Over 30, Single and Shamed

by Teronda Seymore

Over 30, Single and Shamed

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?”

Um what?

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.

  • MimiLuvs

    Well, being that I recently attended the wedding ceremony for a couple that were in their sixties, on this past weekend, I refuse to believe that I will never meet a man (and eventually marry) once I turn a certain age.
    Plus, I believe that ever since I don’t want children (never ever had the urge), the pressure to become some man’s “Missus” is not there.

  • J

    I have these same feelings at 21. My mom and friends try to Deebo me into meeting “eligible” bachelors all the time.

  • http://gravatar.com/purpl3rain purpl3rain

    If you’re chronically single, move to a place with a high proportion of other chronic singles, like San Francisco. Something like 50-60% of the population is single. Most of them are like 25-40 years of age, so you never feel left out when you go out. It’s what I did. I’m loving it! Perhaps not the most practical solution, but hey you only live once.

  • http://twitter.com/KatchKenda °k° (@KatchKenda)

    I am 33 and I totally agree with everything in this article. Why do people do this? It’s like they treat single women over 40 like a disease. As if there “must be something wrong with her.” I hate it. It has also stopped me from being as social as I used to be because I don’t do uncomfortable for anyone.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    tell people how you feel and if they can’t adjust get some new friends..

  • Tate

    I’m 36 and this article resonates with me as well. As if there has to be something wrong with me.. I beleive there are good men out there I just haven’t found mine, but because I haven’t, I am constantly met with ..oh your standards must be too high…seriously? I have to constantly tell people “I am sorry that you have issues with my singleness because I don’t”.. and for those who act as if a badge of shame or a joke.. ” I respond well if that’s the worse thing that you can say about me.. I am doing alright.” Glad to know others deal with this as well..

  • http://sapphiresandsisters.wordpress.com sapphiresandsisters

    Great article. I hate to see so many women of color attach themselves to a number/age… These aren’t the days of “Leave it To Beaver” anymore lmao… Everything will happen in due time.

  • Truth be told…

    Well, I would like to apologize for ever thinking or making you feel less than enough, I am sorry, I try my best to be a good person, sensitive to others enough to mind my own damn business.
    Teronda, if truth be told when I meet you at happy hour, you are not calling your other 1/2 to tell them you are running late or checking your watch wondering if the baby sitter will last another hour or stepping out of the group to take an “emergency call” from home, which will more likely refferring a fight btn the kids, when I see you walk out of there wondering if you should catch a late movie, nothing I promise passes my mind other than green envy, if I could trade places with you my joy will be immesearuble. Since a few of my kind go out of their way to rain on your parade, my secret is simple when i get home I loose myself in my bathroom with a whole bottle of wine (no glass needed) wishfully drink myself in stupor envying you, but I have a part to play in this theater that is life, to look content and with a smile offer an air false accomplishment, my little secret I am absolutely jelous of you, and your life, this I say with love with no intention to change a thing in you or, walk in your happiness…….

  • Beautiful Mic

    If a woman is over 30, thrice divorced, a single parent, and has birthed out-of-wedlock, at least, once, and possibly with more than one man, she’s still shamed.

    If she married into money, yet is divorced and possible a single parent, over age 30, she’s shamed.

    If she didn’t marry into money, has always been poor, yet is divorced and possible a single parent, over age 30, she’s shamed.

    If she’s always had her own money, yet is divorced and possible a single parent, over age 30, she’s shamed.

    There are so few circumstances regarding marriage and childbirth, that a woman is NOT shamed for.

    I recall reading an Ebony Magazine article from the 1960s the covered how single mothers were being shamed and demonized in the black community, back then.

    Throughout history, there has always been some sort of shame attached to being a female.

    Fug society and misogyny, and I wish we women wouldn’t impose this mess onto each other.

