Why Are We Single? – An Honest Answer For The Ever-Present Question

Fifty-three percent of women over the age of 18 are single in the United States. My friend Jovan asked me to answer why are we single? Here we go ...

singleThere I was sipping my glass of wine and laughing until my face hurt. Niles* was like that – pleasant, funny and generally a good guy who did a lot in the community. We were catching up at a social event like we so often did whenever we spotted one another.

We’d known each other casually throughout the years, had mutual acquaintances and always maintained a happy-go-lucky friendship. I was getting ready to tell him something trivial, so unimportant that right now I can’t even remember what it is, when Niles leaned in and said in an unlike Niles voice, “You look good. You always look good.”

I almost spit out my white wine because Niles and I didn’t speak to one another like that. I was jarred but managed to mumble out a “thank you.” As we women often do, I stood there over-analyzing if he was just giving me a compliment or if there was something more behind the sudden change in his tone.

A couple of months later we were networking at another event downtown and talking about mentoring children and suddenly the air seemed to change around us, from pleasantries to an unspoken tension and then he started using that voice again, the one males reserve for women who are not in the friend zone (as I clearly was), and invited me to join him on an excursion to Connecticut the following weekend. I was shocked. I was confused. I was NOT going and made up some pathetic excuse about having plans.

I told myself on the way home that Niles and I didn’t click as anything more than friends. Sure he owned his own business, was God-fearing, smart, witty, visually put together and shared similar interests, but dating – please – he was my friend (even though he met most of the criteria on my dating checklist).

The other day my friend Jovan joked that I should write and answer the question: why are we single? She is a fellow singleton, a professional woman in her early 30s with a good job, a nice car, her own house and a decent social life. Like me she makes up the 53% of single women in the United States over the age of 18 and the 62% of adults over 18 years old who have never been married. Well, here it goes …

All The Single Ladies

I am sick of the portrayal of single women in the media. In case you’ve been living under a rock, based on popular films and TV shows of the last decade, if you’re single you are one of the following women:

Diary Of An Angry Black (or insert your race) Woman
You’re a man hating, men are all dogs, they can’t handle you because you’re a real woman, still reeling from your last heartache type of chick. You see the worst in a man before you even really know anything about him. All men are cheaters and the ones who haven’t cheated just haven’t been caught yet.

Samantha Jones
You don’t watch Sex & The City, you have sex in the city. You only deal with men in the bedroom or the boardroom. Your free time is for girlfriends or quality time pampering yourself. You don’t have hang-ups about relationships because you don’t have them.

Kim Kardashian
You’re a modern-day version of Goldilocks. You try short ones, tall ones, thin ones, fat ones, broke ones, rich ones, stable ones and crazy ones. You change men like you change clothes. You refuse to “settle.” You’re looking for The One that is absolutely perfect. And you won’t stop the hunt until you do.

Hazel E
The only thing more depressing than being on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop is having a relationship that resembles one on Love & Hip Hop. You’re afraid of being lonely or perhaps have such bruised self-esteem that you accept being in a relationship with anyone. You are sure that any day now he will stop mistreating you, realize what he has and the two of you will live happily ever after.

While we all know a few of these types of women, I find that they don’t make up the majority of single women I know. I might get hate mail for saying this, but I do find women are one another’s worst critics when it comes to relationships. If we’re in a relationship, we can’t understand why our single girlfriends are having such a hard time finding a man. I mean, you found one. If we’re single, we mock our coupled-up gals for not being as professionally driven as us or for “settling.” Would she have really married Paul if Derek hadn’t been dragging his feet?

So what is a single woman to do? And how do I get back to answering that pesky question of why we’re single?

Deep Down Every Woman Knows Why She Is Single

“Every woman has the exact love life she wants.” When Dermot Mulroney spouted that crap in the film “The Wedding Date,” I called bullshit. A relationship takes two willing individuals. But when I got down to the nitty gritty of why I have remained an eligible bachelorette, the answer is simple – I choose to be. And though I never thought I’d say it, Dermot had it right.

Remember Niles? I know now I was in flight mode because though I told myself I was ready to date, I wasn’t. I had not one reasonable excuse not to go on a date with him. I was afraid that if I went out with him I could – gasp – end up actually liking him.

There are three things that I can admit:

  1. I want someone to love and share my life with.
  2. Right now I don’t want a relationship to distract me from my goals.
  3. I may be using #2 as a mask to hide my fear.

Despite the media’s portrayal of women like me, there are five types of single, career-driven women I know to be true in my life:

  1. Women who boast about being single, not needing a man, they can pay their own bills, yada, yada, yada (insert a Destiny Child’s song here).
  2. Women who are actively looking for love and pursuing relationships.
  3. Women who want to be with a significant other but don’t put in the time to connect with anyone.
  4. Women who are not looking to date at all.
  5. Women who say once I accomplish A, B and C then I will slow down and take the time to be in a relationship.

I am a #5. A FIERCE #5. I like to pretend I’m a #3, but I’m out like Jackie Joyner-Kersee as soon as a man shows the slightest interest in me. In fact, the few men I’ve managed to like over the last few years were men I knew I would never be in a relationship with for a varied amount of reasons. Therefore, it was safe to like them, because I knew nothing would ever come of it.

I am single because my top priorities right now don’t include being in a relationship. In fact, a man only hops up in the ladder of my priority list when my hormones are off the charts, I am going to be in a social situation where I feel like I may be judged for being single or if I catch one of those darn, tear-jerking “you had me at hello” movies. And those are not solid enough reasons for me to get in a relationship (nor wind up wasting some awesome guy’s time).

A partner deserves to be on your priorities list because you want to make room for them in your life, not because you want to show him off like a token Gucci bag or stop your family from asking you when the hell you’re going to settle down.

Now dating is a different story. You can find decent men to spend time with without establishing any real sense of commitment. He doesn’t have to be your “type.” Get out there and just have fun. Just make sure you’re ready for all that comes with it. Plenty of women have been out there having fun and ended up falling for a guy who told them, and stuck to his guns, that he was only interested in something casual.

A few years ago I did run into a guy that I really liked, but he was unavailable. Great vibe. Wrong time.

We have to stop letting others make us feel terrible for flying solo and put a halt to all of the BS reasons we can’t find someone who cares about us. If you are looking and not finding a decent guy, maybe you should re-evaluate your criteria and where you have been searching.

Relationships are a gift, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to come in the wrapping you desire. Sometimes it might be the beaming, over-anxious guy who serves you your coffee at Starbucks each morning. Other times it might be the guy who has all of the qualities you’re seeking but you’ve friend-zoned him without a second glance.

Being single is not a disability. It’s merely a status that can be changed at the right time, for the right person. So why are we single? I’d say because we want to be.


*Name has been changed to preserve privacy.

Photo courtesy of Dionysius Burton [FlickR]

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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