As a college student, a lot of the girls I know can’t seem to exist without a boyfriend. Their default status seems to be “in a relationship” while mine should probably read “likes books more than most people.” And while there are days where I would love to be a relationship person, and there are days where a relationship person would love to be single, we need to stop assuming that one is automatically better. There are things that suck about both situations. That being said, I can only speak for one of them. And here are some things I’ve heard from the relationship people that have the effect of making me feel like a spinster at the age of 21. And they need to stop being said.
- First of all, please stop telling me I’m “lucky” to be single, that being single is some kind of party compared to a committed relationship. This kind of comment is patronizing, mainly because it assumes that perpetually single people choose to be that way. Some of us do. But not all of us. It’s also problematic because a lack of a relationship, wanted or not, doesn’t mean that life is a cake walk. Life is just as hard for single girls as it is for committed ones, just in different ways.
- Stop telling me you “know what it’s like” unless you’ve been single for any period of time longer than six months. If you’re the person who jumps from relationship to relationship with little down time, that’s okay, but if you are that person and you aren’t used to being on a break from dating, don’t pretend that our situations are the same. They aren’t. Because for you, this is a pit-stop in your life. You’ll move on in a few months to the next relationship and be fine. But for the always single girls like me, this doesn’t seem temporary anymore. But when for some, being perpetually alone feels a lot like purgatory, telling me that you’ve been in my shoes is slightly insulting. I would never tell you that I know what your broken heart feels like, so please afford me the same respect.
- For the love of God, please do not say, “But you’re so pretty! How are you still single?” This is another one of those backhanded compliments. On one hand, I’m flattered because you apparently think I’m attractive enough to be dating someone, but on the other hand, I’m also not dating anyone. I literally had a friend, upon learning I was single, tell me, “Oh, but you’re so pretty. I just assumed all pretty people had boyfriends.” That is not how the world works. You do not get a guy just for passing some kind of arbitrary beauty test. And while you may think this is a nice sentiment, it sort of feels like there may be something wrong with me because maybe I look attractive, but I’m still alone.
- This one is well meaning, but distinctly not helpful: “You’ll find your soulmate someday, don’t worry.” While I honestly do appreciate the sentiment, this statement always feels a little contrived. I do understand that you may not know what to say to someone in my situation, but platitudes that sound vaguely reminiscent of a Disney princess song don’t exactly make me feel better. I know that you mean well and want to help, but rather than giving me generic statements that only leave me feeling frustrated because some days, it really seems like ‘someday’ is never going to come, it would be better to just know that I am supported by my friends, regardless of my relationship status.
- This one, unfortunately, only seems to get worse the older a single girl gets. And it’s one of the most awkward questions I’ve ever been asked: “Why are you still single?” This may seem obvious, but unless I actively choose not to date, I don’t actually know why I’m single. Even if the question is meant in a joking manner, it’s still grating, simply because its very nature makes me think that you think there must be something wrong with me for not having a boyfriend. It’s also one of those ticking time bomb questions that will likely as not end well for the asker; such questions tend to be emotionally charged and ignorant, along the lines of asking a woman why she doesn’t yet have children. It’s just not polite to ask.
So if you have single friends, what can you say to them? Honestly, every person and every friendship is different, so it’s probably best to ask your friend to tell you if she’s uncomfortable. But what you say is not nearly as important as what you do. If one of your friends is single and it seems like no one else around her is, to be a good friend, you should make time for her. It’s important that she doesn’t feel alone. So give her your love and friendship, but don’t go about it by turning her into a third wheel. That only makes everyone uncomfortable. Instead, set aside some time to spend with her, and try to focus on your relationship together during that time instead of endlessly talking about your relationship. The most important thing you can do for a single friend is remind her that you’re there, that you care about her and to help her feel a little less lonely.