“Whatever.” - Clueless, 1995
As a kid, I wanted to be psychic. I wanted a crystal ball that, apart from being perfectly in line with my decor aesthetic, could show me the future. Some celestial guidance, a bit of reassurance during my navigation of everything, from learning to ride a bike to opening my first bank account. Alas, I’m not psychic, I can’t predict the future. Here’s the important thing though: Neither can you.
Single women are in the path of a lot of incoming information, advice, and depictions of single life. It’s everywhere: Advertising, books, movies, TV, conversations at dinner with friends and family, etc. There’s a lot headed in our general direction, and because society hasn’t figured out that single women give a shit about more than just ending being single, a lot of that incoming information is advice about how to “fix” what we are. Sorry, literally all of that advice is about how to fix what we are — dating advice, dating coaching, dating ideas, dating dating dating dating. Are you single? You must want to talk about dating. And literally nothing else.
It’s all coming from a good place, I want to make that clear. I’ve never had anyone come up to me and tell me I’m horrible sack of human waste because I’m a 36 year old single woman (though, it’s only Wednesday… give it time). Most of the advice and commentary I’ve received has come from people who care about me, and who want me to be happy. The reason it stings so much is because I am happy, but all the good-intentioned advice reiterates to me that, because I’m single, I shouldn’t be.
Specifically, I’m talking about If/Thens. The nuggets of advice that purport to know the future and have predictive abilities as to how we can put an end to this embarrassing, terrible, pathetic life phase called being a single adult human woman. You’ve heard them, I guarantee it.
“If you love yourself first, then you’ll meet someone.”
“If you [change your appearance], then you’ll meet someone.”
“If you put yourself out there, then you’ll meet someone.”
“If you stop looking, then you’ll meet someone.”
Maybe, instead, we should spend more time talking to single women about things that don’t suggest they’re broken? I dunno.
If you do this, then you’ll have that. Not only is this bullshit bullshit because it’s bullshit, it also has the ability to turn every activity in a woman’s life into an opportunity to “fix” being single. Maybe, instead, we should spend more time talking to single women about things that don’t suggest they’re broken? I dunno.
What hurts me is this: I believe we’re allowed to do things that have absolutely nothing to do with “finding a man,” but our society loves to make every action a woman takes somehow carry mythical potential for her to “meet someone.”
Everything from solo travel to getting a new job to joining a gym can carry with it additional goals beyond the main focus of the thing itself. So that instead of focusing on and enjoying the primary activity, we’re meant to see the activity as an opportunity to meet a partner. If we see a new hobby as not simply a new hobby, but a new hobby and a chance to meet someone, we constantly keep our heads on a swivel, wondering when that predicted “meet someone” is going to happen. We don’t want to miss it. And that diminishes our focus on the joy in the activity itself.
“You started French lessons? Maybe you’ll meet someone!”
“You joined a running group? Maybe you’ll meet someone!”
“You’re going to Rome by yourself? Maybe you’ll meet someone!”
Not only is this exhausting, but it also sets single women up for a massive amount of disappointment. Here’s an if and then for you: If she doesn’t meet someone on her trip, then does she still get to be happy she went to Rome? Will she be as happy as should could have been if the potential to “meet someone” had never been a focus?
Am I happy for the women who have meet-cutes on European train rides? Of course. But I am also very concerned for the women who never do, and never know why. Because instead of realizing the beauty and magic of travel (or whatever the joy in an activity is), they were assigning a secondary goal to something that was already amazing, and coming home disappointed. If you spend your coin and vacation days on solo travel and come home disappointed, you fucked up.
This one is really on us. As much as I try to encourage societal change, this isn’t something that’s going to change — certainly not quickly enough for me anyway. It’s very hard to change behaviour that has good intentions. So instead, we have to change what we do with all the incoming and unsolicited advice and hopes for our lives. Personally, I think we should simply ignore the unsolicited advice.
We don’t have to know the future. It has our back anyway.
Shut out the ifs and thens. Enjoy activities and self love and personal growth for what they are — not for their potential to put us in the cosmic path of a partner. FYI, I think we’re already on the path of whatever goals and desires we have — including partnership. I fully trust that what we want will find its way to us, and that we don’t have to “fix” ourselves first in order to get it. We’re just as valid and worthy as everyone else. We don’t have to know the future. It has our back anyway.