Being single in Utah is an unofficial sin.
Anyone who has ever lived, or tried to date as an adult in Utah will know exactly what I’m talking about. Once you are 18 you are expected to be looking for your life-partner. The sooner you are hitched, the better. By the time you are in your mid-20’s you will preferably have several toe-headed children playing tag in your white-picketed yard, with the family dog. While I have researched and written a college essay about the un-intended consequences and implications of the Utah marriage race, I’m not here to write about that today. Today, I am just talking about the weird social stigma around being single.
We equate being single with being unloved, unwanted, or unstable.
We love romance. We love, love and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is our tendency to conflate love into the “end all, be all” for life. When every book and every movie includes a romantic plot or sub-plot, we forget that there are some stories that don’t involve love-interest at all. We also forget that love can exist outside of romantic relationships. We can be loved without a romantic partner. We have friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, animals, and even strangers who care for us as people. We don’t need a romantic partner in our lives to make our story worth telling. Chances are that you an incredibly smart, talented, interesting, and whole person on your own. Your worth isn’t determined by being romantically involved and being single doesn’t mean you are alone. The lack of a committed relationship doesn’t mean that other people don’t like you, or want you. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you that pushes people away. I say this because I know what it’s like to be the only person at a party without the romantic fairy-tale to tell. My story doesn’t include a breathe-taking, earth-shattering romance yet, but it doesn’t make it lesser than anyone else’s. That doesn’t make me lesser.
We fear single-ness like we fear a disease.
Have you ever noticed that when you are single, many of your family and friends start to set you up on dates? They seem embarrassed, and almost scandalized about your partner-less status. They ask you why you aren’t seeing anyone. They’ll ask if you are “doing okay”, or when you’ll start looking for “the one”, or if you aren’t already an open member of the LGBTQ+ community, they might ask you if you are “secretly gay”. Living in a community where marriage is the norm and a woman is considered an old maid by 23, I’ve had a lot of time to think about people’s fear of my solitude. It’s not just the fact that I am single; after a relationship ends we are granted a grace period to heal. The real concern many of them have is that I’m usually single. More often than not, my more traditional friends and family are taken aback by the fact that I seem genuinely comfortable without a boyfriend. When I explain my status and answer their many “why aren’t you taken” questions, I’m often looked with pity, confusion, wonder, shock, and (occasionally) disgust. Somehow, the single stigma makes my relationship status as tragic as a deadly disease. My assurances that I’m fine as I am are generally dismissed, and I’m assured that “my prince will come”. My singleness is seen as a problem to fix instead of a choice I’ve made. The assumption is that I can’t possibly be happy with my affliction, even if it was self-inflicted.
Love is great, but being single is great too.
I am not saying that dating, relationships, love, marriage etc. is bad. They are all wonderful things! I hope to find a mutually supportive and loving relationship someday. I am dating right now, but I’m not looking for “the one”. Right now I’m enjoying being single, having fun meeting new people, and living my life as an un-attached adult. None of what I said above is anti-love, it’s about respecting single people. Being in love is incredible, but being single is amazing too. As a single woman I have time to learn about myself, to develop my skills, address my weaknesses, and I’ve learned to depend on myself. My time, my money, my space, my choices, and my life are all my own. I’ve been in committed relationships before, and I’ve been single. Both have their pros and cons, and both can be life-enriching experiences. There is nothing wrong with either choice.
End the Single Stigma.
Really, that’s what this all comes down to: being proud of who you are. Being in a monogamous relationship is the current societal ideal, but there’s no reason to shame single people, or be ashamed if you are single. Stop the cycle and be proud of who you are. Whether you are in a relationship, out of a relationship, on a break, in a complicated relationship, poly-amorous, aromatic, asexual, single, or whatever your current status is- what really matters is that you are happy, healthy, and proud of who you are. Some us are at our best at a table set for one.