The Curse of the Singletons

Back in graduate school, I wrote a paper that remains one of the most fun things I ever wrote for my entire school career. It was on single women, film and cultural memory. I mean, a paper which required me to watch Katherine Hepburn comedies and the latest Sex and the City movie is always a good idea. Now, my professor didn’t think much of it and re-reading it recently I’d have to slightly agree that perhaps it missed the mark of the assignment a bit. But it is still a topic that fascinates me. Mainly because I am a single girl, living on my own and now on the wrong side of 25 (why does that feel like such a turning point!?). However, unlike most of the cool single girls I could hope to imitate (If she’d lose the smoking and excessive drinking, Bridget Jones would quite possibly be my idol), I live in the middle of nowhere so the exciting aspect of the city is missing. But, at the end of day, being a singleton is interesting in terms of how people think of you and interact with you. My parents for the most part don’t seem that worried about me. At least I’m not getting the plaintive questions of when they can expect to be grandparents. It’s my grandmothers and aunts that seem to be my willing marriage brokers. Next time I go home, I need to avoid Olive Garden. My grammy apparently found just the guy for me working there. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it; I do. And I know it comes from a place of love, that she wants me to have someone to share my life with. But I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet. If I were, I’d be trying harder to find someone. Wouldn’t I?

Isn’t this cover divine? From Goodreads

Enter Betsy Israel’s Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century, a 2002 exploration of the single girl in American culture from the early 1800s to today. What first strikes me is how little has changed in terms of social pressure to marry. Shouldn’t we have gotten beyond that by now? There are billions of people on the planet, if I don’t marry and pop out some kids, I’m sure the world will be relieved. I’m also filled with gratitude of the women who came before me, who dared to venture into the cities, fight for jobs and their right to hold them. The women who wanted to be able to rent their own apartments, buy their own homes and adopt children on their own if they decided they did want to be mothers. My life has been fairly easy as a single woman; I just had to endure the occasional pitying look and the good-natured ribbing at family events. I never have to defend my very existence as a single woman. No one automatically thinks I am mentally deranged or a “girl on the make” just because I don’t rush home to a husband at the end of the day. I can travel alone, shop alone, eat out alone and go to the movies alone. (Though full disclosure, still working on the eating out alone thing – sandwich and coffee shops? No problem. An actual sit-down restaurant? Depends on the day and where I am. In DC, I didn’t have any problem with it. Around here, I find it harder.)

So, while I suggest you read Israel’s highly interesting and entertaining book, what I most want you to do, if you’re single and female like me, is take a minute to give thanks to those that came before us. Single girls of the world unite!


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