Nope, I Don’t Hate Men…and I’m Not Gay…

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.

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15 Responses to Nope, I Don’t Hate Men…and I’m Not Gay…

  1. Rosemarie says:

    Thank you for this. I’m glad to know I’m not alone on this. I agree with another comment which said that it’s mostly other women who do the labeling. In particular, I’ve had issues lately both with labeling and with women hitting on me thinking I was bi or gay. I thought they were my friends, but really they were fishing around to figure me out for their own reasons (some were in the closet). That has caused some stress and anxiety for me recently. So much so that it has caused me to drop those friends and become even more independent or seek people who don’t have an agenda. I thought my family was not affected, but all it takes is a stupid comment or observation from someone else to make them start questioning. I started to feel even worse about myself, like not having a man was ruining my relationships with others. I do agree to with another comment that I don’t see that labeling so much in the black community. Most of the black women I know who are in their 40s, 50s are single, have married late, or are single parents. Mostly my friends of other races think it unusual so they had to categorize me. Also to add, I think that such comments about sexual orientation can come from people who may feel jealous of you or are insecure about themselves. Some women I know would feel relief knowing I wouldn’t be a threat to their husband or bf. They’re already feeling paranoid that single women will steal their partner anyway.

  2. Catherine says:

    I am a widow of 4 years. I was married 23 years. I am being asked by men whose advances I’ve declined if I am a lesbian. I am 60 years old. I cannot believe that there has been no personal growth in certain men between age 16 and 60. In high school they said I was a lesbian or frigid because I was a virgin at age 16, now they are saying the same thing. It’s enough to make me wish I was a lesbian.

  3. Alison says:

    I’m so glad other people have endured the comments, looks and whispering behind hands. I am 50 years old, I have always enjoyed sports and extreme sports. I must confess I feel most comfy in jeans, sweatshirts or t-shirts, trainers. Very rarely venturing into dresses, skirts and make-up unless it’s a special occasion and then people turn around and wow you’re pretty when you make the effort. Then there’s the family weddings etc. and aunts ask why you’ve never gotten married or had children. You feel like screaming at them “hey, I like sex with a guy as much as any other straight woman”. Just because I’ve never found the right guy or had a long term relationsip doesn’t automatically mean I’m gay. I get annoyed that when asked these questions I then start questioning myself and then think well maybe I should wear skirts and dresses more and make-up, when I do try make-up it never looks right and that’s because I’ve never been used to wearing it. My mum was raised and told that make-up was for prostitutes and so she never wore a lot of make-up. So then I’m trying to change myself to fit in with all the rest of the girly girly brigade. I look at babies and think they are cute, I want to pick them up and mother them, but I believe children should have a mum and dad to bring them up. I’m single because I haven’t found the right man for me but I’m not about to sleep with every man I meet just to prove I’m straight.

  4. Bella says:

    Great website and comments! It makes me feel I’m not alone on this and have all the same issues with others labeling me. Most recently a good married friend whom I told I was taking a long weekend trip with one of my male friends, asks oh so will there be romance? I could’ve slapped her as its still such a presumption a girl can’t have male friends without it being more. This friend like all my other male friends is like a brother with no other attraction than platonic, if there was something more he would not be my friend but my lover. Why can’t people get this ?! I am doing my best not to get defensive and ask why I do but put it down to typical societal assumptions like its some sort of rare disease to be happily single and the cure is to find a man to marry and live happily ever after !

    • Zoren says:

      Thanks Eleanore for sharing this experience. Good day, I’m Zoren a man, 20 years old. Some of my friends accuse me I’m a gay but I’m not because on my Facebook status I never put in-relationship when I have a girlfriend. The reason is when in-relationship it should be live-in but we’re not that’s why I don’t put it but others suspected it. The hardest part here is also my father have a doubt on me, he always tease me that I’m a gay and I can’t stop explaining to him I’m not a gay, and leading to the point that I starting hating my father as of today. When I red your site. I realize the thing that I should stay calm on whatever happens. Thank you! 🙂

      Zoren,

  5. Pam says:

    Oh, I can relate! My sister (she’s a widow, I’m single) and I went to a board meeting in the midwest. We stayed in a B&B, one room, one bed, it was the only place we could find – it was fine with us. But at breakfast the next morning, all the guests were assembled at the table, it was like we had the plague (they assumed we were gay – which we aren’t) until I mentioned something about “our father” and it was almost like the entire room sighed with relief. We look so much alike, it’s a wonder they didn’t get it sooner.

    My answer when people ask why I’m not married is…”If you can guarantee that I’ll be just as happy married as I am single, I’ll get married, but I really don’t think that’s possible.”

    One of my girlfriends didn’t get married until she was in her 40’s and when people would ask her why she wasn’t married, she would say…”My in-law’s never had children.”

