Newsweek recently revised its 1986 proclamation that a 40-year-old white woman has a greater chance of getting killed by a terrorist than getting married. Beyond the scare-tistics, however, the social stigma over spinsterhood remains. In fact, I'll go further and say the stigma extends beyond spinsters but also to perennial bachelors.
Much of it is unconscious, but many Americans seem to have a bias that married is better. Now, don't get me wrong - I do believe a good marriage is probably better than being alone. But I'll take alone any day over a rotten marriage. (See a very poignant article on Gather about this very subject.)
Yet, I constantly get these messages from well-meaning friends that imply that I'm not good enough or doing something wrong, and that's why I don't have a man yet.
This unspoken criticism gets louder the older you get, and it doesn't just apply to women. I've also heard friends suggest that male friends of mine, in their late 30s or early 40s, must be gay or have issues with their sexuality if they aren't married - or worse, they must obviously have emotional baggage.
The advice and comments on love go along the following lines:
"If you are just positive, get out there, and surround yourself with positive people, you'll meet someone." Nope, I've been out there for quite a while, I've been positive to the point of being delirious about it, and I've known plenty of positive peope. Still no soulmate.
"It's not about looks. You just need to put out the right energy." Ironically, the friend who tells me this is (no kidding) 20something, drop-dead gorgeous, and goes out with dorky guys who aren't quite up to her level of attractivess. These guys are dazzled, for sure, but I doubt it has anything to do with her "energy."
"You get back the love you give out to the world." True on many levels, but a crock of hoo-ha when it comes to men. I've been very loving, but I have had to deal with my fair share of rejection even with the love I've put out. Not all love put out is returned to you in the form you want it to be.
"You'll get the relationship when you are ready for it." Excuse me? Am I a chicken pot pie or something, and I only get to have a relationship when I'm cooked and ready? And what about all the schmucks out there who are obviously immature and nutso but still have long-term relationships - please do not tell me that Hollywood celebrities are somehow "more ready" than the rest of us...they manage to hook up faster than it takes to make a film these days.
"You'll get the relationship when you stop looking for it." This is a highly confusing statement, as it contradicts directly with those dating coaches who suggest you devise and execute a plan to find a mate. It also goes against my direct experience. I have had periods where I stopped looking...and guess what? No husband dropped down from the sky.
The most ironic bit of wisdom I got was from a female friend of mine who has been in a two-year relationship with a man who is probably gay (since he is not interested in sex) and who insults her publicly in front of friends. He ignored her birthday completely. What a great guy for her.
And yet, this friend tells me that I should be OK with being alone. Actually, I am OK being alone. She, however, has had not spent one ounce of her adult life without either a husband or a live-in boyfriend. And she still proclaims that she truly doesn't need men.
I have to say I am sick of the underlying moral and spiritual superiority many women proclaim to their single friends. I do very much value relationships, and I have the utmost respect for couples who have deep, intimate, spiritual bonds. But from what I can fathom, many people don't have these high quality relationships. They settle for less, or wind up in emotionally codependent partnerships based on fear of being alone than on real love.
Going it alone - and not settling for some crappy relationship just to prove you can get a man - is a far superior option than shacking up with whatever man will have you just to prove you can catch one.
And maybe if more people approached their relationships with more reverence, we'd have more single people at any given moment, but the quality of our marriages would increase dramatically.