I always approach people I haven’t seen in a while with a bit of trepidation. My smile, albeit genuine, is a bit hesitant no matter how pleased I am to see them. It’s not that I’m unhappy to catch up – really, it’s great seeing old friends and neighbors. It’s the same with introductions. I consider myself relatively relaxed and at ease in most social scenarios, but I know that in either situation, whether meeting new friends or old acquaintances, the conversation will inevitably take a path we single folk are all too familiar with by now. After the perfunctory “Hi, how are you?” is taken care of, there’s a bit of a pause, a smile, and then The Question comes.
“So. Are you married yet?”
Once you hit your mid-twenties, it’s customary for people to inquire about your marital status, or lack thereof, and then to proceed with a litany of recommendations and stories about the other singles they know. I don’t have the audacity to presume on why people do this. The reasons most assuredly range from a general concern to just plain nosiness. Either way, it can be frustrating on the receiving end. You struggle to answer with the right mix of candor and humor to appear unaffected by the reality that most of your peers are married with two kids and you’ve only been on two dates in the last 6 months. And if you weren’t feeling like a freak of nature before the conversation, you most certainly are led to believe otherwise if you get the right person asking you how come you haven’t “settled down” yet. The worst part of it all is feeling the need to explain something you shouldn’t have to. Once enough people ask you why you haven’t married or found anyone, you find yourself wondering if there really may be something wrong with you. And all of a sudden you are handed the responsibility of giving account for your singleness. The scene is not far removed from a criminal on the witness stand. It might sound dramatic, but if you are single, or were for any length of time past the age of 21, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
“So why aren’t you married yet?”
Blunt and to the point, this one can be intimidating when paired with a squinted eye and accusatory tone. You’re presented with such a broad, ignorant question and you’re trying your best not to reply accordingly. “Because I’m selfish, egotistical, and my morning breath smells like death” is dying to come out of your mouth. A simple shrug and smile usually suffice. I tend to save my energy for more intelligent inquiries.
“Do you have any prospects?”
I had a university graduate tell me she was asked this upon meeting a friend’s wife for the first time. “I was so taken aback because I was sure she couldn’t possibly mean for a boyfriend so I started telling her what I wanted to do after graduation and then I realized she did mean men. And I was appalled.” Contrary to popular belief, single people do think about other things besides landing a husband or wife. Furthermore, we do not keep checklists of potential options when it comes to finding a mate. There may be a few out there with pen and paper in hand, but the majority of us are capable of finding fulfillment in everyday living.
“I have someone I want you to meet. He’s single too.”
So OF COURSE we’ll be compatible (smack forehead). As if the mutual single status alone will be the deciding factor determining that it will be love at first sight. Every good-hearted granny or well-meaning friend has SOMEONE they know that they’ve decided YOU should know too. I’m not against blind dates; I’m just imploring the match makers out there to please take the individuals’ personalities into consideration before attempting to play Cupid. Just because he’s single and around my age doesn’t mean I will be intrigued by his extensive sea shell collection.
“Just wait on the Lord and try to be content.”
I’m sorry, but what am I waiting for again? To be happy? To find my purpose? Marriage is beautiful, and it’s sacred. I love seeing some of my good friends deeply in love with their best friend. But I believe joy radiates from deep within a person’s soul. Happiness and contentment are by-products of doing what you are meant to do NOW, not waiting on an event or person. People die, marriages end, and sometimes you get left behind. Finding personal joy is a must.
“You’re so pretty and smart – I thought you would have been snatched up by now.”
I think I have the hardest time not responding with sarcasm to this one. It’s such a shallow statement, the tops of my feet don’t even wet. So, would it make sense that I’m single if I had left the makeup bag untouched this morning? Well, apparently a good, non-clumping mascara and book-learning isn’t all there is to getting “snatched” after all. I think people are attempting to give an underhanded compliment here but unfortunately it falls incredibly short of acceptable praise.
“You’d better get cracking if you want kids. Your biological clock is ticking.”
I kid you not, this is an actual quote. No doubt it was confusing to the offending party when I began laughing. My over-active imagination envisioned that scene from Peter Pan when Hook began twitching in time with the alarm clock ticking inside the crocodile. Word to the wise, and the not so wise: my reproductive system is not nor will it ever be a suitable topic of conversation. Ever.
“Do you feel God has called you to singleness?”
Umm………….I feel like a very profound and reflective answer should be given.
I got nothin’.
This would be equivalent to asking a woman that lost her husband, “Do you feel God has called you to be a widow?” How is she supposed to know what her future holds? That’s not even a relevant question for her at the moment. God calls all of us (single, widowed, married, divorced) to rejoice in His goodness daily and to lean on His strength minute by minute. That’s the only calling that I’m aware of.
“Have you tried online dating?”
I’ve been hearing this one more frequently now that I’m getting closer to my 30th birthday. People view online dating as the shady, last-ditch attempt to find love before all hope is lost. The eleventh hour is upon us! Seriously, they even lower their voice and look over their shoulders. When I tell them I haven’t tried it, the look of relief on their face is comical. Then I get to hear about their unmarried niece in her mid-thirties (bless her heart) that met some pervert online that broke her heart and she now has 4 cats.
There are pitfalls in every method of meeting other singles wanting to find companionship. This is where common sense and God-given intuition come into play, online or elsewhere.
“Do you ever get lonely?”
Sure, singles get lonely. We’ve all been there where something amazing happens in our life and we wish that we had a special person to share it with. Or after a long, hard day at work, it crosses our minds that it would be nice to have someone to come home to. Humans are a social species. We like the companionship of others. But loneliness isn’t exclusive to the unattached. I think it would be worse to be lonely in a relationship. But that’s like comparing apples to oranges. The answer is a simple yes. It would be silly to pretend otherwise.
“Do you ever wonder what your husband will be like?”
A little girl asked me this with all the honesty and charm of a 9 year old. No need for a sarcastic response here, not with those inquisitive brown eyes staring up at me. It took me a moment to answer. I hadn’t thought about anything like this for a very long time. But this is what I told her: It’s more important to know what he WON’T be like. If I’m ever to marry, it won’t be to someone that’s cruel. It won’t be someone that doesn’t love God. I won’t get involved with a man that doesn’t love his family deeply and want to take care of mine too. And he won’t be someone that prevents me from being myself.
We’re all capable of asking some pretty dumb questions. Like the time I asked a new momma if her 2 week old baby had begun sleeping through the night yet. The look I got was exactly what I deserved.
The art of thinking before speaking is one we constantly should endeavor to master, or at least get a decent handle on. And the first step would simply be to place ourselves in another’s shoes, trying them out for size – just to see what life looks and feels like from their vantage point and how a question we’re about to ask may sound to them.
It will make us all a little better at this humanity thing. I’m sure of it.