One of the things I like about getting older is that many of the things that used to bother me when I was younger, no longer do. One of those things that no longer bothers me is being asked –often in an incredulous tone– why I’m still single. And its a good thing because it happened, again, just the other day.
I ran into a woman I went to high school with. It seems like 1000 years since we’ve seen each other. She recognized me and waved me over. I didn’t recognize her but her name was familiar. I felt a little awkward because she remembered me well and I was struggling with trying to come up with some memories of her. I didn’t have any. But I didn’t want to seem rude so I decided to focus on the present. “So, what are you up to now”, I asked.
After I caught her up on my life, she said “Oh my God! You never got married? What happened??” There was a time when I would have looked at this divorced mother of three who is raising one of her grandchildren and said something snide. This time, the grown-up Eleanore just laughed and said “Ya know, marriage isn’t for everyone.” There was a little bit of an awkward silence, but only for a millisecond. We chatted for a few more minutes, then went on our separate ways.
Given how many ‘never married’ women there are in this country, it can still catch me off-guard when someone expresses surprise that I’m not married. I’ve gotten used to the idea even if others haven’t.
I’m reminded that there’s a bit of a double standard here because, while most people think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone why they’re single, it would seem rude to ask someone “why are you married?”
And, honestly, I don’t wonder why people, in general, get married; I do, though sometimes wonder why they married the person they married. But I know I can’t ask that.
From time to time, readers of this blog have asked me how to respond to the “why aren’t you married” question. My favorite response is the one I gave my high school classmate. But I do have a few other responses that I’ll give, depending on the situation, who I’m talking to, and my mood. Always said with a smile, they include:
- Clearly there’s something very wrong with me;
- It’s cheaper and less stressful than a divorce;
- Because I want him to go home sometimes ;
What I’ve learned, though, is it really doesn’t matter what my response is because the ask-er has usually already decided that there’s something wrong with me. Getting married is still considered the norm and bucking the norm is…abnormal.
What about you? What’s your response to this rather tiresome question?