Thursday, 28 February 2013

Helping Singles Overcome Negativity

There were no comments on yesterday's piece, so I assume you were all too depressed or plunged into a terrible gloom at the memory of being snowed by some guy who got your attention by saying, "You look like you could throw a mean baseball--for a girl."

But as I checked the Seraphapalooza Question List, I see that the next question is full of cheer, for it is about getting Singles to stop moaning about being Single. I hasten to point out that these questions all came from Single women. I personally am cool with listening to Singles moan about being Single--or, rather, reading your emails on the subject. But many people are not, and that includes Single women who are trying to be upbeat and gung-ho and "I can go to Paris without anyone's permission!" about it all.

Since I have spent almost every weekday for the past six years trying to help Singles overcome negativity, I have some insights into how you can do that, too.

1. Ask the shocking question, "What's good about being Single?"

2. Make the shocking statement, "Well, I'd love the right man to come along, but I have to admit I'm enjoying these aspects of Single Life..."

3. Capitalize Single. Don't say and write, "I'm single." Say and write, "I'm Single!" (But not at work or in academic papers.)

4. Consider asking the married women in your group, "What do you miss about being Single?" or, if you think they will smirk at the Singles and say "Nothing! I'm so relieved to be married!", ask "Do married women really have it easier?" People very rarely want to admit they have it easier, so be prepared for some eye-opening stuff you've never considered before.

5. Ask, "What if you were the most beautiful woman in the world, and because of some insane circumstance, you getting married would cause the moon to crash into the sea. What would you do with your life?"

6. Read up on the lives of Single women, both saintly ones, and sinnerly ones, like Greta Garbo. A publisher once turned down Seraphic Singles because some of the Singles I mentioned were not very saintly, or not perfectly saintly. She did not care about my point, which was that successful happy Singles, while not always modelling the Christian life, certainly model satisfaction in the Single state. And, anyway, aren't you stoked that Greta Garbo never married? Greta Garbo!

7. Pay attention to the lives of formerly Single women who married late and were made miserable. This seems like an odd way of overcoming negativity, but I have found that insight into another woman's misery makes me grateful for the life I have. Sure, I would like to have children. No, I would not have liked to have been the mother of [most recent teenage school shooter].

8. Trot out my adventure analogy. Fairy tales usually end with "and they lived happily ever after." Marriage is the end of the story. Nobody cares about Snow White once she's in the palace, installed as Princess Charming. (Possibly there is some trivial day-to-day interest in the kingdom about her clothes and good works.) The only reason why anyone outside Fairyland would be interested in the Charming Family would be the debut of Snow White's lovely Single daughter.

Single people, although your lives are uncertain and perilous, they are full of adventure. But many Married people have ugly monster homes in planned communities and two cars instead. Zzzz. This 17th century attic gig I have is kind of rare, and you'll have noticed I spend an awful lot of time thinking about Single people. It's not just because you need support; it's because you are inherently interesting.

Nobody in the Nine Companions of the Ring was married. The ones who did get married waited until the adventure was over.

9. Being Single means you are free to meet a man (or seek out that religious community) who really makes your heart sing and makes you laugh all the time. It is true that you have no way of knowing if you will meet such a man, but at least if you are Single you will be available if/when he comes along.

And really, I know you are willing to wait because if you really wanted to get married for the sake of getting married, you could do so in a matter of weeks by putting an ad in the paper of any Third World Global South newspaper. Seriously.  (Don't mention this in front of a really desperate friend, however, at least not without reference to the last 30 cases of a First World Global North woman being abandoned by her husband after she lavished thousands of dollars/pounds/euros on him and his family.)

Add any other suggestions in the combox. Alternatively, write therein what you really like about the Single Life.

Personally, I really miss the laundry chute in my parents' bathroom and my mum's big ol' Canadian washer-dryer set. Now I have to hump a bag of laundry down a million stone stairs and through a damp and haunted dungeon to a gloomy ex-servants' hall and stuff it in a tiny, British washer-dryer that, more often than not, destroys my underwear.  When I was Single, all I had to do was shove my clothes down the aforementioned chute and a day or two later I would have clean, sometimes ironed, never destroyed clothes. It was a Single Life miracle.


c'est la vie said...

Haha, yes I wasn't planning to open up on my experiences with "neggers"...I was surprised too, though, that no one else commented!

As for the joys of singledom, not having settled for a less than wonderful man definitely counts as one. Also being able to jump in my car and head off to another city/country whenever I feel inspired to do so (cash flow permitting.) Being single is being ready and available for any adventure (or so it seems on good days).