  • Miss A

    Oh, how I feel this person’s pain! I have never been married and in my 40′s….but I met a wonderful man 2.5 years ago and he “put a ring on it” Valentine’s Day last year. Before I met him, I had the HARDEST time meeting decent guys in Atlanta because I was made to feel like a freak of nature!! Why, you ask? Because I’m single, no kids, great job, attractive, fun, etc.,etc., etc. But once a guy hears I don’t have kids and never been married, that’s when I got the side eye and the “what’s wrong with you” comment. ***sigh*** I’m glad I finally met someone so I can experience love and commitment, but also to get folks off my back about being “single at my age”. Never give up on love regardless of your age or the circumstances…..

  • KTS

    OMG, why are you in my brain?! This is speaks to me and what I have experienced so much, especially as a fellow DC area native. I am 32 and single so I am getting the same questions. “Where is the boyfriend?”, “Why aren’t you married yet?”, “I know somebody who knows somebody…”, “Have you tried online dating?”…….it all plucks my nerves. A friend recently pulled the “introduction to a stranger” shit on me recently. We were at another friend’s going away party and a was sitting at a table with friend #1, her husband, and a fairly attractive guy. I am not the type to flirt or make the first move to introduce myself to anyone I don’t know, so the four of us just casually talked for a few minutes about random stuff (small talk which I hate). Out of nowhere she (my friend whose hubby is sitting with us at the table) asks the other guy if he was single, and then proceeds to tell him I’m single. I was mortified. I immediately got up and started a conversation with my other friend’s grandfather (the one the party was for).

    That type of thing happens to me way too often. Friends and family members forcing some poor dude on me or putting me in a position where I have to talk to a guy I’m may not particularly be interested in. I am so busy nowadays (I am trying to finish up grad school and I have a fully time job with classes and internship in the evenings). I barely have time for myself, but I do want a relationship and eventually marriage. I just don’t want it forced on me by people who claim to care about me, but are more uncomfortable with me being single in my 30′s than I am. I makes for very awkward situations and I am so tired of it. Thank you for writing this Teronda!

  • apple

    i’m more ashamed of still being unemployed. however i am sad on the inside about being single, not for other people noticing but because i really want someone. you could tell them “i like to be free to do what i want, don’t have to answer to anybody, and do as i like” something like that.. people love yet hate you when you make your own decisions

  • Blue

    It seems that being in a relationship is some sort of social accomplishment. If you’re single, you’re some sort of social out cast & people treat it as if you HAVE to find someone or else. I really hate it when my friends try to set me up or ask me questions about my love life etc. When they do set me up, it’s usually with someone I’m not interested in. Thanks, but no thanks…really I insist

  • Stephanie

    o m geeezy… another snippet from my life.

    …I’m not going to lie, at 36 I occasionally do have the “when will it be my turn glass of whine” but I’m not belly aching to friends and family members that I can’t/ don’t meet anyone. My “friend” actually had the nerve to say to me, “Look at all your grey hairs”… wait for it… how do you expect to meet a man with all that grey?” ( dead stare -__- )

    As if her dyed hair, single motherhood, failed marriage, recent failed engagement, and serial relationships are a badge of honor. I’ll take my grey hair, thank you, and ride this one out without so called advice from relationship experts who think that anyone is better than no one.

  • KTS

    i really wish I could, I just don’t have the financial means right now. I have been contemplating relocation for the longest time though. So sick of the DC metro area “dating scene”, not that there is much of one. Being single here sucks. Seems like everyone is already coupled up by 30. I feel left out many times when I go out; all my friends are married or in long term relationships. When I am done with my graduate program I’ve got to find somewhere else to go….

  • AnnT

    I know that there are good men out there too.
    But it’s a Catch-22 for us. On the inhale, we’re told our standards are too high, and on the exhale, we’re told to stop lowering our standards to meet a man. Which is it?

  • Beautiful Mic

    I’m employed, but am more shameful that I don’t have a viable option B, or C, to sustain independently should I find someone to marry and it doesn’t work out – especially, if I have a child by said person. I’m barely sustaining, now, which actually discourages me from even acquainting myself with new male, possible, suitors. I just want to be able to take care of myself, regardless of who comes into, or goes out of, my life; and not to get ‘stuck’ in any situation due to financial, or health, obstacles.

