In order to first explain single-shaming’s effects on me, I will need to explain my current situation in love. More specifically, bad experiences burned me out to the point that I just can’t view relationships as possible. Like, I’m burnt to the point that love just doesn’t register as an option for me.
It’s not like I don’t purportedly have opportunities to pursue the option of a Loving Husband™. Though there are guys interested in dating me, and though I do hang out with guys in date-like situations, and though I have sex regularly, I consider myself single.
Some asked for commitment recently. I said no. I won’t commit to anyone because I just can’t handle the hurt, and I just don’t believe that men want me for me. I don’t know what they want, but I don’t believe they love.
On a whole, I walked away from love to the point that, even when I now have the option to find True Love™ it’s no longer worth the risk. I don’t want heartbreak, I don’t want to lose stuff, I don’t want to waste money, I don’t want to divvy up friends, and frankly, I don’t believe that the men interested in me actually would love me.
I am burnt and even if Mr. Right came along and said he loves me, I’d probably just shrug and say, “I’m sure you do.”
Oh, and I’m also very heavily single-shamed.
Whether we like it or not, being single is stigmatized in this society. I’ve heard everything from how I’m not good enough to marry, to why I should just change everything I am to get a man, to how pathetic it is that I am this burned out by a variety of people to varying degrees.
I think it’s time we talk about single-shaming, primarily about the things they don’t really tell you about this issue.
1. The biggest single-shamer you will encounter will likely be you.
Most of the time, people don’t care if I’m single. But every so often, I do. Back when I first gave up on love, I developed a pretty serious drinking problem over it. Being single and being hurt so often just makes you feel like a failure at times.
I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with me that I couldn’t just get one guy to like me. Once I legit just let it go completely, I felt better. But those pangs still happen, and they happen more frequently than people single-shaming me.
2. If you keep single-shaming yourself, you will become unhinged.
Negative self-talk is a crazy-maker. With me, I got increasingly aggressive and hateful towards men. Even though I had managed to work out a lot of the chips on my shoulder, I still immediately turn off if guys flirt with me.
3. “Smug marrieds” are really a thing.
Yes, I’m happy for people who are married. No, they shouldn’t be smug about it, but a lot are. I don’t think most people try to rub their relationships in my face, but those who actively do try to do this tend to be insufferable.
4. “Smug singles” are also a thing.
I’ve been single-shamed by single men just because I was born female. The general gist that smug single men use is that men “get a raw deal” in love, and take their toys to go home, and this is what I get for feminism.
All this really does is make me realize I made the right choice in banning myself from relationships. Even so, it’s annoying but I understand where they’re coming from.
5. Honestly, though, some people deserve to be single-shamed.
Certain dating habits that are common these days just deserve to be shamed — at least, in my opinion. If you bailed on the mother of your child, then I’m sorry, you deserve to be single-shamed and outed as a cad. If you actively string girls along and dangle a wedding ring in front of them like a carrot, you deserve to be single-shamed when you end up solo.
6. The most common kind of single-shaming comes when people offer unsolicited advice on how to get a date.
If I have gotten to the point that I let go of love, then I don’t want to hear about how I might have better luck if I lose more weight, dye my hair blonde, and “stop wearing weird sh*t.” Doing this just completely invalidates me as a person, and frankly, it’s hurtful.
If I cared enough, I’d capitulate. But really, most people should know better than to tell me that I shouldn’t give up on love. All of this is just really insulting and a great way to alienate friends.
7. It happens to guys, too.
I was actually pretty shocked to find out that one of my friends, Bradley, gets comments from coworkers about how he’s single and celibate. From what he told me, they basically attacked his masculinity and told him that they don’t believe he’s straight because of his life choices. That’s got to hurt.
8. With anyone who looks female, people also make sure to tell you that you’re on a timetable.
I can’t name how many people have told me that I need to “stop being edgy and just find a man before it’s too late.” Yeah, “too late” means before my eggs dry up.
I’m childfree, so this doesn’t bother me as much as the idea that a woman has an expiration date does. But to people who want kids, hearing this is devastating. Please, please stop it.
9. The single tropes out there are really messed up, and they aren’t doing anyone any favors.
Guys who are permanently single are seen as losers, manchildren, or perpetual bachelors. Women who are single are deranged, desperate, lonely cat ladies. I have friends who are single and happy.
Me? Well, once you completely write off the idea of love, you tend to feel a lot better. I honestly am happier alone than I was in many of my relationships — at least no one hurts you when you’re alone.
10. Being single-shamed can affect your overall habits as well.
I don’t go out to clubs as much as I used to, and I used to literally eat, sleep, and breathe nightlife. I don’t want to be that “older desperate woman” in other people’s eyes, even if I’m literally just there for music and drinks. Additionally, couples activities like dining out and stuff? Well, I have people for that these days, but I’ve also started to just stay at home because it just feels weird.
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11. There’s probably a lot of people who stay in bad relationships due to single-shaming.
For many people, myself included, getting a spouse is just “what you do.” If you are single past a certain age, people look at you funny. I’m wondering how many guys are in relationships with a woman they hate because they “have to be,” and I’m wondering how many women don’t leave abusers because they don’t want to die alone. I imagine the number’s quite high.
12. We’re all guilty of it once in a while.
I’ll admit it; I’ve single-shamed plenty of men and women. It’s often so pervasive in this society that we don’t even realize the damage we’ve done until it’s too late.
13. Really, though, single-shaming is outdated.
Just like slut-shaming needs to be buried with Elvis Presley, single-shaming is a leftover of a bygone era. Marriage no longer works because people no longer are capable of sticking to commitments the way they once were.
We live in a selfish society that looks down on things like compromise. In order to survive, you need to stay single. After all, you can’t have something as increasingly temporary as love dragging you down. So, perhaps instead of single-shaming one another, we should get used to seeing more singles well into their 50s.
Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.