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

If you wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep, you can turn on the bedside lamp and read with a clear conscience.


Bernadette said...

I think my breakthrough moment in coming to appreciate my Single state was when I realized that I could eat whatever I wanted for dinner, whenever I happened to be hungry, without having to consult another person's preferences or plans. No need to worry about side dishes, or someone else's schedule, or putting things in serving dishes. If I want to eat macaroni and cheese with broccoli out of the pan I made it in while sitting on the couch browsing tumblr, I totally can. Plus I can make that macaroni and cheese exactly the way I like it, with red pepper flakes and lemon juice, without having to accommodate another person who maybe can't tolerate spicy foods, or doesn't like the tang of lemon juice. And that's luxury.

My second breakthrough moment was when I realized that the only person I'm responsible for getting up and out the door in the morning is myself. This is a great blessing, since I am not very good at this, and if I were responsible for getting anyone ready besides myself, none of us might ever leave the house. Perhaps being responsible for others might help me grow in areas like self-discipline and organizational skills, but for now I'm enjoying the leisure of only being responsible for me.

Grad in a big city said...

Not worrying if someone else will like my cooking.

Not worrying about other people when thinking about my post-grad-school job. I can go anywhere! Why not Australia?

A corollary: not worrying about trying to find a job at a university while married to a professor. (this is less about being single in general and more about the particular men I keep finding myself interested in.)

And of course, being able to go to Paris whenever it works with my schedule and bank account!

Maria said...

1) Being able to invite people over whenever the heck I like without asking anyone, and spending the whole day cooking something spectacular and complicated without anyone grumbling that we're missing lunch because of it;
2) that any mess is my mess, and that I feel a glow of satisfaction at seeing the place clean again instead of resentment at having to tidy up after someone else;
3) coming and going without having to tell anyone when I will be back, whether I am eating in for dinner and Should they make more for me, when that will be and Should they leave it out or put it in the fridge or it will spoil? I hate feeling I'm putting people through trouble possibly for nothing;
4) organizing my kitchen exactly the way I like it;
5) not having to share kitchen space with anyone when I'm cooking;
5) not having to ask someone's opinion when I buy something for my home, usually for the kitchen.
Why yes, I do like food a lot, how did you guess?
Boy, this was a necessary exercise for me today, good call Seraphic.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I didn't have any personal experience with being negged and I've been extremely busy this month so that's why I didn't comment.

I'm not only single in my mid-20s but also have never been "in a relationship" so I sometimes feel behind the curve, but then I know some people who have a lot of baggage, and I know I was definitely a late bloomer socially, so I'm really grateful for that time. I had real confidence issues (still do somewhat but I know how to manage them now) and I think dating earlier could have led me to emotional dependence.

I'm second of many kids and only my older sister is married. I think we've both made choices that suit what we wanted for our lives. She always wanted what she has now - a family and a lot of children. I want that too but I also have been able to take advantage of more opportunities to travel, for example (we both studied abroad, but I did three times and without a toddler (easier, even with an adorable and goodnatured one like my nephew)).

Sometimes I think about what I'd like - I don't want to be lonely when I get older. But I also remember how gifts God has given me. I have a great family, I have good friends around the world. I've gotten to visit Africa, South America, Europe and even a bit of Asia, met many people, and I think have really been able to use those experiences with different cultures and viewpoints to help other people broaden their perspective (whether being the only Catholic at my Bible study or the only person with my political/philosophical/religious views in some of my friend circles).

I used to volunteer a lot (just don't have time now) so if I never marry or don't marry for a while yet, I think I'll volunteer and try to contribute to my community and meet new people and make new friends. I kind of have a couple of places back in my home area that I'd love to support with my time. Maybe I'd foster children, and, if I had the means, maybe I could take kids with special needs. While I'd love to have my own husband and kids, if I'm just paying my own expenses, I could probably afford to be generous. Or maybe I'd take the sort of job I dreamt I'd have in high school, traveling to various places where war crimes or other humanitarian law violations are taking place - something it's hard to do with a family.

That isn't exactly the way I'd like my life to turn out, but when I look at it, it looks like a good life. I've been thinking over it and now can say honestly I think I could be happy with that life.

