Single, Not Sick: The Stigma of Singlism.
“Why are you single?” As a single gal, it is only a matter of time before this question is likely to come up at some point in many-a social conversation. Once the ‘are you single?’ question is met with a ‘no’, it is almost always impossible to dodge the conversation without being plagued with the requirement of a fully-fledged explanation. Gosh. Why am I single? Uhm, how does one begin to tackle a question that may even elude scientists and psychologists?
“Well, perhaps, because I suffer from severe case of Schizophreniform?” Uhm, will that answer suffice? How about “because I just am?” or “because I want to be” or maybe even “because, it’s just the way it is”. That’s it.
My problem here does not only lie with the series of questions that only seem to follow when you are actually NOT single, but also the tone and intention with which they are often loaded. More often than not, this question is drenched in pity or judgement; as if being single is unnatural and akin to some dreaded disease, therefore warranting an impromptu hyperanalaysis. Is she crazy? Is she bitter? Surely she must have unresolved issues? What’s wrong with her?
Singlism is a term coined by author Bella DePaul and refers to the widespread stereotyping and discrimination of people who are single. Yes, this is indeed an actual thing; so much so that she went on to write an entire book about it (Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matter, and How to Stop It).
If you find yourself judging someone or thinking of them differently because of their relationship status, then you my friend are guilty of singlism. It may often be the butt of many jokes and is not always called out or recognised to the degree that the other ‘isms’ that plague society are (racism/ sexism), but there is an undeniable stigma around being single, especially amongst women.
Where does the culture of being adverse to singleness really come from?
Is it something that is inherently part of our traditions? Or is it some sort of widely adopted unspoken rule? Why is it general harder to fully accept the fact that someone can actively choose to be single and be happy without being thought of as incomplete, deficient or even being at the mercy of the other 101 negative assumptions of why you are ‘bae-less’?
According to scienceofrelationships.com, a study once called for undergraduate students to use the first words that came to mind to describe a married person and a single person. Surprise, surprise. The top descriptors of single people were negative words such as ‘ugly’, immature and lonely. Harsh.
Being at a movie, dining or even having a drink by yourself are also considered taboo. Also, one’s insurance profile tends to be viewed more positively if they are married. No wonder there is such pressure to be attached! Pressure is a dangerous thing because it often coerces one to do something and desperately so.
This fear of being stigmatized has arguably resulted in people being so desperate for some sort of attachment because any partner is allegedly better than no partner. This is often manifested in consistently hopping from one relationship to another, always being on the look-out for a potential bae, and even settling for mundane, bad and unhappy relationships.
One can almost also pin this down to a fear of being alone/ by yourselves. Why are we so afraid of being by ourselves? We express this fear by questioning other people’s decisions not to be alone and even through our own distinct behaviours.
We were born by ourselves and yet we seemingly fight this state with our every essence in the process of ‘adulting’. It is almost like we hold onto people to be our crutches because we are unable to face ourselves. The irony of this is that the fear of perceived loneliness is actually one of the reasons for the many perpetuating unhealthy/ dysfunctional relationships. It is almost as if we expect people to be with us when we cannot stand to be by ourselves.
I personally took a sabbatical from dating because I felt a need to just heal, recharge and just be selfish with myself. I had come from a long term relationship and just yearned to have a deeper understanding of myself and to allow myself a chance to just be, without being attached. Needless to say, I spent most of the time declining invitations to be hooked up with someone’s homie and being lured into debates about why it is okay and normal to be single.
I was completely taken-a-back by the number of people who saw my singleness as a bad or selfish decision when I had found so much happiness in it. The sad thing is that this flak comes from both men and women. Our career (and other) achievements are often overshadowed by the fact that we are still ‘single’.
Parents genuinely get concerned when there is no one in your life, which often raises questions and this worsens the older you get. People are not ever able to accept the fact that someone can be single without waiting for someone to desperately hook us up and deliver us from our supposed misery.
Perhaps this also comes from how we are so defined by our relationship statuses. The state of being single is almost perceived as being less of a person. Your relationship status should not define you. It should not have any bearing on the kind of person one is or on their value. It is not an accomplishment. I am by no means saying that relationships are bad because I am the greatest fan of love (especially self-love), but surely a girl can be single without being at the mercy of a CSI investigation?
Dear sufferers of singlism: no, we are not all desperately waiting for a bae to save us.
- We are not sad creatures that need you to hook us up with one of your boys.
- We are not suffering from deep loneliness.
- We are not too pretty to be single. We may have actively chosen to be single. We may have not met the right guy yet. We may be figuring ourselves out or may even have a clear idea of what we want and what we will certainly not settle for.
- We are not incomplete or flawed.
- Our value or identity does not sit in our relationship status or in ‘bae goals’.
- We are not bitter, sad beings so you can keep your pity.
- We are not dying from some neuro-disease that can only be alleviated through a quick-fix hyper-analysis or hook up.
We are single and not sick.
[This article was first published on 5 May 2016]