Socially, being a single woman in her 30s is a weird place to be. There’s like a pariah status that comes with the territory. It’s for this very reason I’ve sometimes struggled myself with the concept of being single. People have made my single status feel like a curse at times. Other people. Because a single woman, especially an older single woman, is just hella kinds of crazy!

The single negative stereotype

Addressing singleness as a whole – before I properly get into my rant on the single woman issue – There is a negative stereotype out there for all things single, that’s just fact. Society in general may not be aware of it, but singles are acutely aware of the stigma surrounding single. Single people are as a minimum assumed to have nothing but a house full of cats and a constant ugly cry face. It’s all incomplete, unhappy, socially misunderstood vibes. What is all this beef with single? How did anyone not partnered up become considered less than anyone else?

How people feel about single

And this isn’t just myself ‘thinking’ that’s how people feel about single. One American study found that participants attributed married people as loving, mature, happy, kind and honest. In comparison, single people were attributed with labels such as insecure, unhappy, lonely, self-centred, and even god damn ugly. Bastards!!

So anyone single is lonely, miserable, selfish and ugly?. Cracking. How did this even get to be a thing? I know, I have so many questions and not enough answers! But that’s the point, being single in my 30s has left me in this position of feeling like an outcast at times. It does feel as if I’m going against the grain. Studies like the one highlighted above just prove that my feelings are valid. Socially, single people are crazily misrepresented and frequently made to feel less than for not being partnered up.

Single prejudice and discrimination

Fisher and Sakaluk’s research even identified singles as facing prejudice and discrimination similar to members of other stigmatized groups. The interesting thing here, is that single prejudice is considered more acceptable than discrimination towards other stigmatized groups, because of the accountability on a single person for their singleness; they choose to be single, but have the option not to be, therefore any prejudice is seen as absolutely okay because it can be countered if that single person only got themselves married goddamn it!

What a woman should be

But back to the point of this blog, if single is already wholly assumed as just this whole bucket load of shittyness. And marriage, the partnered up non-singles out there, that’s all hailed as success, like a status symbol. Why am I singling out single women in particular as getting the crappier end of the deal vs single men? Because there are two different TYPES of single out there. I mean its labelled negatively as a whole, but there is definitely a difference in how a single man is viewed compared to a single woman. And a lot of it comes down to what a woman and her future is expected to look like.

Nurturer, wife and mother, kind, compassionate, selfless. Just some of the things women are socially expected to be. In nearly every movie, TV programme, novel I read growing up, the women always ended up with a fairy tale ending, and that happy ever after came as the prospect of a relationship, dreamy marriage and someday, kids. No way were women supposed to be independent, self-prioritizing, power house singletons.

Is it not socially acceptable to be a single woman?

So with a relationship hailed as a sign of success and single people in general seen in a pretty negative light, no wonder single women just aren’t accepted or understood. Because the choice, the ‘being single’ is seen as a position to be corrected and a failure to put right. A single woman has zero flauntage and in the words of Bridget Jones herself, “smug marrieds” have something to flaunt.

Single is a veer off the path and a detour completely away from all the concepts of what and who a woman should be aspiring to be. It goes against everything that’s put out there as the female fairy-tale ending. Single just can’t be the end, it has to be the in-between bit to getting to happy ever after. And socially, that means queue those sympathetic looks, pep talks on finding love one day and a solid helping hand back to destination marital bliss and relationship saviour!

If I were a single man

But if I were a single man, the rules are all different. Seriously, they just are. I don’t make them, I’m just telling you what they be. Oh, single men are still expected to find someone one day. But no-one cares when they solve their singleness. Be single in your 30s fellas, go for it in your 40s, enjoy in your 50s, and so on. There is no finite timescale on when a single man is less acceptable when it comes to age.

No-one suspects a single man of being difficult, or broken goods. (And even if they did, men aren’t required to be selfless, compassionate or polite in the same way women are). They aren’t labelled as spinsters or old maids when they reach a certain point in life. One of my single male friends has never had the words, “Oh you must be hard work that’s why no-one wants you,” uttered to him by way of an unrequested explanation for his singleness. Men are not expected to be ‘saved’ from their single way of life. They are the choosers and not the awaitees. So if they are single, crack on lad, it’s your choice.

People don’t even see single men as unhappy or treat their suspected selfishness as if it’s a bad thing. If anything, they think he concentrated on his career, never wanted to settle down, enjoyed the single life too much, didn’t want kids, is entirely happy with single. Zero issues with a single man or his choices for singledom, at any age. But a woman, a single woman comes with pre-conceived ideas and judgements on why, how and what the heck for! And people don’t even mind telling you their thoughts on it.

I don’t want to defend single

For the past few years I feel like I’ve had to give reasons for being single. Explanations. Show accountability. Defend why I’m single. Accept the accompanying comments. And this doesn’t feel like it gets any easier with age. As a single woman, the older you are the more these negative attributes feel heightened even further. And I really don’t want to write about single in a way that always feels like it has to support the desire to be single.

I don’t want to defend it with statements like; maybe I’m single because I want to be. I could be single thriving and NOT single surviving as everyone else instantly thinks. Maybe I love single, and I love it so much that even if a relationship is a future goal, it’s also one that exists down the line and doesn’t feel a rush to hurtle towards. In fact maybe it’s something I don’t even care about ‘correcting’. And maybe I do want to find that special someone to compliment my life one day, but I don’t want to feel as if my time spent being single is a waste or something that can’t and shouldn’t be enjoyed.

I’ve had enough of the social stigma surrounding a single woman status

And I’ve just had enough that single comes with so many negative attributes. And actually, there’s an irony that the stigma surrounding being single does actually make me a bit arsehole’ish. Because I’m fed up of all these assumptions. The expectations that my life should go a particular way. That single is bad, relationship is the only way life can be good. Being single is not making me unhappy, or insecure or lonely. But it is fucking frustrating being cast in the role of single villain. It is exasperating that I feel as if I should always be hunting for someone else, rather than enjoying who I am and where I’m at.

What if single, was just single?

The same as married, is just married. Partnered up is partnered up. I don’t instantly assume people are happily or unhappily married or in a relationship. There is no part of me that thinks marriage is better or worse than any other relationship status. So what if my singleness just wasn’t a thing? Man, woman or otherwise. It just wasn’t something I needed to write about, defend, or make people aware that there is this social unacceptance and prejudice of single whether they realize it or not.

Single people are aware of it

Because whether society realizes that they’re making single feel unacceptable, isn’t the point. The point is, it categorically is and singles are very acutely attuned to it. Singles are the ones who get the brunt of the questions and labels. Single people are the ones being made to feel a sense of shame and wrongdoing just for being single. And a little truth talk, being not understood by peers and society in general, now that is what can make single feel lonely and unhappy at times. Not singledom itself.

I’m single and I’m fine thanks, but cheers for asking

So for anyone who is under the illusion that single is the land of failure, incompleteness, and a constant ugly cry face, it isn’t. I’m single and I’m fine, but cheers for asking. So can we just get to acceptably single please and move this train along? Because if I’m partnering up one day it’s not because anyone else but me wants that.

And frankly, single life is pretty damn attractive so it’d have to be someone pretty spectacular to change my thoughts on single living. And by the looks of it, a lot of people out there feel the same because single is on trend. One study found that one quarter of young American’s, believe they will NEVER marry. There is a cultural shift towards solo living. But I shouldn’t have to point out it’s growing popularity as the reason the viewpoint on single needs to change.

Agree, disagree, fancy a rant of your own? Share your comments below, I’d love to know your thoughts.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.


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