At what point is dating the problem, not you?
When are we done? When is it time to admit that our approach isn’t working, and that it’s time to look at the problem itself in a completely new way? To read this, and to know that I write for single women, you might think I’m suggesting that single women should rethink their approach to the ways they date. I’m not. I’m actually talking to everyone who gives single women dating advice. I don’t think we need to hear from you anymore.
This comes from a place of exhaustion, from one Instagram post too many. I’m tired of a very basic assumption the world makes about single women: If we’re single, we must be doing something wrong.
The old, couplehood good/singlehood bad chestnut is a giant ship to course correct, so for now I’m just going to pick away at the problem one bit of bullshit at a time. Today, I want to talk about how the only messaging we seem to be able to create for and give to single women pertains to making her better at dating.
How Be Better At Dating
How To Survive Dating
Best Cities For Dating
Best Apps For Dating
Best Places To Go On A Date
What To Do On A Date
What Not To Do On A Date
How To Write A Dating Profile
How To Interpret Unclear Messages Shitbag Guys Send You When You Date
I could go on, but instead I’d like to turn my attention to the single women reading this, and really ask us all if we’re over this shit yet. Honestly, how many years worth of dating advice are we going to consume before we start demanding that the world give advice to SOMEONE ELSE. Because after decades of focusing intently on single women, I think dating advice has put in the work here. Instead, I think dating apps, dating culture, and single men deserve some of this shitty spotlight.
Let’s start with unwanted advice, that old fly in the latte. Unwanted advice most often comes to us over dinner, where a restaurant has inevitably served us a three piece appetizer that we’ll awkwardly have to split between two people. Dinners with friends, if you’re a single women, always start the same way: “So, are you seeeeeeinnngggg anybodyyyyyy?” And when we say no, because actually finding someone on a dating app that’s half bot and half dudes you swiped through two years ago already is really hard, that answer has a high probability of being no. And if it’s no, whoever we’re dining with takes that no to mean that there’s something wrong with the single woman, not that there’s something wrong with the fucking institution.
Ghosting, breadcrumbing, window shopping, these things shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Instead we’ve just accepted them as charming little costs of doing business. Are you kidding me? Name a for-profit app industry that’s allowed to have so little manners and still thrive. Do you think the founders of Tinder ever sit down to dinner and have to answer, “So…are you improving your app experience for single womennnnnnnn?” Never. If ALL the players in dating culture don’t have to deal with an onslaught of advice, none of them should have to field it. I’m really quite tired of it all coming directly at single women.
I don’t have to list each piece of advice here, you’re well familiar, but what I would LOVE to point out is how every piece of dating advice has the exact counter-advice often given either by another person, or by the same person like a month later.
You’ll never meet anyone in your living room/You’re trying too hard
Have you tried online dating/You have to stop meeting these guys online
You’re too picky/You go out with too many guys who are wrong for you
Just be yourself/Be less intimidating
And so on, and so on, perpetually ignoring the fact that the person giving us the advice didn’t actually have to utilize that advice in order to become partnered. Instead, she probably just had to flirt with the new guy in Engineering for a month until he asked her out. But I digress.
There’s also professional advice, from dating coaches and the like. To be clear, I’m in no way speaking about mental health professionals. Nor am I speaking about coaches that focus on things like self worth and limiting beliefs that impact all areas of our lives, not just the area that the world gives single women shit about. I’m speaking about the coaches that want to give you dating advice but will never, at any point in time, be able to tell you exactly where and how to meet your partner, which is actually the only thing you probably need to fucking know. Please stop giving these people your money. Or if you must, please ask them in advance precisely what you’ll be walking away with that you didn’t have before. Make them make it clear to you. Make sure you find value in what they’re actually delivering.
I don’t like it when people take single women’s money and give them a maybe in return. I don’t like it when an entire social media culture is stuffed to its rafters with memes and quotes and posts that tell single women what they’re doing wrong, or how to deal with what the dating world is doing wrong, rather than creating content that focuses on telling the dating world to get its shit together.
Single women aren’t always the problem, but we are always the only group of people at the receiving end of the advice. How much goddamned advice do we actually think we need? And does the prevalence of advice tell us nothing?Maybe this much advice for this long should be telling us that the advice isn’t good. As singles, we have a really bad habit of doing the same things over and over again (hello, swiping) because we assume that one time it’s just going to “click” and we’ll meet our partners. We’re allowed to quit before it clicks, and be open to living free of the burden of being wrong all the time. (Yes I’m suggesting you quit dating if it sucks for you, but I’m also suggesting that you still deserve to meet someone anyway. Not all couples met because they were going ham on the dating apps. Ask your friends how they met and find out.)
I know the gut reaction to a problem is to find a solution. And I know that society has raised us to feel like our singlehood is a problem. So naturally, when we can’t seem to find a solution (partner) to the problem, we’ll instinctually reach out for help, wisdom, training, anything that will make singlehood go away. Which is why it is so important to me to communicate to single women that our singleness is not actually a problem.
I could also take things further down the rabbit hole and tell you that being single is actually a good thing, but let’s not overwhelm ourselves. You just let me know when you’re ready. For now, I just want to make it clear that being single isn’t bad, and if it isn’t bad, maybe you won’t feel so pulled to seek out help to fix it. Especially when that help can’t tell you where to find your partner, ever, so you can relax and know that you’re not missing out by not paying attention.
We’ve absorbed enough advice for a lifetime. I don’t care what the world thinks I’m doing wrong that’s contributing to my singleness. Because my singleness isn’t something I have to repair. It’s instead my valid and amazing life, something I get to live, rather than something I have to get through. I think it’s time for the world to stop its abundance of dating advice aimed at single women, and maybe point its efforts at the dating culture we’ve allowed to fester instead.
Instead of, “hey single women, here’s how to deal with dating!” Maybe we could try, “hey dating world, here’s how to stop being something single women have to deal with!” Anyway, that’s my advice.
Shani Silver is a writer and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.