The holiday season inspires our friends and family to gift us with advice on how to change our single status even if we’re single and happy.
Ah, the holidays! Sumptuous dinners, traditions old and new, family gatherings. And for singles: an increased likelihood of being annoyed by comments from well-meaning friends and relatives. There is just something about this time of year that makes the unmarried among us feel like we have crosshairs on our foreheads.
My favorite example came a few Thanksgivings ago when an uncle-in-law, who’d recently become born-again, asked me how my single life was going.
“Well, I haven’t met anyone terrific lately,” I admitted, “But life is otherwise good!”
He looked at me with sorrowful eyes. “Have you thought about praying to the Lord to send you a man?”
I hesitated, and wanted to respond that I assumed God was too busy handling tsunamis, wars and the economy to mitigate minor catastrophes like my love life, but I let it go with a quick “thanks for sharing.” He didn’t mean any harm, he’s just … married.
Despite the fact that in recent decades more Americans are single than ever before, and that single living has been gaining ground as a viable long-term lifestyle, we still are looked upon by some as freaks who need fixing. And there is never any shortage of suggestions from our nearest and dearest. If you want that important unmarried person in your life to have happy holidays, consider long and hard whether you really want to bring up these 10 topics in conversation.
1. I’m so sorry you’re facing the holidays alone.
I’m not. Most singletons are never alone — we have family or friends and enjoy spending important occasions with them. And I can tell you that my holidays were far more miserable when I was in bad relationships than they are on my own.
2. Maybe you’re not trying hard enough to find someone.
The irritating message here is two-pronged: A) that living an unmarried life rich with friends and fun is somehow a problem to be fixed, and B) the only person who knows how hard you’re “trying” is you. Does Aunt Mabel really know how many blind fix-ups or internet dates you’ve been on? Besides, do these people not realize that Eau de Desperation is an off-putting fragrance?
3. Maybe you should … wear shorter skirts/wear more makeup/get a toupee/lose some weight.
When someone makes suggestions about appearance, they can really cut to the quick. The message implies that we are not okay the way we are and that with a few cosmetic fixes, we will find our soul mates. As a veteran single person, I can tell you that there is no rhyme or reason to when we meet wonderful potential mates. It is as likely to happen in the supermarket as at a formal event. I would be more inclined to grill someone about their looks if they began wearing something that was completely out of tune with who they are. Again, desperation ain’t pretty.
4. Maybe you’re being too picky.
This is a common one us midlifers hear. Many of my single friends in their 40s, 50s and above think there’s no point in dating if it can’t be quality time spent. This is what separates us from our less-discriminating fellow singles in their 20s and 30s. By this age, we’ve learned to be picky, and it’s not a bad thing. For someone to suggest we’re being too picky implies that, at our age, desperation has set in, and we should probably just settle for any warm body.
5. I hear that a woman over 40 has a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than of getting married.
Yes, I still hear this one occasionally. Presumably the person re-quoting this 1986 myth does not know how to read because it has been debunked by a variety of sources, including the magazine that first suggested it (Newsweek). A scarier stat: A person getting married only stands a 50-50 chance of remaining so.
6. I envy you and your single lifestyle: going out every night, dancing ’til dawn …
This one always makes me scratch my head. There are still so many myths about what it’s like to be single. As much as I love being single most of the time, there are always those tire blowouts after dark, the light bulb that needs changing — from atop a very high ladder — and such that make me wish I had a male body to help. And no, massaging my feet after dancing ’til dawn would not be a required chore because that doesn’t happen.
7. Have you thought about trying an Internet dating site?
Now why didn’t I think of that? Kidding — I don’t know a single who hasn’t. And despite the truths sold by very convincing marketing, only a few people I know have met The One this way. More often, they meet people who are 10 years older and 20 pounds heavier than they claim. Still, in our modern ADD world, with little time to circulate, internet dating sites remains a useful tool.
8. I have someone you might really like to meet.
This person could be a family member/co-worker/dentist/mechanic/whatever of someone you know. I confess that where this intrusion used to bother me, it no longer does — though plenty of singles complain about their close associates’ desire to set them up. Personal introductions are still atop the list of good ways to meet potential dates. But I would add that before you accept the set-up, make sure you know the setter-upper well — otherwise they can’t possibly know the kind of mate you’re looking for. If it’s Great Aunt Nettie, who wants you to date her personal trainer, you might want to pass.
9. You might have better luck if you tone it down a bit.
I’ve heard this more than once. What does that mean? I ask too many questions? I’m too opinionated? Do I have to dumb myself down to attract a mate? I’m less afraid of being alone than I am of an inauthentic connection. All cards on the table is my motto.
And last but not least …
10. Oh honey, you’re so fabulous! Why are you still single?
It’s tempting to say, “It has to be because I have that third eye and eat kittens for breakfast!” But instead I simply smile and say, “I’m still single because it works for me. Happy holidays!”