  • Apple

    I have that fear too of having a kid and it doesn’t work out and being stuck

  • MimiLuvs

    I don’t know if other single and unattached women feel this way…
    I believe that marriage is not only hard work but it is a very phucking important BIG step that one has to take, which means that I take relationships very seriously.
    Just like child bearing, I keep bumping into individuals who think life-altering experiences are just some chores that you do. When it comes to marriage, I believe that a person (in this case, a woman) should never “half-a** it” when it comes to dating.

  • Cice527

    I know the feeling. I was at my brother’s wedding earlier this year. When it was time to toss the bouquet they announced for all the single ladies to get up and get ready to catch the bouquet. I’m sitting there enjoy my drink and my aunt leans over to me and said “you should get up and join them.” I said I am single and not currently looking for anybody right now, I’m trying to figure out my next direction which is more important to me right now than finding any ole man. Then she said “well I think you should still go up there.” I am single not desperate or lonely.

  • M

    Can’t stand the ouquet toss. Was cute at 25 but aggravating at 40, moreso when the DJ holds everyone up and starts announcing on the microphone that they won’t go forward until “all 3 of my legal name” comes to the floor. Bride and groom got their giggle on but that friendship was (& now is) essentially over. After the 2nd time this happened I now take cigarette break (even though I don’t smoke).

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I agree with this article wholeheartedly. And your friend is right, I am not in my 30s/40s but people think that if you are single or not “getting it in sexually” then their must be something wrong with you or you can’t get a man when that is further from the truth. Anybody can FIND somebody but deciding you want to be in a relationship and be with this specific person takes time and not everybody has sex on the brain.. I don’t know why some people think that everything in life, especially love, has to be a race. Some of us want to take the scenic route and just observe not necessarily participate just yet and that decision shouldn’t bother those who are actively in the race. I remember one time my ex-roommate bringing random guys over I didn’t know trying to “hook me up” despite the fact that I told her I didn’t want to be set up nor is looking for a romantic relationships/aspiration at the moment and she took it as a slight against her.

  • Cice527

    I hate the damn bouquet toss myself. I am not into anything that involves me making a spectacle of myself.

  • Jen Jen

    Girl, I feel you on the DC “dating scene” comment. I wouldn’t even call what some men are offering “dating.” I would consider a move as well, but this is also one of the best places in the country for my career. So, I continue to put myself out there and be open to all experiences. Sometimes, though, a sister needs a break and I don’t feel like worrying about finding Mr. Right. Can I just take a nap instead?? Oof!

  • Stephanie

    wow, never even thought about the bouquet toss. A “smoke break” sounds like a good idea, lol..

  • Marisa

    Bouquet toss I’m merely either at the bar or as referee when something breaks out over the bouquet lol. I got a rule don’t toss that thing at me

  • Toni childs

    This right here… I often avoid some of my friends and outings because I don’t feel like answering the questions. Who in the fuck asks someone – so when are you going to get married? Um… let me call a “mail-order husband.”

  • Hal

    Divorced 3 times should be shamed….get a hobby…marrying is not a hobby

  • Candi83

    That’s messed up that men thought there was something wrong with you because you didn’t have kids, single, great job, etc. I thought those were qualities that would make you more eligible or I also thought those were qualities that men were looking for? Anyway, congrats on finding the right man for you :)

  • Candi83

    Stupid bouquet toss!! At my cousin’s wedding, some family members were telling me to go on the floor and try to catch it. I went on the floor but I didn’t make an effort to catch it. I just stood there and watch it rise and fall ;)

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    *sigh* So if you’re over 25, have children, and you’re single, you get shyt on. if you’re over 25, don’t have children, and you’re single, you still get shyt on. One minute it’s “No sensible man wants a woman with children!”, and the next it’s “A woman with no children? What’s wrong with her?!”. Have mercy!

