Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Although I'm young (a couple of years out of college), a lot of my friends have already gotten married. The number of single ladies in my circle of childhood friends has dwindled to only a few. It's odd feeling like an "old maid" already (I'm not really, I know!), but I'm ok with the fact that my life isn't going to follow the same trajectory as many of my friends. Plus, I think back to the boys that I would have gotten engaged to at 19 or 20...no, thanks! :)
The problem is that whenever I hang out with a few of my single girlfriends (from this same social circle), the conversation always turns to our single status. Sometimes we complain about not being married yet, and sometimes we pride ourselves on not having gotten married quite so young (although IMO, those conversations often have a hint of "protesting too much"). Either way, we're always comparing ourselves to our married friends.
I'd prefer to steer the conversation away from this topic in general. After all, we're young! We're free! We're pretty! Why is marriage such a common topic of conversation? Don't we have anything else to talk about? And yet, I'm not sure what to do when it comes up. Should I employ some of the standard tricks that people use to change the topic of conversation from an uncomfortable theme. Should I talk with them directly about it (they might not even be aware they're doing it)? Or should I start hanging out more with my other friends, who haven't been influenced by going to all these weddings at age 20?
Tired of Moaning
Dear Tired of Moaning,
Why do women talk so much? Are we just exchanging information? No. We are creating and maintaining bonds with other women. And my Single friends and I used to talk about being Single all the time. Sometimes we indulged in What's-Wrong-With-Me, which is not helpful in large doses, but quite often we discussed books for Singles like The Rules and He's Just Not That Into You, and that was a lot of fun. Sometimes we exchanged snippets on the subject of marriage by mediaeval women mystics, Edith Stein and John Paul II, and that was not just fun, it was intellectually respectable.
Men do not quite get the importance of female chat. A young married man I was speaking to the other day observed, slightly crankily, that women seem to talk about romance, dating, marriage with each other ALL THE TIME, and that men never do this. He has a friend who didn't tell him for months that he had a new girlfriend.
"Now," said Young Married Guy, "if So-and-So had a new boyfriend, and she didn't tell you and [my wife] for months, you would be [very angry] with her. But men aren't like that."
"How do you know that guy is your friend?" I asked.
"Huh?" said the Young Married Guy.
"How do you know that he's your friend? At what moment did you think, Okay, this guy is my friend?"
"Huh?" said the Young Married Guy.
Now this Young Married Guy is very, very smart, an astute man of business, etc., but he just doesn't get the nuances of how women do relationships.
(It really makes you wonder about male thought processes, doesn't it? I mean, on one hand, they can come up with brilliant things like E=MC2, but on the other, they seem to think in sentence fragments: Food-good. Sex-good. Big man-can take him. TV-good. Crying woman-bad, scary. Flee.)
So when you and your other Single friends are moaning about being Single, it is perfectly natural. In small doses, it is probably healthy. You're all being reminded that you're not alone. But if it is getting you down, I recommend doing what my friends and I did--reading a variety of books on the subject and injecting something cheerful and intellectual into the chats. And yes, you could always change the subject, but--gosh darn it--isn't it a FASCINATING subject? Here I am, still writing about it, and I'm 39 years old and have been married for a year. The conversation I began at 12 has not yet ended.
Not to plug my book again, but actually, since my book is very positive about the Single Life (both the Single-For-Now and the Permanent Single Life), it would help you and your friends maintain those Single Girl bonds and yet keep a positive outlook. And don't forget the great women and men who never married and yet achieved great accomplishments! Consider reading their work or biographies and then citing them as role models.
A word of advice about Married Friends. If you complain about being Single to Married Women, they will either get uncomfortable or thoughtful. If they look uncomfortable, it is because they are bored. They have put aside all thoughts of Singledom, they are married now, they don't care, they have "real" problems, blah blah. But if they look thoughtful, they are running through a mental rolodex of their unmarried male friends. Expect sneaky, carefully orchestrated dinner invitations. So beware!
REAL MARRIED LADY CONVERSATION ON WAY TO SHOE REPAIR SHOP
Me: I think Y should marry X. I need to figure out how to get them in the same room.
Friend: Y can't marry X. I want her to marry Q.
Me: You always want our Single friends to marry Q.
Friend: I thought you wanted Y to marry Z.
Me: That's true. I can't decide if she would like X or Z better.
Friend: I want her for Q.
I hope this is helpful.
Grace and peace,
Update: Did you pray for your fellow Singles at Mass yesterday? I've made it a habit to pray for my Single readers at Sunday Mass.