The Insidious Binaries of Singledom Forced on Millennial Women
Even if being single or taken is a binary, the conditions and individual wants and needs surrounding one’s relationship status are far from a simple either-or.
In a world where we have seemingly endless options for everything from sandwiches to gender expression, single women [namely, cisgender women who primarily date men] seem to be given just two of them when it comes to relationship status: you’re either in this constant state of despondence and desperation as a result of not having a permanent guy in your life, or YAS QUEEN you don’t ever need a man at all, you never want to bother with that!
If you’re happy and single, so many people take it to mean that you don’t want a relationship. If you’re unhappy about being single, you’re told to settle for the first schmuck who’s halfway nice to you or perhaps some variant of, “But your life sounds AWESOME! Why do you want a boyfriend/husband?”
Funny, I thought that we were supposed to work on ourselves and find out what makes us tick before signing up for a relationship.
No, you don’t need to wait until everything in your life is shining perfection or else you’ll probably drop dead first. But first I’m told I should find out why I’m constantly depressed before I try to land a partner, now you tell me that my life needs to suck in order to have a boyfriend…?
Well, which one is it?!
What if we changed the way that we talk about single people, particularly single women?
We’re given this laundry list of contradictions that keeps growing like some out of control Chia Pet. You know what I mean: have sex with these guys but don’t give it away! Be “chill”, yet hot, interesting, and passionate. Don’t play games yet you’re also encouraged by dating culture to basically pretend to be someone else.
We’re given advice we didn’t ask for, often placing impossible undue burdens on women rather than social standards or dating culture themselves.
Ultimately, I find that women are basically told be the opposite of who they actually are. That you suppress your real self like cramming yourself into a pair of Spanx, and don’t communicate what you actually want out of a relationship and life lest you scare men off. Or just don’t sound fucking perfect!
When I patently didn’t want a relationship and basically lived for hooking up with guys I met at punk shows and the watering holes of the alternative quarter and utterly refusing to return their calls or texts after, I was constantly told things like “Settle down, bed hopper!” Or the classic fearmongering every woman hears, “You think you’ll still be doing that at 40? Men like to play with exotic, fancy cars but they never take them home from the lot.” (Yes, I actually heard this, such lovely misogyny on display by comparing a sentient woman to a goddamn motor vehicle.) And my favorite one that denies women have any sexual agency whatsoever and couldn’t possibly want to hook up for the love of dick: “You deserve better than that! Don’t you want something more? Don’t you want to be more than just some wet hole, another face in the sea of faces?” Aside from the prudish sexism on display here, I’m a D-list Internet celebrity in an incredibly tiny industry, so the latter is impossible at this stage of my life.
So of course now that I WOULD like a monogamous, serious relationship at this juncture, I’m told I shouldn’t want that and should be happy being single.
Except that I AM happy being single.
I’m just also open to a committed relationship and have the resolve, comfort with intimacy, and surety in who I am and what I want out of life that I completely lacked back in the day.
But wait, WE CAN’T HAVE THAT EITHER.
It literally breaks people’s brains when I tell them that just because I’d like a long-haul fella to share my life and raise some toads with, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop living my life.
That includes still enjoying casual sex if we’re both into it. If the right guy comes along, great. If not, I’ve got plenty of other things happening.
I’ve fallen in love with Shani Silver’s work over the past year, since she disseminates so much of the bullshit single women have flung at them on a daily basis. In this piece that tears into the “so this is why you’re still single, GIRL” mindset, she makes a point that is worth repeating: “You can choose to be happily single. You can choose to stop seeing singlehood as a negative state.”
Because yeah, those people are right about one thing: my life IS awesome! I have my own business I busted my ass to build! I’m finally making games, getting recognized for my writing, and constantly challenging myself entrepreneurially and creatively. I have such a clear vision for my future in a new city at the time of writing; and my projects keep getting bigger, more ambitious and batshit crazy, and socking more funding in the process. Above all, I have people in my life who love and appreciate me and don’t treat me like this inconvenience they have to tolerate.
Being single isn’t some death sentence or automatically equating to misery. You can recognize someone is happy with their life while still wanting things like affection, sex, and romance and that it is totally valid.
Being happy with your life while single doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on romantic relationships altogether.
I mean, it certainly can mean that if you choose to. It’s just not this binary either-or thing like we’re told it is.
Some people just don’t want a relationship, and that’s okay! Other people, especially a lot of women, also have a relationship then after the divorce or breakup they decide they don’t want to do this again and some only feel that way now, but change their minds later.