    Anyway, congratulations to you and your partner, and may you both have a long and happy time together. :)

  • Ads

    Thats why i banned that ish at my wedding ;)

  • JaeBee

    I totally feel this article! I understand that friends and family may have a sincere desire to see you coupled-up–as they think this will make you happy/happier, but sometimes their efforts can come off as patronizing. I completely detest:

    1. when people try to hook me up with complete strangers (waiters, men at bars, random guy walking down the street, etc.). If I haven’t expressed any interest in a particular person to you, then just assume that I am uninterested. Even if I do express interest, don’t automatically assume that I want your assistance in making things happen.

    2. when people try to hook me up with guys that they would’ve never dated when they were single. So, they had the opportunity to be “picky” in their selection of a mate, but I should just accept any old thing that comes along because I MUST be desperate for a partner.

    3. when people who I am not close to try to get involved in my love life and be matchmakers. If you don’t even know me all that well, how can you expect to know someone who would be “just great” for me?

    4. people who think that my relationship status is open to public discussion. Unless I initiate the conversation about the state of my love life, just assume it’s not on the table for discussion.

  • Joyous

    I know a lot of people who married under 30, and are now divorced. All the people I know who married over 30 are still married.

  • Magnolia

    I hate this too! I was at a college friend’s wedding. Most of the single ladies we knew from college too. We begrudgingly went on the floor but we all just stood there and let that mess fall to the floor. An older lady picked it up. No thank you.

  • Magnolia

    Oops. I meant to post this under the bouquet toss post.

  • Former

    If that helps you feel better . . .

  • Ads

    Appreciate the realness – rare to see such troll-free, honest comments

  • Ads


  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    @Apple – You and me both. That ish happened to my Grandma (married/dude skipped) and my mother (unmarried/dude skipped). That’s a family tradition I’d rather not follow.

  • Rochelle

    stupid comment.

  • Joyous

    I am engaged to be married, so your response doesn’t apply.

  • Fifi-Gongon

    Your situation is the life I’m living at 30 years old, almost 31 now, exept I manage to keep the curious away from me. Some people are subtile (intelligent ?), they will get the tacit contract meaning : I don’t ask you questions about your love life – you don’t ask me for mine. Some other (plain dumb ?) won’t get that. You have to go with red lights on them. So when I feel the intimate question is coming, because I can see it coming, I answer politely but strongely, that the person is being too curious or I delusively smile, don’t answer and change topic which makes that curious not knowing how to handle my non-answer. I learnt to be very discrete about my status, it’s not a shameful secret, but I just don’t need family or so-called friends interfering imy privacy, which is why I don’t let them match me with me with anyone. They are not helping me or our relationship since if they insist, I cut them off. I don’t mean to sound bitchy but I refuse to justify myself, let people’s pityness or insecurity hurt me.

  • MimiLuvs

    I am at the point where I like to give smart-a**, snarky answers to people. The last person (one of my grandmother’s in-laws) to ask me the “When are you going to get married?” question, I said to her “I can’t right now. You see, I have to wait until my husband receives his American citizenship before we divorce. After all, he gave me $50,000.00 for this marriage and I tend on keeping up with my end of the bargain.”

  • Marie

    Single and over 40 myself, those that ask, “Why aren’t you married?” I usually reply, “Who decided for me that I should be married?” I usually get an odd, puzzled look and I walk away.

  • Bren

    I empathize with my single sisters who don’t want to be single. At the same time, be willing to accept love and give it a try when it comes to you. Not sayings accept any man who asks for a relationship. However “finding” love nowadays often equates to going out and grabbing the bull by the horns (i.e. initiating conversation).

  • http://gravatar.com/jaebee81 JaeBee

    Le sigh! This is the type of bullsh** we’re talking about! People always wanna hand out unasked for, unwarranted advice to single people as if they’re freaks of nature who live in caves. Here’s a news flash: Sometimes, regardless of the amount of effort you put into it, you just don’t meet someone until it’s your time to meet someone. Very often it has little to do with you, and what you are/aren’t doing.

