Ever have the feeling that sometimes single people, particularly single women, get a little too much pleasure from the pain of being single?
Because of my job, I get a lot of books in the mail from people who write about being single. Each one approaches the topic in a different way, but in general, I’d say that 70 percent of these books are guides on how to get “unsingle” — how to date, where to find him/her, and how to snag someone so you, too, can be happily coupled.
About 20 percent of the books I receive focus on presenting the facts and figures about the tremendous growth of the unmarried population (now the majority) and challenge readers to question the conventional wisdom that says the only way to be happy is to be part of a pair.
And then there’s the remaining 10 percent that reach both sides of the fence. Sara Eckel’s book, “It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single,” is one of those. An accomplished writer, Sara writes about how she suffered through her single years and her attempts to find a mate.
By the age of 44, when she married for the first time, she had reached the conclusion that there was no “cure” for being single and no right path to finding a husband. It happens when it happens, sooner for some, later for others. In the interim, you might as well surrender to the awkwardness of being single with as much grace and dignity as possible — and realize that there’s nothing wrong with you, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Sara and I share the dubious honor of being unpopular with professional matchmakers because we both believe single people don’t need to be fixed, remodeled, made over — and we both agree that when you find a life partner, it’s due to chance rather than your character. The discordant note occurs with how we view being single. Sara says it’s sad because it simply is — but don’t fret, someday you won’t be if that’s what you want. I say it’s sad if you decide to embrace it as such.
I think it’s healthy to acknowledge your feelings — if you’re depressed, angry, lonely. But lumping those feelings together as all part of being single, as if they wouldn’t occur if you’re coupled, gives people permission to not just feel those feelings but to hold on to them, wallow in them and use them to define their life.
Yes, I am one of those you-can-be single-and-happy “fiery free spirits” that Sara mentions, with a hint of disdain, in her book. But I do believe your life will follow your thoughts. If those thoughts run along a well-worn circular path of negative emotion and self-obsession, your life will be a depressing experience, regardless of your relationship status. Sure, feel your feelings, but don’t get stuck there, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t blame it all on being single!
There is so much I like about Sara’s book, so much that we agree on (like hating the social stigma of being single and the ridiculous pressure society puts on us to get married). But when I recently read one of her email blasts to her subscribers, I was inspired to say “Wait a minute now.” It was, in my opinion, inviting women not only to feel the sad feelings they attribute to being single, but to actually sink into the abyss of those feelings — to almost relish them in an environment where those women with the most painful “being single” experience receive the most sympathy and attention from the others.
“We live in a culture that values ‘positive thinking’ above nearly everything else. That is supposed to make us happy, but I think it often makes us miserable because it renders all less-than-chipper feelings unacceptable. But unhappiness isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a sign of being alive.”
How sad … how miserable it must be … this being single thing. Write in. Share your most dreadful being single experience so we can all commiserate with you. And on it goes; a self-fulfilling, self-generating, ongoing cycle of woe is me for being single.
It’s a popular position to take because equating being single with misery is exactly why there’s a billion-dollar matchmaking / love coach industry. I have the uncomfortable feeling that providing a platform for single women to console and obsess on the negative, rather than consider more difficult options like changing thought habits into something positive, totters into a place we need to avoid, even if misery does love company.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.