Single LifeA couple of weeks ago, I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in . . . well, forever. We went to high school together. We had, apparently, missed each other at high school reunions, so there was a lot to catch up on. I’m always interested in “whatever happened to” stories, so I was looking forward to hearing hers.

Except that I never really got the chance to hear much of her story, because she got stuck in mine. And I don’t mean she was stuck in what I consider my pretty interesting life. No, she was stuck on the fact that I had never married. “What happened?” she asked.

I tried to blow it off by laughingly replying that I’d been having too much fun. But it didn’t work. She dug in with more of the same question, just reworded . . . which is what has led me to pen this article.

With the release of the 2010 U.S. Census, and various other research studies on singles (the Pew Research Institute, to name one), we all know by now that there are lots of single women out there. My being single, as in “never married,” just shouldn’t be that curious. We’re everywhere.

But for those who still get tripped up over meeting a woman who has never been married, here are five questions that I (and women like me) would like not to be asked again:

1.  “What’s wrong with you?” . . . usually paraphrased as “Why aren’t you married?”, but we know what you really mean. Sometimes it’s the tone in your voice that gives it away. My answer to the voiced question is, “Marriage isn’t for everyone.” (I know that, and so do you.) The answer to the implied question is, “Nothing, really.”  I know that neither of these responses satisfies, but they’ll just have to do, because they’re the truth.

2.  “Who will take care of you when you’re sick/old?” (Especially if you also don’t have kids.) I honestly don’t know the answer to this question. You don’t know the answer to this question, either. We know what we both would hope to happen, and our hopes are similar. We hope that we’ll be tenderly cared for by people who love us. This might include your husband and/or kids . . . but it might not. Things happen, and there are no guarantees.

3. “Do you . . . um . . . like men?” Meaning either “Are you gay?” or “Are you one of those angry feminist types?”—or both. Yes, I like men. No, I’m not gay. And I’m not angry.

4.  “You’re not being too picky, are you?”  I never really know how to respond to this one. Sometimes I wish the asker had been more picky in her choice of mate. Most of the time I just laugh as I think about some of the characters I’ve had as mates. I don’t think anyone who knows me well thinks I’ve been too picky. In fact, maybe I should have been more picky. I tend to enjoy men who are the opposite of steady and stable, though I think steady-and-stable probably is a good characteristic for a husband.

5.  “What happened?!” See 1.

Some of my writings on this topic are feigned outrage, because I do kind of get it. Though at this moment in time, being married is slipping away as the statistical norm, it very much remains the societal norm. Adults are still expected to get married. And marriage can be a really good thing. I just want to do my part to help people to acknowledge that it’s not the only thing.

And, by the way, last week—September 15 through 21—was National Singles Week. We have our own week now. That feels like progress to me.

In fact, in honor of Singles Week I hosted a sassy singles event—for men and women—at a Harlem bookstore. Along with a reading from my book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree, guests were treated to the reciting of erotic poetry by Ainsley Burrows and a lesson on seduction tips, using “spells” and essential oils, by Yolanda Shoshana.  Married people could have enjoyed this event, but it was nice to observe this relatively newly identified “holiday” week with like-minded singles.


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  • Toni Myers September 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I’m apoplectic. The older I get, the less I want to be around people who treat me/you with such total ignorance and lack of respect. If I were to make a list of my women friends, adding their relationships and my assumptions, often wrong, of how exciting/happy/interesting their lives are, there is no correlation with whether they are single/married to a man or to a woman/divorced/widowed…A relative, happy to be single, told me studies have shown that single women live longer and I’ve thought about that one.
    I’ve had people, never close friends, voice amazing presumptions, a la “your daughter wouldn’t be dealing with asthma if you weren’t in this relationship.” Hello! Keep me far away from such people. I’d imagine your interrogator couldn’t bear to hear about your interesting life since she was already too jealous to listen. Please keep your postings on WVFC coming, Eleanore!

  • eleanore s. wells September 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    @Roz: Seems so simple, doesn’t it? But apparently not!

  • Roz Warren September 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

    What happened? You were smart enough to avoid marrying Mr. Wrong, as so many of us did. Which is terrific, unless going through an acrimonious divorce was on your bucket list. Way to go, EW!