I wrote this piece a few months ago (before I turned thirty). I am now thirty. And alive. . . and I finally have found the guts to post it. This is real talk, people!
As my thirtieth birthday looms, I am happy to report a minimal amount of panicking. Two years ago, the realization that I could very well still be single at the age of thirty made my stomach flip a bit. I think that during the past two years I have learned (finally) to treasure this time I have to myself. There are many benefits to being single, and maybe someday I’ll write about them. However, I sometimes feel that I’m often misunderstood, and I’ve been mulling over writing this post for a long time.
For whatever reason, I feel guilty when I talk about being tired or being too busy or being stressed because, invariably, I am saying it to a person who is in the throes of raising multiple toddlers, or a person who spent thirty years raising multiple children, or a person who is raising children while working full time. People probably look at my life from the outside and wonder how I could have reasons to complain, and I understand their assumptions. Yet, I insist that properly gauging the situation is impossible if you have never been there. I’ve been there, without a significant other. For eleven years. Eight of which have been by myself in my own living space. Living a single life is tough.
You are in charge of every detail of your life and must figure out every problem by yourself. Bills, car care, household budget, cooking, grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, ironing, insurance policies, lawn care, investments, retirements, savings accounts, health issues, doctor’s visits, flat tires, locking yourself out of your apartment (we don’t need to discuss how many times this has happened), and even little things like moving large pieces of furniture around in your living room.
If you are brave enough to go out stag, you endure awkward meals by yourself at restaurants, lonely moments at weddings, and sometimes even ominous moments in parking lots after dark.
You also endure well-meaning, but often saddening or sobering comments.
- I can appreciate that you think I’m a “pretty, young thing” (whatever a “thing” is), but did you have to remind me (in front of all these other married people) that I am, indeed, unmarried?
- I know you didn’t mean to make me feel like a failure when your mouth dropped open when I replied that I do not have a boyfriend, but, alas, the truth remains: nobody has chosen me yet.
- I’m sure you do have a nice nephew, son, step-son, or step-cousin, but please don’t try to set me up with him when you literally just met me. Two people’s single status does not automatically call for a blind date. Rather, get to know me, ask me what I’m looking for, and please, set me up! I have so appreciated people’s hearts when they have set me up with someone. I feel loved and cared for in a very deep way. It’s the ones who treat it so lightly, as if it’s so easy, and should just happen right away, that annoy me.
You sometimes go for weeks without any physical touch. I remember very vividly a hug I received one morning at church about eight years ago. I had been living alone for probably four months, learning to teach and spending every waking moment at the school. That hug welcomed me into a community of people while simultaneously erasing a lot of anxiety, tension, and feelings of loneliness that I didn’t even realize were there. I will never forget how that made me feel. Until that moment, I had forgotten how meaningful and necessary physical touch can be. Sometimes even now, holding a baby or shaking a hand can have a profoundly positive effect on my day. I hope I will not take for granted the special moments that are in my future: rocking my kids, hugging my husband, nursing my children. And I am so thankful for my pastor’s wife, Brenda, who gives me hugs every Sunday and says, “Welcome Home” when I haven’t been at church for a few weeks. A body of believers has great potential to reach out to single people. If only they would recognize that we need a little love!
You sometimes feel that you are missing an opportune time in your life, knowing you have a lot of energy and effort to give, but not having a spouse or children to give it to. You wonder if you will be able to handle becoming a first-time mother at 35 or not getting married until you are unable to have children. In social settings, you often find yourself wistfully watching the young families around you. Sometimes you smile at their children. You try to smile at their parents. Sometimes, you are ignored or apologized to for being “bothered.” ***Families with noisy children: I promise you I am not bothered. I’m sorry some people have shown you such disrespect. At the risk of taking a rabbit trail, I have noticed that some places in our society today seem unwelcoming to children and families. I’m sure families sometimes feel like it’s a single person’s world. Indeed, it is sometimes. However, in my experience (rural, small town Kansas, Christian community, private Christian college alumnus), it is not a single person’s world.***
You get volunteered for things because people assume you have the time to do them. I must say here that I am not involved in any activities I didn’t want to get involved with. I haven’t felt judged in this way myself, but I’ve noticed comments (even from myself!) about how so-and-so has time to do this or that because he or she is single. More commonly, though, it’s that he or she doesn’t have time to do this or that because he or she has a family. I understand this assumption about singles and their “time” the most.
You are nobody else’s most important person. This has to be the most difficult feeling singles struggle with. This applies most to singles who do not have children. It is sometimes very tough to come home to a dark, empty house (especially for a people person like me). It is a bit scary to think that if something horrible happened to you (like you died in your sleep or you were abducted), that it just might take awhile for someone to notice. When you are sick, you have to call someone to ask for help, which is a very difficult thing for to do.
For each of the struggles I pointed out above, I am sure I can come up with a positive. Maybe I’ll write about that later. But, I appreciate people’s understanding. Also, I must say that I have had numerous role models in my life who were single later into their lives than I am so far. They have even more reflections to give, and may have traveled a much more difficult road. All this to say, hug the single person in your life. Welcome them into your home and make them a part of your life. Many will not be interested, and some of them, like me, might truly not have the time to spend with you. But, your gestures of hospitality and caring and kindness will mean the world to them.