I put the SING in single Ain't worried 'bout a ring on my finger... -- Lizzo, "Truth Hurts"
Usually, I start my posts with a scripture passage related to the topic at hand. Often times, it’s the actual verse I was praying with when the idea for the post came about.
Today, I’m starting with a line from a Lizzo song, because that’s what inspired this post. I wasn’t praying at the time, but I sure was jamming in my car.
Let me start by saying that as a single person, I’m tired — not of being single but of the predominant narratives surrounding singleness. Despite the fact that the topic is everywhere — there are no shortage of books, blogs, magazine articles, talks, TV shows, movies, comedy specials, and awkward conversations at family holiday gatherings about it — I have found very few perspectives that truly resonate. I have heard very little advice that is actually helpful and very few reassurances that coincide with reality.
So I’m here — as your friendly neighborhood single gal, a 28-year-old practicing Catholic who is reasonably confident that marriage is her vocation — to drop some truth that may or may not hurt.
But first, let’s start by identifying common responses to singleness that, while typically well-meaning, are NOT helpful — and examine why. Below are a few examples of things people have said to me or my friends when they find out we aren’t presently in a relationship:
“You’ll find someone — just when you’re least expecting it!”
“God has a great guy out there for you, and He will bring him to you when the time is right!”
“You just gotta put yourself out there more! Have you tried [insert obvious strategy for interacting with other humans]?”
“I thought I’d never find someone, either, and then I finally met so-and-so when I was X years old!” (Doubly offensive if X < my current age)
“I can’t believe some great guy hasn’t snatched you up yet!” (See also, “Any guy who wouldn’t want to date you is an idiot!”)
“Enjoy this time of being single! Now that I’m married/have kids, I’d kill for that kind of freedom again.”
“Take advantage of this time of preparation! Use this opportunity to discover who you are, grow in your faith and friendships, etc.”
And the Emmy for Most Horrific Remark in the Comedy That Is My Life goes to…
“You still have time before your eggs get too old!”
Some of these responses are obviously more problematic than others, but all are flawed in at least 2 ways:
- Each statement is predicated on the assumption that I will find someone — that it’s not an “if” but a “when.”
- Each statement implies that at best, singleness is an uncomfortable step in the journey toward love, and at worst, it’s a problem that needs to be solved, sooner rather than later.
Even the statements that seemingly point to the “benefits” of being single undermine themselves because of the sheer fact that they have to be said at all. When something is widely accepted as good, no one has to make a concerted effort to tout the benefits. This is the same reason I hesitate to eat anything with “Delight” (or worse, “Delite”) in the name. If the tuna were really so terrific, then ya wouldn’t need to say so, would ya?
There’s also the fact that when taken together, all of this well-meaning advice contradicts itself. I’m supposed to put myself out there, but also try not to fixate on meeting someone so it’s “unexpected”? I’m supposed to think guys are idiots for not wanting to date me while simultaneously wanting to date one of these so-called idiots? It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
Instead of all of these tired cliches, my heart longs for someone — anyone — to simply speak the truth. But no one seems willing to say it, perhaps because it initially sounds a little cynical. So, at the risk of playing Debbie Downer, I’ll say it myself:
It is completely possible that I can deeply desire and feel called to marriage and never find a spouse.
I don’t say this because I’m hopeless and have given up on the idea of finding love. I don’t say this because I have low self-esteem and don’t think I’m worth loving or committing to. I don’t say this because I have too little trust in God. I say it because it’s true. And the truth is freeing, even if it hurts a little.
Because it is also true that I can deeply desire and feel called to marriage, never find a spouse, and still live a happy, meaningful life full of love. In fact, if I stay close to the Lord, it’s impossible for my life to be without love. He is Love itself.
This is the kind of abundance that Jesus is referring to when He says in John 10:10: “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” I don’t have to wait to start living a great love story. I don’t have to let Snow White’s “Someday My Prince Will Come” be the theme song of my 20’s and 30’s (and beyond) when the King of the Universe already thought I was special enough to die for. I don’t have to frantically search for love when Love comes looking for me every single day.
Instead, I am free. I am free to “put myself out there” without focusing all of my time and energy on meeting someone. I am free to enjoy going on dates when the opportunity arises without feeling like Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is blaring in the background and I have to lay all my cards on the table within the first ten minutes. I am free to accept rejection when men aren’t interested and to politely turn them down when I’m not feeling it. I am free to keep my standards high and my hopes higher. I am free to grow in my faith, advance in my career, take care of my mental and physical health, spend my free time on hobbies and travel and loving my friends and family and serving my community — all for the sake of glorifying God and living a well-ordered life and not solely for the sake of preparing for marriage. I am free put the SING in single, as Lizzo would say.
I know what some of you might be thinking. Paige, this all sounds nice, but I truly long to share my life with another person. All of my friends are getting married and having babies and it’s getting increasingly hard to watch. My eggs really are nearing their best-by date, so to speak. And I hear you. I’ve been there. I am there. And I hope that makes my statements about remaining hopeful and living an abundant life all the more powerful.
To be honest, I never really wanted to talk about singleness, dating, or relationships on this blog. I’ve always wanted to keep that part of my life fairly private.* But a consistent theme in my prayer lately has been that single people need to hear these things from a fellow single person. There’s nothing wrong with married folks offering advice — that’s good and beautiful, too! But when the only perspectives on singleness come from those who “survived” it and “came out on the other side,” it kind of feeds into the narrative that we’re all going to end up with somebody and just need to be patient. This might initially sound comforting, but I’d rather rest in the sometimes difficult — but ultimately freeing — truth.
*But now that we’ve gone and opened the can of worms, there’s a lot more where that came from. Stay tuned! 🙂
3 thoughts on “The truth about singleness: Trading tired cliches for real talk (From a fellow single gal)”
I’m very much single and, after too many years pining after boys who weren’t interested, I’ve slowly come to the realization over the past couple years that being single is the BEST time to focus on you. You are responsible for no one but yourself, you can make the choices you want to make, and you can focus on growing into the best version of yourself. And I truly believe that focusing on personal development will help attract the right people into your life–both platonic and, hopefully, romantic relationships.
Being single is what you make of it, like most other things in life, and living in the present goes a long way. I would hate to be that middle age lady who has a family mourning her singleness. Life has different seasons, and I want to try to embrace all of them. 🙂
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