    Another thing that bothers me is I work mostly with men and the other two girls in my office accused me of flirting. When I took a survey of the guys…”Do you think I flirt?” the answers came back…”If only!” or “I wish!” or “Please start.” Not one guy thought I was flirting. What is the balance between being nice and pleasant and flirting?

    Pam

  6. Roxanne says:

    Great post. I had been married, so I probably escape the gay thing, but people probably think I hate men. I very rarely get asked about any male prospects or interests, though. But I agree that having a set answer and countering back with another ridiculous question can be fun, like “Oh, I’m not gay, I just haven’t gotten married. By the way, I heard that sex diminishes when you’re married, is that true?” And, “You know, in some states even the gays can marry.”

  7. I am not in a rush to remarry and people don’t understand that. I am still trying to figure out the single thing so I am clearly not ready to walk down an aisle again! I find people feel sorry for me when I state I went to dinner alone or to the movies solo. It ends up I am trying to make them feel better about my state of singledom! I don’t understand that. Maybe they can’t imagine being alone so it is a horrifying thought that I would dine alone.

    Great post Eleanore!

  8. Madeline says:

    So I’m almost 35 and have never been married. For the past 5 years or so I’ve had people label me as gay, selfish, weird, damaged, too focused on career, too picky and who-knows-what-else. I tell people that I’m not married because it just didn’t work out that way and now I find I enjoy the life I have the way it is (all totally true), and they still somehow interpret his as something being “wrong” with me. Eleanor’s right, I don’t owe an explanation and will no longer offer one. Funny thing is…my male friends and co-workers that are single are never labeled this way. They’re just “bachelors” or “confirmed bachelors”. It’s still a sexist world and the worst part is that it’s usually other women who do the labeling.

  9. April says:

    Of course what you’re saying makes sense, but at the same time, I still feel frustrated that there are so many that can’t accept singlehood as a valid status. Whether or not people choose to believe us is their problem, but I love that there are more and more of us that will stand our ground that we’re happily single. Eventually they’ll get it, right?

  10. guatli says:

    Labeling has plagued me my whole adult life. Though I would have loved to have gotten married, I’ve never been unhappy single and, therefore, haven’t “settled” in order to get married. I prefer to be totally private about my love life and work in a situation where everyone else is pretty open about theirs. When I was younger, people were very open about their assumption that I am gay (I’m not). Now, people don’t say anything (I’m in my early 50s). Instead of gay, I think people just consider me asexual. Just goes to show you that you really can’t accept labels of any kind that other people try to force on you. Thanks, Eleanore, for writing this! It does provide some relief to see that others have experienced this too – easier to laugh at that way!

  11. Judy says:

    I will be 50 tomorrow and I feel like I’ve heard every kind of slam regarding my “never has been” status. The worst came from my own half-sister who said “you would be happy finding a great women to settle down with”. That was hurtful because my own flesh and blood doesn’t even know me. I keep my love life private, and wish more people would, but that shot just floored me. Oh, I’ve had a couple of men ask me out then ask me if I was gay; how crazy is that? The only part of single hood I don’t like is being treated like I’m damaged and pitiful, or worse some kind of pervert. And the half-sister, she was married for 20 years to a man who verbally abused her every day and beat her a few times per year – when she finally left him, he hunted her down but failed to kill her, so then he blew his own brains out.

  12. Cheri says:

    Tell people that when you find a married couple that are as happy as you are being single (or just dating), then you might consider marriage. That usually shuts them up. My guy and I have been dating for four years today and it’s been the greatest four years of my life. When people ask when we are getting married, I tell them July 35th, put it on their calendar!. (there is no such date) Some catch it, most don’t, but I think it’s kinda funny. I said I was never marrying again after my divorce I meant it. If they press, I just make a joke and tell them that it’s because I’m a quick learner and that marriage was a ‘been there, done that, no need to repeat’ kind of thing.

    Of course, that works NOW when I’m only in my mid-late thirties, but in 20 years, it may get more annoying. Amazing how people think it’s their business and ask so many questions or ASSUME. I’ll probably just continue to be a smartie pants about it, since that’s my personality anyway and not let any of it bother me. 🙂

  13. smokie says:

    Really? I have plenty of single friends who are never accused of being gay. I have single lesbian friends who are assumed heterosexual.

    I hate to bring race into this, but….since when do black people think something is wrong with being single? MANY black women are either single parents or spinsters. Sure a lot of single women want to be married, but even if they WANT to be married it’s pretty understood that a lot of black women will marry later in life, if ever. Typically, we don’t marry and start families right after college as other races do. Unfortunately, having a family doesn’t seem to be a priority with “us”. I say “unfortunately” due to the number of unwed black mothers, not due to a childless woman who choose to remain single.

    Sure, I have know plenty of black couples, but in all honesty, most of us married in our 30s or 40s. When I look on my friends list in FB, I see countless 40-45 year old spinsters. It’s not all that uncommon.

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