Because I plan on living it up after I get the vaccine and I’m keeping my options open as I gain new gentleman friends and old ones in the city I’m headed to want to reconnect? I’m told things like, “No, no, no, you’re putting out the wrong energy! You’re just going to keep getting these emotionally unavailable fuckboys!”
Bro, I’m still getting emotionally unavailable fuckboys and men who “stash” me. The only difference with my way is that I’m doing this my way this time instead of letting the man dictate everything. Maybe that’s where you actually have a problem.
I call the shots with my business and projects. But while a romantic relationship is supposed to be a partnership, the whole chasing deal to get there can be pretty lopsided. And the utterly inane games we’re expected to play would be lambasted by the Angry Video Game Nerd if they were packaged into a Nintendo cartridge, because the controls are utter shit and completely unwinnable by design.
Why should I agonize over whether this guy is going to text me back or not, when I can just work on my game, shitpost, hang with my friends when it’s not a deadly plague happening, and the countless other things I enjoy?
Y’all just want to see women get consumed by whether or not we have a future together instead of letting us enjoy the present. Sorry not sorry, but love and marriage is a side quest for millions of us now. It’s not the endgame anymore.
Why should I over-analyze it to death wondering if we had sex too soon? There’s couples who marry after one night stands, and guys who see you for two solid years and still say you aren’t their girlfriend. If he doesn’t respect you with your clothes off, he probably won’t when you put them back on.
So I don’t necessarily dictate the terms here: I just refuse to defer to what we perceive men as preferring or wanting of us. I just refuse to take those terms like I do in business: I don’t “have to” do all this shit I was told to do all my life.
And ladies: did following these 18 trillion asinine little rules so he doesn’t think you’re this irredeemable slut EVER help you land a loving relationship? I don’t think so.
Telling women that they must be in this “date to marry” mindset is really infuriating and infantilizing. It discourages us from just enjoying things for what they are, and actually living life and being out in the world.
I don’t mean casual sex on its own. Obviously, that’s something to enjoy for what it is. But I also mean everything leading up to it:
Having genuinely amazing conversation with a guy, regardless of where it could go —or IF it’ll go anywhere.
The little butterflies you feel when you’re stoked that he’s texting you, liking your tweets, and so on.
Exchanging knowing smiles with that handsome guy at the local bar.
Kissing someone you met on Twitter outside the liquor store after you caught the last half of a geek band’s show and he comments that you look like a snow princess with all the glitter that fell in your hair.
Banging into a guy in the pit at a hardcore show, then he comes up to you later and asks for your number as the light radiates from you because of the awareness that you still got it.
The incredulity that you just slept with this guy you met off LinkedIn, he could tell you were used to Long-Term Relationship Sex That Went South, gave it his freaking all as a result, and you damn near wanted to endorse him for certain skills on the platform.
Wow, this entire list really makes me miss pre-pandemic life. Though crazily enough, I have more men in my DMs on Twitter now than I did when it was still safe to meet for dates, go figure.
When we’re made to feel so consumed with dating to find a partner, you don’t enjoy the time you’re spending with the person when you’re treating it like a goddamn job interview. You’re not enjoying life, let alone dating and hooking up. It can make you not just fatalistic, but downright depressed!
After all, when you’re treating dating like it’s a series of job interviews, of course it’s not going to elicit a modicum of enjoyment. Dating apps and the attached culture shoulder a lot of blame for this, and it’s something I just plain refuse to participate in.
Whatever your age, don’t what-if yourself to death. Get out there and enjoy your life. If he wanders back to the Valley of Emotionally Unavailable Fuckboys from whence he came, then you move on. Becoming so consumed with these what-ifs stopped me from dating altogether in my mid-late twenties, can you believe it?
Because even if he does turn out to be incompatible with you, or just another fuckboy, you lay back and enjoy it for what it is if you happily consent to whatever goes down. And if your time together wasn’t a good experience, you commiserate with your friends or find ways to laugh about it. But both have the same end result: you’re still single, you still get back out there and continue to date and hook up with people who catch your interest.
Single life contains multitudes.
It’s not a binary.
You’ll have days when you’re feeling lonely and just wish you could be held, and not in a platonic manner like a friend or family member would. Then you’ll have days you’re glad you only have to look out for yourself, and don’t have to run anything by a spouse. All of it is valid.
And pandemic notwithstanding, you don’t have to wait around to live your life just because you’re not taken. Just because you’ll be more at ease by yourself doesn’t mean you have to rule out sharing that happiness and surety with someone down the line.