Sometimes I dread reconnecting with friends and colleagues. Once we navigate all the pleasantries – where do you live, what do you do now and how’s your family – the conversation eventually shifts to and dwells on my unmarried status.
I wish the conversations were limited to “Hi” and “Good seeing you again” and didn’t wander to “You ain’t getting any younger” and “What you waiting for?” I’m very aware of the fact that I’m 39.
For some strange reason, it’s always the ones I converse with the least on a personal level who launch a no-holds-barred matchmaking campaign with a two-part preference survey, leaving me to feel like an unwilling contestant on “The Dating Show.”
During one outing, a colleague spends the first hour asking, “Do you think he’s cute? What about him?” This, of course, is a trick question. Reply “Yes” and she’s bound to give the “come hither” finger. Respond with “No” and the line of questioning never ends.
“I’m still trying to figure out your type,” my colleague says.
I don’t answer. My damn buzz is gone. I thought I graduated from high school over 20 years ago. I just want to go home.
The whole thing is annoying. Borderline angering. I never complain. I don’t peruse dating sites or ask everyone I know if they can hook me up. I don’t even cry, “There are no good men out here” or “I can’t find a man!” I think they still exist. I simply continue with and improve other aspects of my life like quitting my job, researching graduate programs, considering relocation and establishing a career. My existence doesn’t end because I’m single although my single status may be influenced by my life choices.
I express my concern and discomfort before the next happy hour. I don’t decline the invitation because I’m a sucker for the sushi and cocktails. This time I’m seated at the bar between another colleague and a man who I’ve never met. Another colleague stands behind me. The stranger happens to glance in our direction and the standing colleague abruptly asks, “Have you met my friend Teronda?”
He’s confused, too. “No,” he says. And he’s annoyed. I’m not sure if it’s a reaction to the out-the-blue question or the fact that he’s already chatting with the woman seated on the other side of him. Is it a platonic friend? Girlfriend? Wife?!
My colleague turns her back is if her mission is complete. But I can’t face the man because I’m horrified. I’m sure she just sent the message that I’m 1) a desperate damsel or a relationship reject 2) incapable of meeting a man on my own and 3) possibly a home-wrecker.
And once again my buzz is gone and I just want to go home.
But the single-shaming runs rampant. I’m not the only one who experiences it.
One of my girlfriends calls me for my take on a potential setup. Her friend’s neighbor, a widower for less than a year with five children including a two-month old, wants to meet someone. My never-been-married friend, who has no kids, is the first person to come to mind.
“Shouldn’t I be offended?” she asks.
“Girl he’s looking for a nanny, maid and cook,” I joke. Sort of. It really is an internship for those full-time positions. I sincerely understand his situation and I’m not mad at him. But the friend who thinks they should meet? She deserves a side-eye.
My issue with the random matchmaking and unsolicited dating advice is the underlying preconceived notion of hopelessness, helplessness, flaws and incompleteness. We must be selfish, afraid of love, unknowing, picky or broken. As women and especially after a certain age, we’re defined by titles of “wife” and “mother” hence the active mission to get us older singles married and pregnant. We’re beyond the age to afford the luxury of attraction, common interests and compatibility. The “best” solution is to just toss us anybody because right now we have nobody.
Another one of my girlfriends defends our singleness rather nicely in a Facebook post: “Because 30- or 40-something year-old women aren’t in committed relationships doesn’t mean we can’t get or keep a man.” We can but sometimes decide to remain minus one for a little bit. Or maybe forever. Either way, it’s our choice.
Single is only my current status, not my ultimate fate. My life may not resemble a “typical” 39-year-old’s but that doesn’t give anyone the authority to intervene or attempt to fix it.
Washington, DC transplant Teronda Seymore is a writer and an undercover Twitter addict whose work has also appeared online at xoJane. Follow her @skinnydcwriter.