We live in a society where people are expected to be coupled. There's a growing acceptance that the heterosexual married couple with kids isn't the only form that couplehood can take, but there are still people who will think that something's not right if you're single.
To be clear, I'm writing this from a position of privilege. As a cisgendered heterosexual white chick living in a wealthy nation I don't face a lot of the challenges that so many people do. That being said, it astonishes me how many people have difficulty grasping the fact that I'm single, and deem me as somehow less-than as a result.
Table for Two?
When you walk into a restaurant alone, you're typically asked how many people the table is for. The standard phrase that leaps out of my mouth is a cheerful "it's just me," which on reflection is actually not really the best choice, because there's nothing "just" about me. But no one wants to get the side eye from the host(ess) when asking for a table for one, so what are some ways to avoid that?
Breakfast and lunch are generally less likely to garner raised eyebrows than dinner. You're also more likely to see other single diners at those times. At lunch, people might think you're on your break from work, and something that's seen as more acceptable. More casual restaurants or all-day breakfast joints also seem to be used to solo diners, particularly at places that attract some of the senior citizen crowd. Still, there's nothing wrong with getting your fiercest look on and hitting up the hippest spot in town all on your own.
When I'm eating alone, I generally like to have something to do unless I'm out on a patio where there are lots of good people-watching opportunities. A smartphone is an obvious choice, but reading a book or doing some writing are also good options.
When I was staying at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, I often got worse services than people who were coupled, and I felt very judged. Why was I some sort of circus freak just because I didn't have a man standing at my side?
I've had my share of creepy men experiences while travelling. In Egypt, it was not unusual for a random man on the street to say he wanted to have sex with me. In Peru, a tour guide followed me back to my hotel. In Italy there was a hostel staff who was trying to put the moves on me and was really inappropriate. On both occasions, other men were present who chose to stand by, support their fellow Y-chromosome, and ignore my distress. In many ways this was just as disturbing as the original creepy guys.
In some countries, being single just doesn't seem to be a thing. It's not that people are necessarily judging per se, but being a thirty-something single woman just doesn't fit within their frame of reference. In countries with this sort of view on the subject, people might tsk tsk that my parents didn't live up to their responsibility to find me a husband. Somehow that judgment bothers me less because at least I can recognize they're just not used to seeing fierce single chicks.
A number of years ago some friends were pushing me to try online dating. Even though I was happy with being single, I guess they were less keen on it. I reluctantly agreed to give it a try, and created a profile on a fairly generic popular site. It very quickly became oh so clear why I'd avoided online dating as long as I did. It's a jungle out there, and there are some sketchy characters. If you want to dive into the dating world for your own sake, then go ahead, venture forth and conquer, but if it's just to appease the anti-single people around you, consider giving it a wide berth.
Answering Nosy Questions
Whether it's your Aunt Edna wondering why you haven't met a nice man yet or your parents wanting to know when you're going to be delivering grandkids, you may have to dodge some awkward questions. Try to have a witty response ready, like: "Have you seen what's out there? I'd rather be an old maid!" Just because people think your relationship status is their business doesn't make you obligated to defend yourself to them.
Dealing with Judgment
In some social circles, if you're not part of a couple then you're not truly a part of the group. You might not get invited to couples-oriented get-togethers, or if you do, it might be a (not-at-all) subtle way to set you up with someone else's eligible single friend. To be honest, my best advice is to think about getting some new friends.
I've always placed a lot of value on independence. Even if I have had moments of doubting whether I'm enough as a human being, being single or coupled doesn't enter the equation. I suffer from depression, and have had a few people, including treatment providers, suggest that it may be partly related to being single. What a complete load of crap. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with being single. If there are some people who choose to assess their own value based on whether they meet society's expectations to couple, they're free to do that, but that's not how I'm interested in living my life.
Society may expect all of us to be happily coupled up, but that doesn't mean that we need to buy into those expectations. We are valuable for who we are as individuals, not based on the man/woman we might happen to be attached to. It's important to recognize that worth, and hold our heads high. We are single, hear us roar.