Another set of “instructions” for single women. Groundbreaking.
Writers are heroes. I’ve long held this belief. Fairly easy to do since I am one and I like feeling as though I matter. Think of it this way, Captain America would just be a dude in a suit with a nice ass unless someone else wrote lines for him to say. Therefore I don’t enjoy criticizing or speaking negatively about the work of a fellow writer. But I am a single woman, and a single woman’s woman at that—advocating for change and improvement in the discussion around what we are. We’ve lived an eternity of being life’s little pathetic failures, sad spinsters held over the heads of young women as cautionary tales. That narrative was a lie from the start, keeping women whose freedoms and possibilities are endless as small and ashamed as possible for far too long. So please know that even if you’re a writer, if you speak to single women like they’re wrong, like their singleness is somehow both their fault and their flaw, then please understand that I will rip your work apart.
A member of my podcast’s Facebook group recently shared this post with us all. Medium had included it in her Daily Reads, much to her horror. I’ll let you read it on your own time, preferably on an empty stomach, but I will point out its inaccuracies and outright bullshit for you here, because I am physically unable to let this slide. Because I know too many single women will read it.
The overall theme aims to “help” those who are tired of being “foster girlfriends,” get out of the cycle of being dumped for someone a guy will ultimately marry, and start becoming the one they commit to. To be clear, commitment is amazing. Relationships are wonderful. But lists of instructions that tell single women what they’re doing wrong so as to prevent relationships and love from coming into their lives are demeaning sacks of actual trash—especially this one. In fact anything that tells women how the behaviors they choose are not serving men as well as they could is actually not serving women, and I have to light it on fire.
In reference to the author’s friend, the one she’s trying to assist with this post, she says:
“She longs to find her “home,” of feeling close and complete with another person. Yet she, and other “fosters” generally have some behaviors that make it hard for them to get “taken.” They are:
- spending most of their energy focusing on their career or crossing things off their bucket list.
- communicating sporadically with the people they’re interested in.
- not enjoying the “romantic” part of romantic relationships.
- preferring to spend time alone.
- going on low-effort dates.
- never bringing up long-term plans.”
I don’t even know where to start, but maybe here: I want a relationship in my life, and I am complete even without one. Those two things coexist at the same time. For me, for you, for everyone, regardless of their relationship status.
The rest of the piece outlines the suggested behaviors readers should take in order to “get taken.” That’s where I’ll spend most of my time because if I dive into those bullet points now we’ll be here until November. Before I begin, the one glaring point I need to make is that there is no single woman on this planet who is currently “making it hard” for someone else to love them. Anyone who is suited to be or meant to be in a loving relationship with a single woman who wants that relationship will not be put off or put out by any of the behaviors she choses to engage in as a fucking autonomous adult with free will. The whole “there’s someone for everyone” thing? That’s actually true. Stop telling women to conform to one model of female behavior that sits well with one model of men.
The author’s first point is: “Evaluate your priorities and long term goals.” Which is, out of context, awesome advice we should always take into account because I think prioritizing what matters to us is all part of living an authentic life. As it’s applied here though, it’s bullshit.
“Crossing items off your bucket list or obsessing about ways and means to make more money are fine too, but you might realize eventually that hiking Mt. Everest or spending lavishly isn’t as enjoyable without someone to share it with.”
Crossing items off a bucket list is actually more than fine, it’s outstanding. It means a single woman experienced something she wanted to. Good for you, friend—I hope Italy was amazing. And “obsessing” about ways to make more money isn’t “fine,” it’s actually necessary. We’re not splitting our living expenses with anyone but we’re still paying as much or more than couples for extremely basic shit. I haven’t seen a suggestion that a career-driven woman was single because she’s career-driven in so long I thought I was reading something from a dusty ass antique mall. I wonder how often people blame a man’s career drive on his “lack” of something? A single woman earning her living is busy because she’s a single woman earning her living. Leave that queen alone.
Hiking Mount Everest and spending our money any way we damn well please is entirely enjoyable whether we’re alone or with fifty people. Our lack of partnership does not dull the way we experience life. We are not living a lesser version or life, or somehow more numb to experiences, simply because we are not in love. That’s one of the most insulting things you can say to a single person, that we’re somehow less alive. How dare you.
