Stop Telling Women To Settle Or So Help Me

Take your “there are no good ones left” bullsh*t and shove it where the sun does not shine.

Photo by Athena from Pexels

I love numbers as much as the next gal. Cozying up to my monthly Google Analytics data is my idea of a rockin’ Thursday night. Numbers never lie, as long as you understand what they’re saying. But there’s one area of life where numbers don’t help us, because there’s one thing in the world that’s unquantifiable, unplannable, and unpredictable against any model: love. If love could be predicted, planned, and assured, we’d all stop this dating ballyhoo, hire an analyst, and be done with it. Instead, we keep on trying, and we keep listening to assholes who love to tell us every part of trying that’s stacked against us.

A friend of mine recently alerted me to the fact that this post exists: Why is Finding a Good Man so Hard for Single Women Over 35? Once my eyes were finished rolling, and it took awhile, I read all about the author’s exploration into The Eligible Bachelor Paradox by game theorist Mark Gimein. I treated myself to yet another essay about shrinking pools and dating app disparity and the college graduate imbalance between the sexes—that old chestnut. Everything we love to scare the shit out of women with. Oh and we throw in the fact that she’s aging, too—that always helps. As if she had another option or finding a relationship freezes time for women somehow.

Here’s why I get so incensed about numbers-driven content written for single women, particularly single women over 30: No one who writes it ever has an actual solution to the “problem” they’re so thoughtfully outlining with data. When you support the impossible experience women are having on dating apps with data and then don’t tell them what the fuck to do about it, you’re just scaring the shit out of women for no reason. You’re not offering any kind of thoughtful plan for easing the fears you just stoked like a campfire.

None of these data-driven pieces about the realities of dating apps ever take into account the fact that dating apps themselves are a for-profit business whose last goal is for their users to find the thing they came to the dating app for in the first place. A dating app user meeting a long-term partner is the worst case scenario for a dating app that makes more money the longer its users are single. Screw your data, how about the we look at the economic reality of using dating apps in the first place and understand that they are not on our team? Maybe one way out of the “shrinking pool” is to walk away from these useless, abusive dating apps and remember that human beings have been finding each other in countless ways that didn’t involve them since the dawn of fucking time.

The only solution any of the lack-driven and data-supported pieces ever give to single women is this: settle. The numbers and odds are stacked against you ladies, better hurry up and give up. The piece mentioned above literally states, “Buckle up… You are about to get a scary lesson on why you should settle for Mr. Good Enough.” Allow me to spend the rest of our time together telling you why no the fuck you should not.

First: Effort doesn’t match reward.

In the dating space, effort doesn’t match reward. I don’t say this to discourage, I say this to set us free, and to remind us of how little sense dating makes. The effort we put into dating never has to correlate with any kind of tangible result. You could swipe for ten years and never find a relationship (like me), or you could marry your first Tinder date ever (like a good friend of mine).

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t compute. And if effort doesn’t match reward, why would numbers telling women just how much their options are dwindling have predictable bearing on their future happiness either? I’m sick of only looking at the numerical realities of dating and never the human ones. More women than men go to college? No shit. Maybe fewer men are entering the workforce under a mountain of student debt. I’d kinda like to buy a house with one of ‘em.

You cannot possibly predict when or how you’ll meet someone, and you cannot formulate how the two of you will fall in love. It is not a numeric possibility, so I’m not buying numbers that tell us we have no options left, either. There are 7.6 billion people on this planet, theres a number for you. I refuse to believe that there are zero of them “left” for me. I don’t think I’m that abhorrent, I don’t think relationships are that rare, and I don’t think we’re so short on people that I have to allow those who prey on the loneliness and shame of single women to dictate to me what I deserve.

Second: There are nothing but exceptions to every rule they write.

