“Now Debra, don't be bitter, surely with your ever-growing collection of flesh mutilating silver appendages, and your brand new neo-nazi boot camp makeover, the boys will come a-runnin'.” - Empire Records, 1995
I don’t like the word attitude. I don’t like the way we’ve come to use it. By definition it’s neutral, but we’ve coated it with a negative filter. As if we can VSCO all the words we want to suit our purpose. Using the word attitude as a negative sounds essentially like we’re telling people they’re wrong for having feelings. I have a shitload of feelings and I have to tell you, none of them are wrong. But that doesn’t stop society from disagreeing with me.
I’ve often heard that my attitude is the reason why I’m single. That idea is communicated to me as a negative. It’s not, “Congratulations, your attitude is why you’re single — what an accomplishment.” It’s: “This is all your fault, you’re doing something bad — to yourself.” While I don’t believe that being single is inherently something bad or wrong, and therefore can’t have a reason, fault, or cause, I’d like to get into this. Because I’m tired of being told that my life is wrong, and a symptom of my own feelings. I think my life is right, and a symptom of work and building a world around me that I’m proud of. I think the idea of a single woman enjoying her life is one that takes getting used to. Not for me though I’m super into this already.
The easiest way to frustrate a single woman who is putting herself out in the dating world and being slapped in the face with all of its atrocities is to tell her that she’s creating the negativity herself. To make her feel like her actions and “attitude” mean that she deserves it. The amount of unfairness in that could wallpaper the Louvre. Because you know what will give you a bad attitude about dating and being single? Our current societal experience of dating and being single. It’s a lose-lose cycle that’s inherently unfair and also incredibly biased to shit on one gender only. (Speaking here as a heterosexual person who does not have dating experience in the LGBTQ space, obvs.)
If you tell me I have a bad attitude, guess what — now I have one, toward you, the person making assumptions about my singleness.
Making someone angry by telling her everything she’s experiencing is happening to her because she’s angry will make a woman feel crazy. It makes me feel crazy. But I’m not crazy — society just doesn’t know what it’s talking about.
If you tell me I have a bad attitude, guess what — now I have one, toward you, the person making assumptions about my singleness. And because we can’t see very broadly past ourselves, I come across to you as angry and annoyed. You then think I’m angry and annoyed in every aspect of life and therefore repel a potential partner, but I’m not — that’s just how I’m now motivated to behave toward you and your dumbass assessments of singleness. I live it, you don’t get it, please stop talking.
It’s a hypothetical “you,” I don’t mean to sound accusatory to the person reading this who is likely in a very similar marine vessel to mine, paddling up the same river full of single bullshit. I just phrase it this way because in my mind, societal single punishment looks like a person. A snide, assumptive, ill-informed person who’s been partnered since their 20s and doesn’t understand why I can’t simply smile more.
I think there are a lot of societal influences at work that make me feel wrong or ashamed for being single. Over the years I've dealt with them in a variety of ways, not all of them healthy. I spent years (and years) feeling bad and wrong, and completely at fault for my own misery. And in a way, I was. I didn’t need to “just think positive” or paint a plastic smile on my face to attract a man, I just had to realize that being single isn’t inherently miserable in the first place.
I didn’t need to “just think positive” or paint a plastic smile on my face to attract a man, I just had to realize that being single isn’t inherently miserable in the first place.
A lot of this has led to the work I do now, trying to write and create as much as possible and scream like a digital banshee so that other single women out there can come to see that not only is there nothing wrong with being single, but it’s actually fucking fantastic to have a whole bed to yourself. Once you think that way, it’s unlikely you’ll share that bed with anyone who is less than worthy.
But personally, the misconception that makes me the most angry (oooh, anger—another thing I can’t be if I ever want a partner), is the all-encompassing one. As a single woman, I’m fed the idea that I’m single because I’m broken. I haven’t fixed myself yet. I haven’t worked on myself yet. I don’t love myself. I haven’t done what I still need to do in order to be suitable for partnership. It’s all my fault.
Of course I have work to do. I need to work through emotional blocks and limiting beliefs and pain and things I don’t like about myself. And I will. (I actually already do, every day, thanks.) But what I know for sure is that every married person on earth also needs to do the same shit. There is nothing inherently perfect about someone who “got to” get married. They weren’t being rewarded for something I haven’t achieved yet. We all, single or partnered, can benefit from self work and self love. It’s a wedding ring, not a factory seal of perfection. Let’s all get therapists, k?
In a way, I’m actually in a better position than the marrieds who haven’t worked on their shit yet, when you think about it. Because I’ll be working on mine prior to partnership, and they’ll have the added work involved in trying to adjust an existing partnership to fit a new attitude entirely. Best of luck with that. An arrogant notion? Probs. But given all the negative assumptions made about me and my singleness and its “cause” over the years, I can’t tell you how little I care about a married person’s hurty feelings right now.
Singleness isn’t a problem. Or a flaw. Or a broken piece of me to be fixed. It’s simply the life I live right now, and I love it. The funniest part is that I actually have changed my attitude around being single, but not by trying a new dating strategy or app or by stuffing the negative feelings I have toward horrible interactions I’ve had with men in the dating space down into the pit of my stomach where they’ll resurface as a panic attack next year one day while I’m at Trader Joe’s.
I’ve changed my attitude because I’ve come to realize what a gift being single is. I am free, I am limitless, I am open, I am in charge. I consider it a great feat to come around to this way of thinking in spite of a society that tries to steer me in the other direction at every opportunity. I feel accomplished in this, not broken. And put-together me looks forward to being with a put-together partner one day, someday, whenever.
I’m single because of my attitude? How sweet of you to say.