why-am-i-still-singleYou’re so pretty and smart why are you single?’ or ‘Don’t worry, there’s someone out there for you’.

There is an underlying prejudicial message of inferiority and otherness rooted in these messages that people who are single endure constantly, even though most people are simply trying to be supportive when they ask ‘Who wouldn’t love you?’ The upcoming crazy cupid madness of Valentine’s Day just reinforces the message no one would choose to be single, enduring societal prejudice and actual institutionalized discrimination.

Whatever your relationship status be-it single, married or my favorite – it’s complicated – most people, including me, truly believe that love and being in love with another person is one of the most beautiful experiences possible. So let me clearly differentiate between the idea of love vs. relationship status.

The problem I’m referring to isn’t about love or people who are in loving relationships; the problem is societal prejudices surrounding relationship status and the pedestal that romantic relationships are put on. In fact, there’s actually a word for this type of discrimination; it’s called singlism – the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against people who are single.

You just know you’re in for some sort of ride when your lifestyle has an actual name; it’s like being singled out for being single.

First let me say this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to love, being single or relationships. I’ve been in a long term 10 year relationship, a few 2-3 year ones, a handful of casual one night stands – which for lesbians can actually be a few weeks. I’ve had enough experience now to know what it’s like being single in this culture and what it’s like being coupled. Both can be incredibly rewarding, challenging and thrilling in their own way. As an out lesbian I do believe that for women and lesbians in particular, the pressure from our community to be in relationship, especially a monogamous relationship, can often be more intense.

For single lesbians it can be especially challenging to not only find community but to also be included and invited to events with lesbian couples. If you’re not in a relationship perhaps you appear as a threat to couples –   who knows? Talk about a third wheeler.

I have a friend I call ‘Gangster Buddha’ due to her unusual insightfulness and direct honesty. The other day we were discussing what it’s like being single in America and societal pressures for partnering up along with the ‘less-than’ feeling that accompanies being single. She responded with, “Don’t buy into it. It’s the same as buying into the ideas of sexism and homophobia where women and queers are somehow less because society tells them they are.”

It’s as if there was some sort of summit that made it clear that, we may be born alone and die alone but in between we better have some company, as if being attached is simply better than being alone.Happy Valentines Day

There is tremendous pressure in our culture to be partnered up with another person.

The messages to be coupled are everywhere; movies, television, advertisements, songs, books, social media, parents and friends and the list goes on. Our world constantly glamorizes relationships while judging and pitying single people – the supposed immature, unstable and self-centered members of society.  How will they ever develop maturity, independence and respect unless they grow up and get married?  There’s a name for this over-the-top hyping of marriage:  matrimania.

Our culture is founded on the idea of an institutionalized heteronormative nuclear family unit based on procreation. Perhaps that’s part of the reason this whole idea that being in relationship is superior to being single came about in the first place, even though marriage is as much a legal contract as a commitment of love.  Married people for example, get all sorts of tax breaks that single people do not.

Why?

It seems to me that married people have twice the income potential. When it comes to housing, married couples will be chosen time and time again over single people who share almost the same background status and income. And medical, auto and health insurance companies typically charge single people higher rates.  These advantages are the way in which society promotes marriage, while penalizing single (and childless) people. Yes please, I want to pay higher taxes and more for health care, even though I use fewer services than a couple.  And of course I should pay more for auto insurance because I’m single – driving while single is much more hazardous, everyone knows that.

Then there are the endless celebrations: weddings, engagements, showers where two people can really clean up with gifts and money and attention. You know why single people don’t get presents and parties? Singlism. And because we have all that cash leftover from paying more taxes on our single income. Since more than half of the population is single perhaps more than half the population feels no pressing need to be coupled?

Why again do we need another person to make us feel complete?

There’s a line in a movie Jerry Maguire where the main character tells the woman he loves, ‘You complete me’.  Admittedly I do love this movie. But the first time I heard that line I thought…Seriously, are you really saying you somehow weren’t complete until she came along?  This message though – this cheesy line – is just some of the rhetoric single people hear all the time.

‘You are incomplete without someone attached to you,’ even though it contradicts the other lines you’re told about how wonderful you are (see above where ‘you’re so pretty and smart’).  All of this can drive a person to believing that settling for a lukewarm love is better than no love at all. I’m not talking about lust and one night stands, although I do believe lust can sometimes lead to love. I’m referring to the countless people who long for a partner so much that every red flag is ignored. I’m talking about the people who feel so isolated being single, like they’re always on the outside looking, they’ll do almost anything. Settling out of desperation.

Settling because we want that perfect relationship, or the almost perfect relationship. Settling because of outside pressures from friends and family. Settling out of loneliness or fear. We ignore that inner voice thinking that being coupled, even if it’s not a perfect match, will bring us relief and happiness. The fact that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce and of remaining married fifty percent, half of those are unhappy marriages.

Being in the right relationship is an incredible gift. But so is the ability to walk through life with your eyes, heart and mind wide open, knowing that whether you choose to be partnered or not, it won’t be this culture making that decision or deciding what happiness is to you. It takes courage, patience and the knowledge that love isn’t defined by a ceremony and certificate. It isn’t easy to push against what society wants; it takes courage. I call it Amazon courage.


Support LGBTQI Media

Support your LGBTQI Media