Your marriage is the only threat to your marriage. Invite us to dinner.
Vixen. Temptress. Minx. Single women are sad, pathetic cat ladies until it’s time to hang out with them and acknowledge their social validity, then suddenly we’re more dangerous than an open flame. Which is it I wonder, the failure or the threat? What are we? I ask in jest, naturally. When I imagine myself as a threat to someone else’s happy relationship I cackle quietly, sitting here in thermal pajama pants , a messy bun, and a cardigan watching a documentary series and sipping anti-anxiety tea. I can assure you I’m the least of your worries.
But the narrative is there. Single women are seen as a threat to relationships, and as such we’re left out of social gatherings, conversations, vacations—anything you can invite someone to, essentially. Except weddings. Fuck me upside down they love to invite a single woman to a wedding. But casual social norms? We’re unwelcome. We’re the reason a woman crosses a room to link her arm with her husband’s, and I never know if she’s physically reminding me, or him. Either way, I didn’t have any interest in the guy she married, but we were having a great chat about a new website for elder millennial foodies, care to join us?
I thought I might clarify a few misconceptions about single women. If it sounds like I’m putting my nose in other people’s business, please know that I’m okay with that. After 13 years on the receiving end of, “So, are you seeeeing anybodyyyyy? No? Oh then you’re doing something wrong. You should try this, or this, or this!” and other invasions into my private life, I am quite confident that it is my turn.
Being single doesn’t mean we’re perpetually hunting for men.
The assumed default setting for single women is “on the prowl.” If she’s single, she must be looking. I mean, my god can you imagine her NOT looking? That would mean she’s given up! How pathetic, to give up.
Actually Susan the happiest and most open-to-possibility I’ve ever felt has been since I deleted the dating apps two years ago and acknowledged that “finding someone” was no longer an unpaid job on my to-do list. Now I just…live, and understand that I’m worthy of connecting with my next relationship without having to punish myself through swiping and enduring the things men say and do to women online first.
I’d like to be viewed as a whole person, with all the same interests people in couples have, rather than as someone who’s poised to pounce at any moment, as if “catching a man” is all I can think about. That’s fucking stupid dude.
Being single also doesn’t mean we’re candy near the cash register so you have to avert your spouse’s eyes.
For awhile, I was dancing atop a really special eggshell. I was consciously, and overly, cautious about speaking to partnered men in group conversations. I made sure not to agree with them too much, ask them too many questions, laugh at their jokes, etc. I restrained myself from natural social interaction because I didn’t want their wives and girlfriends to hate me. I also took great care with my wardrobe, trying to find a balance between being comfortable and confident, but not too attractive in the presence of partnered men. Bearing in mind also that we were out in public and there might be UNpartnered men in the vicinity too. It was exhausting.
Now, I wear what I want, I speak to who I want, and if I’m distracting your husband in a way that makes you feel threatened, he’s the one you need to have a little chat with, not me. I have zero intention to intrude into other people’s relationships, but my life will no longer be led by a desire to protect the feelings and security of married women. Think of it as payback for the years of, “oh my god go talk to him!”s said loudly enough for the man in question to hear, often paired with a physical shove.
Also, the feeling that we have to “protect” men from single women is so goddamned tired. It reiterates a gross narrative about how women have to keep their man entertained and interested at all times, lest something shinier, prettier, younger, etc. catch his eye. How about we approach relationships as two individuals on equal footing who choose to have each other in their lives and feel lucky to have the opportunity to make that choice? Single women aren’t the threat. One or more people not seeing value in the relationship might be though.
Being a single woman isn’t any lower in value than being a single man.
There are certain truths about single women that aren’t true for single men. If I’m at a social gathering alone, I’m a threat to the relationships in the room. But a single man in the same room is a welcome sight, an opportunity even. Call him over here, let’s see who we can fix him up with.
I don’t like double standards, and this one stings with particular intensity because within the single community, friendships are especially important. To feel rejected socially because you…might steal someone’s husband? That’s insane. But it’s no less a real, visible thing we deal with all the time, either by being left out, or by being made aware of how inappropriate it is for us to speak to partnered men through the looks, physical protection, and energy of partnered women.
Being a single woman doesn’t mean we don’t want to be friends with couples.
Let’s normalize still including single people in social plans once we ourselves become partnered people. Naturally there will be some shifts in priorities, I’m not a monster, but to assume that when three couples are hanging out that one single person wouldn’t want to attend is simply silly. Why do we care more about even numbers than the feelings of our friends? They’ll stick a chair on the end of the table, it’s fine.
The thing that crumbs my cream cheese the most about couplehood is that it is often treated as a higher life status or even class than singlehood. You see it when couples only hang out with couples. When newly partnered friends attach themselves to wives and girlfriends of their partner’s friends, leaving single friends behind. Don’t think it happens? I receive emails asking me how to deal with this at least once a month. (BTW if you’re single and reading this, make new friends. Don’t toss the old ones, just fortify your roster. It’s allowed.)
We have to make it normal for a couple to be friends with a single woman. When like only hangs out with like, it’s weird. I don’t only want single female friends. I want more variety in my relationships, I want to gain more perspectives and hear more stories and understand what my coupled and parenting friends are going through so that I can be a better friend to them.
You don’t get “boring” when you become a couple such that your single friends won’t find you fun anymore. You single friend doesn’t get “threatening” once you have something she doesn’t. The barrier between couples and singles in friendship should come down as quickly and as often as possible.
We don’t want yours. We want our own.
Begin involved in a relationship that’s playing second fiddle to a primary relationship right from the start fucking sucks. I don’t know about all single women, but this single woman isn’t interested in a man that’s going to have to go through the heavy lifting of a break up or even a divorce just to be with me. That’s bonkers! I have no interest in luring away a man who’s still on your lease. I’d like a nice, employed free one, thank you.
Worrying about something like this sounds exhausting, and diagnostic.
If you are a partnered person who’s genuinely worried about and threatened by single women, that doesn’t sound like a fun way to live, and it also sounds like your relationship needs a little work. Again, is that my business? No! But partnered people have been worming into my life and making assumptions about it for well over a decade and quite frankly it’s the fact that I haven’t said any of this before that’s the real shocker. Your couplehood isn’t any more precious than my singlehood, and if you feel threatened by the presence of a single woman, don’t ask her to leave, ask yourself why.
Invite your single friends places. Welcome them into conversation circles at parties. Don’t see them with different status than you see yourself just because you’re in a couple and she’s not. The societal prioritization of romantic relationships has dulled the shine on all the other kinds. Friendships new and old are really valued by the single community. You are really valued by the single community. We’re not hoping you’ll break up, we’re hoping we’ll see you at Happy Hour. How that impacts your relationship is up to you.
Shani Silver is a writer and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.