“Having a relationship is a prerequisite for a happy and healthy life. The stronger your relationships correlates to the greater your happiness.”
The only prerequisite for a happy and healthy life is being alive. Beyond that, we’re all capable of it if we are so privileged. Even without addressing the “happiness” of married couples or referencing the global divorce rate, I can tell you that it is perfectly possible to live a happy and healthy life alone. And it is possible to live a perfectly miserable one married. I am currently lucky enough to be living a happy life by myself. I am a living, breathing counterpoint to this author’s entire essay.
Honest to god I’ve been sitting here shaking with anger trying to come up with a response to “Having a relationship is a prerequisite for a happy and healthy life.” And I can’t do that without attacking this author personally which I’d rather not do because my mother raised me well so consider my silence hot tea poured in her general direction.
The author’s second point is: “Work on your issues around relationships.”
On this point, the author is right, but only if she’s aiming her advice at literally every human being on earth. Partnered and married people are not inherently better at relationships than single people. I’ll say it again: Partnered and married people are not inherently better at relationships than single people. They’re just fucking luckier. They got lucky in this life to meet their partner sooner in time than everyone else who is currently single. That’s literally it. To suggest that single women need to “work on our issues around relationships” as a means to attain partnership is a slap in the face to everyone who has ever had dinner with a couple who couldn’t keep its shit together enough not to argue in front of their friends. I’ve sat through enough of those awkward nights to let me know that couples and single people are equally okay, equally fucked up, and ALL of us deserve love. Single women are not broken and in need of “working on ourselves” before we can consider ourselves worthy or “ready” for a relationship. Married people didn’t achieve perfection on their way down an aisle.
The third point: “Make an effort on dating and dates” illustrates how single women need to accept that “love is a risk that might not pay off.” It speaks of unrewarded effort that can occur in the dating space, and in the search for love, and that’s certainly true, this is one space where effort doesn’t necessarily match reward, and anyone who choses to participate in dating certainly needs to understand that. It’s this part that’s a kick in the shins:
“The only thing you can do is continue to put yourself out there. Put an effort into your appearance. Purchase the services of a professional matchmaker, or thoughtfully screen dates on your own.”
The only thing you can do is most certainly not “continue to put yourself out there.” If you don’t like what’s happening to you in the dating space, you do not have to continue to be a part of it. You can stop dating—and that doesn’t make you any less worthy of a relationship, or less able to connect with one. How many people do you know who met through honest to god dating? Or do you know more people who “met through friends” or “at work” or in some random fashion that can’t be replicated? Again, married people aren’t doing anything more “right” than single people. They’re just luckier. That’s it.
Also: Don’t fucking tell a single woman what to do with her appearance. Ever.
No one can tell you “how to find your partner.” No one. No one can craft the one scenario that’s going to lead you to meet your partner and truly connect with them in that moment. It cannot be done. It cannot be known. And anyone trying to tell you how to partner up is singing you a song—one that’s going to let you down. But learning to love your life right now, for all you have in this moment, never will.
As she concludes, the author further infantilizes and belittles single women:
“What attachment research shows is that all “fosters” want to get “adopted.” Being close to a partner is essential, just as much as having clothing and shelter. None of us can live without it, including you.”
I noticed she didn’t link to any “attachment research.” Pity. Also if we could refrain from language that paints single women as strays in a shelter of some kind, pitifully peering out from cage bars, that’d be great.
What’s harder to read is the suggestion that partnership is as essential as clothing and shelter. As if we can’t live without it. That’s a lie, and I can prove it, because I am living. I’m fully living, right now, in this moment, without a partner. I have a career I love, family I love, friends I love, shelter that keeps me safe, clothing that keeps me warm, and a cat that keeps me company. I have spirituality that keeps me inspired, talent and experience that keeps me working, and curiosity that keeps me learning. I have health that keeps me alive, and inner drive that keeps me going. I have a full, valid life and I am blessed with it. I will someday also have a partner, but my life will be happy and full of “essentials” before then.
UPDATE: My correspondence with the author.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.