  • Promise

    I like how someone compared relationship to social accomplishment.  PPl assume single women are desperate and should be placed on suicide watch because if some man (any man) doesn’t come save us we will be depressed for the rest of our lives and miss out on meaningful relationships! God forbid we never have kids – the declaration of our womanhood.  What are we 3/5 of a woman if we don’t marry or have kids? Probably less than that. 
    I think you can have meaningful relationships with anyone.  Nieces, nephews, parents, cousins, friends, whoever.  I don’t think marriage is something you just jump up and decide to do to save yourself from having to live with yourself by yourself for the rest of your life. 
    I am in the process of learning to love and accept myself right now and glad to be where I am right now.  I think that marriage often happens between two people that simply don’t want to  be alone, don’t want to let someone go, and then it happens to people who are pressured into “doing the right thing”.  50% end in divorced and then they are ashamed.  There is always a reason to be ashamed in this society whether it’s how you dress, how you talk, color of skin, marital status, income, I mean the list goes on. 
    I know I am tired of hearing “the right one will come along” I’m so tired of hearing that even when I say I am happy by myself.  I can’t possibly be happy by myself clearly there is something missing from my life.  Kids a husband.  Like you have arrived once you marry you get society’s stamp of approval.  Hell no, that’s a whole ‘nother set of phucking problems more problems and bigger problems that I don’t want to solve any ole Tom Dick or Harry.  You can’t solve big problems with someone who is dishonest, has poor judgment, is not loyal, is not intelligent, etc.  I’m not signing up for that bs.  I plan on building an empire and I don’t plan to have any ole dude come and rain on my parade. 
    I feel like I am investing in me right now “and no one can stop me” (drake versace voice)
    And next time someone pity’s me I will call their ass on it and engage them in a fierce debate so they can leave me the phuck alone about it!!!

  • http://gravatar.com/prettyplushperspective prettyplushperspectiveJDF

    Oh, how I am right there with you!!!
    I’m amazed at how insensitive people can be!!! Funny story but too true….I’m looking at different vehicles and my mind, not my reality considered a Mercedes, which I discuss with my family. My 89 year old gramma wanted to know if “I had my ‘M’s mixed up, bc I should get a man first”…still haven’t lived that one down and no Mercedes either!!!

  • Steph311

    “It seems that being in a relationship is some sort of social accomplishment.”
    Totally true! I have a (single) friend w/ a great job that always looks at me (in relationship/jobless4now) like I struck gold…wtf?
    Its so sad & true…

  • Nika

    Wow story of my life. I so needed to read this. I’ll be 36 this year and it’s so depressing. My sister told me one day “I’m going to hook you up with this doctor I work with because ya’ll are just alike”. I said “oh really, how are we alike?” Then she said “because he’s picky just like you”. That crushed me. My own sister doesn’t know me well enough to know that just because I won’t put up with a man’s crap, doesn’t make me picky. It makes me protective of my heart. Two different things. Everyone in my family thinks my singleness exist because I must be doing something wrong. Yet I take one look at their significant others, and I can see all to well the dangers of settling for less and I feel better about being single.

  • Pseudonym

    The truth is that you can’t win with these folks.

  • AisforBeauty

    I too can relate. I still haven’t thought about the ultimate reply to these “single-shamers”. Everything I can think of either sounds too defensive, too angry, or too much like a joke.I can’t say I get pleasure out of saying this, but many of my friends who are now divorced or who have rocky marriages/relationships have left me alone. Guess they don’t want me inquiring about their business, huh? Either way, I feel like a winner because I can’t remember the last time my whole life was turned upside down because of a man. Yes, I did say winner . . . they are the ones who made it a contest in the first place!

  • Pema

    Presumably the people who married over 30 have been married less time. It gets real after 7, 8 years.

  • http://twitter.com/Angelix_T_O LIVE♥LOVE♥LAUGH (@Angelix_T_O)

    Cheers to that!

  • Mel

    Oh, you are so right!! I am, like you, single and people will try and fix that for me. I am over it. You can’t fix it, you can’t even tell me I “will be fine”—cause nobody knows if I will be fine.
    But I see everywhere around me where people just “settle” and it scares me. I want love, not “settling”. I have to admit though, it is very hard to keep that ideal up. The thought of “well maybe they are right” creeps up on me more and more often now. Followed by “That is probably how 90% of all people get married…so…do it…settle for ‘alright’”

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