Numbers cannot predict fate, chance, or luck. Think of all the couples you know and ask yourself (or them) how they met. Was data responsible, or did chance have a hand in things? You’re just as likely to meet someone on your 5th date or your 500th. You could meet someone the day you start a new job, or at a friend’s birthday party. You could reconnect with an old friend, or start chatting to someone in line for coffee. We have become so obsessed with and dependent on dating apps that we completely ignore literally any other possible way people come together. We ignore the fact that when we use dating apps, we’re only swiping through the people who are likely to use dating apps at all. And that is not all of the people that exist. Also half the men on dating apps are bots to keep you swiping and paying more, but I digress.

These man-made programs, these ones and zeros have consumed us. They’ve monopolized the path to love without ever having to deliver it. Then the menacing Mr. Burnses of the internet feed us data that shows us just how “impossible” it is to actually get the thing we want, so that we start to believe what we want isn’t something within our capability. We also ignore the fact that what we want is just love—not a Powerball jackpot—we’re not actually asking for the impossible. People fall in love all the time. How many people do you know right now who are in love? Do you really think it’s that uncommon, or are you just tired of being the only single friend because that feels embarrassing? How many of your partnered friends settled?

Third: Settling doesn’t just happen right now. It happens for the rest of your life.

Settling for someone less than what you actually want is something that happens in the moment, and then has consequences always. If you settle now, you will have to continue to settle every single day. Do you really think someone you settled for because you panicked that there were “no good ones left” is going to actually make you happy as you move through the rest of your life? Is being single actually the thing that’s so goddamned terrible, or are relationships just something we want because we’ve been trained to?

I think we have to ask ourselves what it is we actually want. Do we want to love and be loved, or do we just want to be able to say we’re in a relationship? Partnering up is a big damn deal, and I don’t know if you know this, but it’s also a risky one. There’s this thing called the global divorce rate, and I’m not sure if you’ve…you know, looked into the numbers, but a settled-for relationship’s probability of success can’t possibly be higher than the rate for two people who were calm and trusted that life doesn’t hate them that much so they didn’t settle at all.

We’ve made singlehood too shameful, and we’ve assigned data to dating in a way that’s terrifying. Shame on us. Shame on us for further grinding single women “of a certain age” down into the lowest form of their self worth such that they start to actually believe they should “take what they can get.” Yes, you can take what you can get if you want to, but there’s no statistic that will ever convince me that I have to. That I am dwindling in value, that my options are drying up, or that my singlehood is that problematic. I don’t buy it, and I wish people would stop creating content that scares single women into thinking that settling is the only solution for something that was never wrong.

Loving your singlehood is a solution. My singlehood is my most prized possession. I do whatever I want, literally all of the time. Every decision I make is mine alone. I never have to factor in anyone else’s preferences or needs, and I never have to compromise. Whoever he is, and regardless of whether or not he went to fucking college, he’ll have to be pretty amazing to get me to give up something this free.

The author of the piece I mentioned above ends her essay with the following:

This leaves many of us in a thorny conundrum — lower our standards or stay single? And as the hourglass empties, many of us are well aware that our rose is turning to dust.

This paragraph can, simply stated, eat shit. Stay single? Oh no! There could be nothing worse! Please, please sir, you’re definitely not what I wanted for myself and my actual future, but I beg of you—marry me, save me from the horrific fate that is singlehood! The hourglass doth empty! My desirability is circling the drain of the patriarchal sink, quick, grab my hand and save me from my own natural aging process! I’m no longer the blooming 25-year-old that shallow sacks of shit wish I would remain forever. I must settle, and settle quickly, lest I remain alone for all time!

I would rather remain alone for all time then wake up every day next to someone I settled for because I allowed myself to be scared by numbers assigned to something entirely unquantifiable. People fall in love every day, and in every way imaginable. There are not too few people on Earth. Single women are not asking for the impossible. But if they’re spending their days heads down in a dating app that doesn’t want them to find someone, and reading numbers that tell them just how unlikely it is that they ever will, I worry that they’ll give up something wonderful for something that’s just okay. Single women, of every age, deserve a whole lot more than that. Singlehood is not a curse, it is freedom. Love is not a formula, it is fate. And anyone trying to sell you on a different, scarier idea needs to settle the fuck down.

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Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster. You can read all her Medium essays here.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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