One quote I learned in theatre classes has stuck with me - "The perfect is the enemy of the good." The other week I appreciated your comment, Auntie, that I'd done something good by babysitting so a married couple could enjoy Valentine's Day - in part because it was complimentary, of course, but also because some people would see it as a negative, that I didn't have anyone to go out with myself, and let that sour the whole thing. I don't want to be sour. I used to be more upset about being single; I think it was connected to my confidence issues in general and was not worth the time. There are joys and difficulties in every area of life; playing the comparison game is just a way for everyone to lose, because it doesn't really matter what marriage goods I don't have - I have my own joys as I am.

That was long, sorry, but it's what I've been thinking about lately and I really believe I could be happy single - perhaps not always without some wish, but not with bitterness or disappointment, either.

Anonymous said...

Being able to find things even when the house is a mess, because I'm the one who put it there.

Travelling, whether for my own satisfaction or for visits to married friends.

Being able to sit up reading until 2am, and know that I won't have to coordinate bathroom time in the morning.

Knowing that my chocolate/cheese/alchohol stash is safe.


MaryJane said...

Yes, yesterday was just too depressing to engage in all the emotional effort of talking about such a subject...

But today is lovely and I second everything that's been said! My personal favorite is that my time is my own: I can stay up late, get up early, go to mass, stop at the store, visit friends, watch a movie, or anything else - whenever I want! I'm not bound by someone else's schedule or naptimes or anything. Of course, someday I would like to be, but for now, this is great.

Also: coffee in silence in the mornings, which is something for which my married friends would give their eye teeth.

Jo said...

Having a bathroom to oneself is a luxury of single life (growing up I had 4 sisters, with one bathroom in the house-I think my Dad could be a saint based on that criteria alone). I often wonder, based solely on this, why so many young women choose to co-habitate. Just sharing a bathroom with fellow ladies can be bad enough...but sharing a bathroom with a man is not something I would ever voluntarily do unless we had vowed our lives to each other!

I agree with the above comment about silence. I LOVE coming home to a quiet house after work, a long outing, etc. In a way, it is my personal sanctuary when chaos is about all elsewhere. Very introverted me is always rested and refreshed in a quiet house. A related point is the ability to actually arrive at Mass early and concentrate solely on prayer, without a feisty toddler hanging off my arm. I know from my married friends that this frustration can be a constant for years, until all the kids are no longer toddlers.

amlovesmusic said...

THANK YOU. I needed this post...I've been in a rut bemoaning my single state for the past month, and I still find myself bitter...

First I will ask the audience a question: How can I find peace with my single life, when what I really want to DO while being single is travel abroad, but I don't have the money to do so? I don't foresee having the money for it for at least another 5 years while I pay off loans...and I have never left the country. Half of my depression is because I really hate that I don't have much in the way of life experience, especially when it comes to travel. I feel really alone when I am sitting in a group of 12 great, Catholic people, and they are all talking about their experiences going abroad, and I can say nothing. What should I do??

OK, up to more positive things about being single:

- When I get off work, I can do whatever I want, when I want. If I don't feel like cooking i can pick up a meal, or just scavenge together something from the fridge and pantry

- I can leave the place as messy as I want, or as clean as I want

- Freedom to walk around in whatever clothes I want in my need to look nice for someone else.

- If I want to spend time with friends, I can go spend time with them and not worry about leaving someone at home (note to self: must find an outgoing spouse who wouldn't be happy staying at home either)

- I don't have to listen to someone else's complaints unless I want to listen to them.

- I am not obligated to spend time with someone else's family.

- No arguments about money

- Laundry for one is bad enough. Laundry for 2 or more?? The horrors!! (Note: Must also find a man willing to share/split chore duties)

Woodbine said...

This may just be a university experience, but one of the best parts of being Single was how close I became with my roommates last year. Of the six of us, only one had a boyfriend who lived in town (another was in a long distance relationship), so the rest of us got plenty of opportunities to spend time together. We had a lot of "family dinners" and late nights and long chats that wouldn't have happened if we'd had relationships to maintain. Also, none of us who were Single were unhappy about it, so there were no pity parties or subtle competitions. We just got to spend a lot of time enjoying each other's company. I reminded me a bit of the convent where I volunteered, but with more junk food and dirty jokes. This sounds kind of awful, but we sometimes felt sorry for the one with the boyfriend because she missed out on so much.

It might have been a unique situation, but it was totally gratifying to be Single.

Casey said...

Yesterday I came down with the flu, so being able to spend two whole days (so far) sleeping, watching period dramas, and eating nothing but sherbert without having to worry about caring for a husband and kids is wunderbar! @amlovesmusic, I definitely hear you on the whole traveling issue. My greatest ambition at the moment is also to see the world, but until I become rich and famous (hehe) I've found that even short road trips break up the monotony and offer a fresh perspective. Oh, Auntie: I loved the LOTR reference. :D

Jackie said...

