As a single woman, one of the things that both annoys and amuses me is the way some people need to understand why I’m still single. It’s not enough for them to know that I’m not married, they need to know why. It seems to bother them way more than it bothers me…particularly because it doesn’t bother me at all. The thing is, for some, if I don’t give them a really good reason why I’m still single after all these years, then they’ll make up their own.
So, one of the chapters in my book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree, is about this very thing. I don’t owe people an explanation about my single status, though occasionally it bothers me that they feel they need one. What I should really do is let their “explanations” just roll off my back. If you’re single, you should, too.
Here’s an excerpt from my book. It goes into more detail and says it much more interestingly than I am right now.
Excerpted from The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
Here’s Life Lesson #13: Let Labels Roll Off Your Back.
People want to know why you’re a spinster. If you don’t give them a good reason (or even if you do), they’ll come up with a reason of their own: She’s an odd- ball… difficult…angry…too picky. Maybe she’s gay. You don’t really owe anyone an explanation, though.
Here’s how I came to that conclusion:
At some point, I’m not exactly sure when, I found myself explaining to people that, “no, I’m not gay, I just don’t want to get married.” Some of them
don’t believe me. What’s funny about this is it’s hard to deny that you’re not something that people have already decided that you are. If I was gay and in the closet, then of course I would deny it if asked, so denying it doesn’t really matter:
- I went to visit a friend in Tulsa one summer. She and I had been friends for many years. In fact, I fixed her up with her husband. We know each other well. She and I were enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee one afternoon while her husband and new baby were out. We were just shooting the breeze, or so I thought. At one point, she took my hand and said “I just want you to know that it’s okay if you’re gay. I love you anyway.” I laughed and said “well, that’s really good to know, but what makes you think I’m gay?” “Well, you’re still not married…and you wear your hair short…and look what you’re wearing; it’s kind of unisex. But, really, it’s okay.” (I’d never thought of it that way; I was wearing one of my favorite outfits: jeans, a white T-shirt, and cowboy boots. It didn’t occur to me that it was an androgynous outfit). I told her that despite those observations, I still wasn’t gay. We went back and forth about this a few more times. I started to get annoyed because she wouldn’t let it go. I also realized that if I got angry she’d swear it was because I’d been found out. So I decided to try really hard to remain calm. Then it occurred to me that if I didn’t show enough emotion, she would think it was because it was true and perhaps I was relieved that my secret was out. How funny. We fell into an awkward silence. She said she felt bad that she’d broached the subject before I was ready to talk about it. Geez.
- My co-worker, Mike, admitted to me after we became friendly that he and another colleague had been sure I was gay. Otherwise, why wasn’t I mar- ried. (“Really?” I’m thinking). When I asked why they thought that, he said it was because not only wasn’t I married, but I wasn’t close to it, and I didn’t complain about it…plus I had a copy of Out magazine on my desk. (Out targets a gay audience). I worked at an advertising agency, and we received most magazines that were published. On my desk along with Out were lots of others including GQ, Sports Illustrated and Seventeen. I’m also not a man nor a teenager, but for some reason having those magazines didn’t affect his logic. I found this quite curious; all it took to determine my sexual orientation was a magazine on my desk. I asked if they thought another woman we worked with, Penny (not her real name), was also gay. She, too, was unmarried, had no kids, and was about the same age as I was. They didn’t think she was gay because it was clear why she was single: she wasn’t that attractive and she was unpleasant. Who would want her? Aha. Somewhere in there was a really backhanded compliment to me…I think.
- Once my friend, Lori (a fellow spinster), came to visit me at my vacation home in Long Island. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the fall and we thought it would be fun to go apple picking. We were really looking forward to it as we drove out to the farm because nothing tastes better than a just-picked apple. We would use some of the apples for pies, maybe bake a few with a little butter and brown sugar, or just enjoy them plain. Once we got to the farm, we had to take a hayride to the orchards. This was going to be even more fun than we had anticipated. After we boarded, though, we realized that only two kinds of people take Saturday evening hayrides: (1) families with children, and (2) couples (it was kind of romantic). Lori and I were neither…except we apparently were a couple, as far as most everyone else was concerned. We were two middle-aged ladies on a date. We got quite a few longer-than-necessary glances. And the hayride driver, bless his heart, made it a point to make us feel welcome and included.
After a number of such experiences, I eventually became self-conscious, which was stupid. I wasn’t gay (not that there’s anything wrong with it, for you Seinfeld fans), and I didn’t want people to think I was. I also happen to live in Chelsea, a NYC neighborhood with a higher-than-average gay population,which didn’t really help. It really shouldn’t have mattered, but I guess it did.
My friends Lauren and Benilde (both married) like to hold my hand as we stroll Manhattan doing girly things. I put a stop to it. “Don’t touch me; people already think I’m gay. They’ll see me holding hands with you and it’s con- firmed!” They told me I was stupid. I agreed… “but let go of my hand anyway.”
I finally realized that the concept of a woman not wanting to be married makes no sense to a lot of people. She should at least want it, even if it doesn’t happen. What I need to do is complain more, and pretend that I’m dying to be married if only I could find someone who would have me. That would make much more sense to people. Then I would be “normal”.
Postscript to book: Now, sometimes I like to have a little fun with people. Depending on my mood, I’ll ask “well, why are you married?” They don’t really like that. Or, I’ll say “gee, I don’t know why I’m still single. Do you know a nice guy you can introduce me to? They never do. End of conversation.