and read, let her do that too. It's her life, let her live it how she wants.
And once again, because it bears repeating until we all get the message: maybe she's not looking.
"Are you going to settle down soon?
The notion of "settling down" is increasingly out of date. For the most part, when we say "settling down" we still mean getting married, having kids, and baking on a somewhat regular basis. But settling down looks different to different people. To some, it's getting married and having kids; to others, it's traveling the world and writing about their adventures.
Maybe your single friend feels settled already. Maybe she does want a partner and children, but not yet. When you ask someone if they're going to settle down soon, you're imposing your own arbitrary timeline on them.
"How are you still single?"
We know you mean this as compliment, but maybe say something nice about our radiant smile, or impressive kazoo skills instead (we've been practicing).
Not only does a woman not need to justify her relationship status to anyone, this question suggests that there is a set of "right" and "wrong" qualities to have, things about us which make us dateable or not. Arbitrary rules like that have been used to keep women down for far too long already, by making them feel like they need to conform to a set of norms before they're worthy of love and respect. So let's not play into that anymore.
"It's a couples thing."
There often comes a point where couples start hanging out almost exclusively with other couples. And that's fine, but sometimes single friends end up left in the dust. Just because they haven't met/don't want to be with someone doesn't mean they can't hang out with you and your other couple friends.
"The clock's ticking."
Just as some women want a partner (or more) and some women don't, some women want kids, and some women don't. Talking about a "biological clock" in addition to being kind of bogus, basically tells a woman that everything else she has accomplished is meaningless unless she has children.
Becoming a mother is a choice, and a big one, so whether your single friend wants kids or not, weird passive-aggressive shaming is not the way to talk about it.