Ooh, great topic and responses! :D

Everyone has already mentioned so many good things. I'll add to the chorus of cleaning on my schedule and staying up late with impunity-- huzzah! And there are dishes in the sink and I'm not sweating it one bit, yeah!

Also, all the Netflix queue belongs to me and I can cook exactly what I like, whenever I like. And, Seraphic's book may be "The Closet's All Mine!" -- so "The Bathroom Belongs To Me" is still available. ;-) I love having all my soaps and hair potions around without having to feel like I am being a big space-hog.

Also, I visited a married friend with three children today and even just hearing about her obligations was enough to knock me out!

Finally, let us sing the praises of laundry that is fluffed in the dryer and being able to do a load of wash whenever your little heart desires, without having to combine loads. :-)

PS: Seraphic, I hope you are feeling better!

MaryJane said...

amlovesmusic - I second the advice for short road trips. Also, I'm not sure what your budget is like, but if you scrimp and save even just a little, sometimes you can get amazing travel deals. This works especially well if you are the kind of person who is happy to sleep on trains and eat bread and cheese the whole trip, just to be able to see some sights.

I have also found that just meeting new people, particularly through volunteering, has really "expanded my horizons." (Once in college I was visiting a nursing home and ended up meeting a woman who had done street corner evangelization with Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward. Very cool.) I know it's not the same as traveling, but it really does give more "life experience."

Btw, this is just one person's perspective, but "going abroad" is not as great as some people would have you believe.

(Depending on where you are, try Quebec. It's close and has a quaint old-world feel and they speak a different language.)

Bernadette said...

So this is kinda off topic, but it relates to the whole "you throw like a girl" thing. Once upon a time I was one of the adult leaders for our local youth group, which was (unusually for youth groups) mostly male. One day the warm up activity was kickball, and the young man I happened to be standing next to teased the young woman who was pitching, saying that she threw "like a girl."

I called him on that, asking him to observe that she was, in fact, a girl, pointing out that she was a rather nice girl, and asking if he would want her to be anything else. He acknowledged that he would not, and that she was indeed a very nice girl. I then pointed out that however she threw the ball was then throwing like a girl, and therefore not a bad thing. I'm not sure how much of an impression that made on him, but I don't remember him making those kinds of comments to the girls again. And for such a male-dominated youth group, we also tended to produce rather healthy, assertive young women as well. So hopefully it did some good.

Sarah said...

I like being single because I know I have a whole life's worth of options, still. I can still move, start a career, and date anyone I want. Though I'd like to get married, it's true that, to me, marriage seems like The End of The Adventure. I try to remember that when I'm feeling lonely and down about being single, because I'm not sure if I'm ready for my adventure to end yet.

Another thing that makes me less sorry to be single is when I hear girls I know being kind of naggy or reproving with boyfriends or husbands over silly things.

I remember this Christmas, my priest and two couples-- all of whom are related to my host family-- were sitting around in the living room when the boyfriend of one made some joke that the girlfriend, A, didn't like, and the husband of the other girl, B, laughed. I don't remember what the joke was, but it wasn't anything offensive, and I thought it was funny, too, so when A rolled her eyes, and B elbowed her husband in he ribs, Father and I looked at each other as if to say, "Aren't you glad you aren't them?"

I don't know what it is about being in a longterm relationship that makes some women lose their sense of humor and turn into a scolding mother, but I hope it doesn't happen to me. Otherwise, I'd rather just stay single.

MichelleMarie said...

Not having to moderate your own interests and preferences with anyone else's. You can listen to weird music and watch odd documentaries if you want to! And just be, in general, an odd duck.

More prayer time.

Gracie said...

I love the relationships being single has allowed me to invest in: my roommates, good friends nearby and long-distance, my work relationships and colleagues, and of course my family. Although I am not very close geographically to my family at this time, being single means I am exclusively theirs for holidays and vacation. My sister, as she says, doesn't have to 'share' me yet.

I've had some neat opportunities but the best are the people I've been blessed to know.

Sheila said...

Married person here. I have to start by saying I don't regret my life choices. But there is a LOT that I kind of regret I never got to do because I got married young.

*I would have loved to tour Europe. Surely if I made it a goal I might have afforded it eventually.

*I wish I had gotten a book published. I'm still working on it, but I have so much less time than I did!

