If I am asked who the Single's worst enemy is--overbearing mothers, Bridezilla, PUAs*---I will say, without a second of hesitation, "Bitterness."
Bitterness is a killer. People talk about the stench of desperation coming off some Single people at social events, but it is nothing compared to bitterness. Whereas desperation merely frightens others away, bitterness gets into a person's heart and warps it. It can turn you into Gollum.
Since most women love the Anne books, one common female example of bitterness is Katherine Brooke, a senior teacher at the school in Summerside of which Anne is principal (Anne of Windy Poplars). Katherine is an effective teacher, but people look down on her because she is frumpy. She lives in a dingy boardinghouse. She is nasty to Anne, even though Anne is, after all, her supervisor. She loathes Anne's air of perpetual happiness, and thinks Anne is flaunting her pearl engagement ring. Bitter, bitter, bitter.
Well, Anne (being Anne) invites the nasty (but, to Anne, intriguing) Katherine to Green Gables for Christmas and even gives her a becoming red velvet HAT which improves her appearance no end. And then the truth comes out: Katherine's parents hated each other; when they died she was made beholden to her uncle; she dresses and lives dingily because she is paying him back every cent he had spent on her education. She hates teaching; she'd rather travel. We discover that Katherine is a sympathetic character after all.
But Anne is not only a secular saint, she's a fictional character. Any real life Katherine would be supernaturally lucky to be invited back to the charming boss's country farmhouse for Christmas after making the boss's life a pain for months.
A real-life example of male bitterness appears occasionally in the advice (agony) columns. This is basically what the Bitter Male Single writes:
Dear Abby (Ann or Ellie),
I am a nice guy. I always treat women well, but I'm starting to think I shouldn't. Women only like bastards who treat them badly. I'm starting to think that I should start treating women badly, too, since that is what works. The problem is, though, that I don't have the kind of things that women are impressed by. For example, as an environmentalist, I think personal car ownership is wrong. But when a woman discovers I don't have a car at all, she immediately rejects me....Etc. Etc. Etc.
The most extreme example of Bitter Male Single was the Health Club Shooter, a man I dubbed Psychopathic Single. After twenty years of no girlfriend, Psychopathic Single went to his health club and shot 12 women, killing three. But P.S.'s testimony about his lack of success with women was inconsistent. Women actually did talk to him; one woman seems to have shown a friendly interest. But by then P.S. was so absorbed by his bitter thirst for revenge, that he blocked her out. By then he just wanted to kill women.
Bitterness is a constant temptation for Singles; when I was Single, I fought it back every time I went to a bridal shower, a wedding, a baby shower or a christening. (One christening almost wiped me out; I wanted to die.) But practise made perfect. I got good at remaining cheery and gracious at such times, inside and out. (Showers and weddings are not about us but about them, and sour faces do much to ruin people's special days.)
Seeing ultrasound pictures of unborn babies in my email inbox was another story, though. And, even now, because still childless, I curse and wallow in hate when some acquaintance (not family) includes me in a mass mailing of their latest baby's ultrasound. "Yes, I very glad you're happy," I mutter. "Now f--- off." But as tempting as it may be, I do not write this in reply. Instead I bin the photos and erase the episode from my mind. It is not nice to sneer at the happy; they don't like it. It feels like a slap. And it is not an effective means to one's own happiness.
Bitterness is incredibly self-defeating. Only bitter people really enjoy hanging with bitter people, and that for the same reason alcoholics love drinking with other alcoholics: tacit permission to indulge in the beloved destructive behaviour ("My pre-ciousssssssssss!!).
Bitter remarks are sometimes refered to as "being hilarious." I used to be hilarious at my spiritual director, back around 2003, and informed him that there were no good Single men. He thought about that and said, "Well, X was Single once."
That stopped me in my bitter snail tracks because X--let me tell you about X--X was a stellar, cheerful, great-hearted, enthusiastic grad student up from the American South. He was brimming over with the love of God. Both he and his wife lit up rooms. So I grudgingly had to admit if X existed, similar men might exist and some of them might be Single.
That was one of the great moments that turned me from the road of bitterness to the path of seraphic singleness. An earlier one--and I am not making this up--came from watching a Victoria's Secret lingerie show with a boyfriend. I am sure I tell this story in The Book, but here it is again because I am convinced it is a total revelation about the Male Psyche in General.
Okay, so we were watching this ridiculous fashion show, and the girls were striding down the runway in their undies, wings flapping, and the boyfriend said, "There's Heidi Klum. I like Heidi Klum. She's smiling."
And, behold, there was Heidi Klum, and unlike the other models, who were all pouting and sneering, Heidi was grinning. She grinned at the camera and sashayed off.
But then she was back. Stride, stride, stride, grin.
"There's Heidi Klum," said the boyfriend again. "I like Heidi Klum. She's smiling."
He sounded like a robot-zombie. He was transfixed by the power of Heidi Klum. But, you know, Heidi was just one of a dozen equally beautiful women. What Heidi had that set her apart was her big, white, smile.
Healthy men love happy women. Repeat this every morning when you brush your teeth. Healthy men love happy women. And men, women love happy men.
If you're not happy, and you're a Searching Single, fake happiness. Fake it! Fake it until you've tricked your little reptile brain into thinking it really is happy. Because bitterness is your biggest, baddest enemy, believe me.
*PUAs=Pick-Up Artists aka horny men too cheap to spring for prostitutes, so rely on dirty psychological tricks to seduce any woman they can get their hands on for free.