*I would like a masters degree ... but can't spare the time or money now.

*I always wanted to hike the Appalachian trail.

*Or go backpacking across the country!

*Or be a nanny abroad!

Lots of dreams. Way too many for one lifetime, really.

And there's a lot I miss:

*Spending money without asking anyone or feeling like I'm stealing from my kids' future.

*Going out and being able to change my plans and stay out three more hours without asking or informing anyone.

*Not having to make a "real" dinner every day -- make one and eat it for several days!

*Sleeping in on weekends. Married an early bird and so I haven't been able to sleep uninterrupted past eight since the day we tied the knot.

*Doing housework once a week was enough.

*Getting to sleep with the covers all nicely tucked really tight, exactly the way I like them.

*When I made some dumb mistake like pouring water on myself or breaking a dish ... there was no one there to see it.

*When I was in a crabby mood, I could choose not to speak to anyone at all outside of work. I was lonely then, but I have the opposite problem now. No solitude ever!

*I was totally able to set my own schedule and alter it at the drop of a hat. I could wake up Sunday morning and pick the Mass I wanted to go to at will, without having to ask anyone.

And that doesn't count any of the stuff I gave up after having kids!

I could go on, but I don't want to talk myself into wishing I were single. I mean, you can't go from single to married by wanting it, but you can go from married to single in a heartbeat if your mind's set on it!

Seraphic said...

"I mean, you can't go from single to married by wanting it, but you can go from married to single in a heartbeat if your mind's set on it!"

Too true, Sheila! And what a sobering thought that is for everybody.

Alisha said...

So much good stuff has been said, especially re: eating mac and cheese out of the pot, your time being your own, etc...but I think I have deeply come to appreciate more silence, esp with nannying. (No offense to Seraphic's great niece and nephew. They are lively and fun, but to read or write or practise music, it is easier alone).
MaryJane - hear hear to recommending Québec. Minus all the corruption in the papers these days, it's a wonderful place. (If you come to MTL, get my info from Seraphic - if I'm around, we can meet or you can use my couch! Speaking of which, if you are a Seraphic reader in NYC who would be interested/available in doing an apartment swap from June to mid July, please email me!!) Also, to the ladies who want to travel with no budget, I also recommend short trips, consider going in groups (even if it's just to carpool and then do your own thing), make friends in other cities (I have done this through dance and so it's much easier to find a couch to crash on..."Fellow lindyhopper? Sure, stay with me!")...and couchsurfing! I once travelled from Toronto to NYC for ONE DOLLAR on Megabus, then flew round trip to New Orleans from NYC for under $200 taxes and fees in, and took the bus back to TO for a dollar. I shared a 4 star diamond "mystery hotel" (you book without knowing the actual hotel's name but you do know the rating, amenities, location etc) with 3 other people for $79 a night (less than $20 each per night). It was amazing. That's rare though; I usually stay with friends or people I have met through friends and don't pay much.

Sarah said...

I love Alisha's post. The opportunity for travel has been one of my life's greatest blessings. I think it's sooo important to do it before settling with a family, and if you really do your research and save up, it can definitely be done!

Bee said...

Truth be told, when I first read this post, I stared blankly at the screen. I had nothing for 1 & 2. I typically thrive under structure and responsibility, especially when externally imposed upon me, than being left to my own devices. But after some reflection, I've got one: having a full-size bed to myself. I can sprawl to my limb's content. In the winter, I can wrap myself like a burrito in all the flannel sheets and very feminine duvet. In the un-air-conditioned summer, I get the "side" closest to the window fan and don't have to worry about another mass of body heat radiating right next to me. Generous bed space is likely something I will have to sadly give up if I ever marry, given that affordable New England homes do not have bedrooms that accommodate king size beds.

Domestic Diva said...

I surely needed this post, Seraphic! Thanks to you and all the commenters. I especially love the observation that the LOTR adventurers married AFTER the Quest was over!

So many things were mentioned that I enjoy about the Single life, but I think the thing I would miss most would be autonomy over money and financial decisions. Glad not to have that to deal with in my life!

Sunnysaffer said...

I have just bought a new house and I loved being able to get the one I wanted without having to compromise in any way. I just bought the one that felt like it could be home to me and it is less than two miles from my work.

A second reason I am currently grateful for being single is I am able to give money to my family without feeling guilty about it or having to defend my decisions. My cousin on the other hand who is married and at home with her daughter feels very guilty about the money she sends to help support her parents while she is not earning. She is planning to get a job for this very reason.