People come in all stripes and they couple up in a variety of ways. Couples include a variety of twosomes such as; woman and man, woman and woman, man and man, trans and partner, bi and both woman and man. In other words, there are a lot of different kinds of “coupling” going on. Society is learning that sexuality is on a spectrum and it is not binary.
But, what about people who do not couple up? Is there something wrong with them? Are they abnormal?
In the old days, some of these “uncoupled” people lived the only respectable way they could – joining religious safe havens such as monasteries, seminaries, convents and various cults, living their lives apart from the mainstream and devoting their lives to spreading their particular beliefs.
Other than being “uncoupled” for religious reasons, singlehood has never had much status in the world. In fact, it actually has a shame attached to it. Single people are often viewed as being selfish and unable to sustain a partnership due to some personal failure.
I was one of these single people who spent the majority of my life thinking something was wrong with me since I wasn’t part of a couple. I grew up learning that my role was to marry and produce children. I always thought that married family life was what I wanted. But try as I might, coupling was just not in the cards for me.
I remember as a young girl, my mother told me to let the boys win at games if I ever wanted to date. I was told to let the boy/man think he was stronger and smarter. I tried to do this but it just didn’t come naturally. Even though I was decent looking, outgoing and fun, the boys and later the men, just were not attracted to me.
In my thirties, with the biological clock ticking, I asked for help from a friend who was a total “guy magnet”. No matter where she went or what she did, she was always being approached by guys and being asked out. She could be riding the subway; shopping at the farmer’s market; or going to the library – she attracted men like a flower attracts bees.
She took me under her wing and gave me the following advice.
- Stop walking so fast as it looks like you have business to tend to
- Slow down, saunter and look approachable, smile and say hello
- Stop driving your fancy car and wearing your fancy clothes
- Don’t look so successful, rather, try to look vulnerable
- Ask for help from men you want to date
Basically, my friend was telling me I had to “dumb it down” to get a man. As contrary as this approach was to my burgeoning feminism, I gave it a try to see what would happen.
I wore a black pencil skirt and a silk blouse open down to the third button. I wore heels (that I could walk in) and unleashed my ponytail to blow in the Chicago breeze. It was a Friday afterwork and I sauntered up Michigan Avenue on my 2 mile walk home. I smiled at others as I walked along. I walked slower and consciously swung my hips a little as I got into the rhythm of this new mode.
It didn’t take long for my prey to come in sight. Soon a good-looking man sidled up beside me saying “what a beautiful day . . . so glad it’s Friday.” I smiled and agreed with him. Next thing I know, we are walking together and exchanging pleasantries. I was inwardly amazed at how simple it was to reel one in. Soon he suggested we stop at a nearby bar to celebrate Friday. I agreed. One drink in and he asked me to come to his nearby apartment and told me his wife was out of town. I gracefully declined, took off my heels; put on my sneakers and walked briskly the rest of the way home . . . alone.
There were other forays into man hunting. In my mid-thirties I dated a man who fathered my child. We married for a short time.
Raising a child mostly on my own kept me busy for a generation. Although I dated over the years, I never met a man I wanted to marry and none of them wanted to marry me.
When my daughter grew up and moved away, I tried man hunting again and had a few short-term relationships, but from my perch, there was always something wrong with the men. Some were dull, some were cheap, some had health issues (including physical intimacy), most drank too much and most weren’t smart enough for me.
Once I retired, I began to study women’s history and social justice issues. Recently I did a deep dive into the history of the patriarchy. Through my research, I learned that the patriarchy is not the “natural way”. Rather, it is a human construct closely aligned with major religions in most cultures.
The patriarchy was designed to keep women in a subordinate role as “helpmate” to their husbands and “domestic caregiver” to their children. I learned that ALL major institutions in our society (including the family) are designed with the idea that men are the leaders and women are the followers and helpers. I learned that the creation story (written by men) of Eve, the temptress, bringing down Adam and all mankind, as well as the commodification of sex, set the stage for women’s second-class status.
Once I began to understand the extent of the patriarchy, I began to understand how the concept of single women just didn’t fit into a culture designed by men to keep women subservient. Single women were threatening to cultural norms because their success proved that they could not only survive but actually thrive without the leadership of men.
It’s taken growing old and years of learning for me to evolve and realize that being single is a conscious choice rather than a default for the undeserving. It took me way too long to understand that being single is not only a legitimate way to live, it may in fact be a preferred way to live for those of us who want to live a life of freedom from subordination and freedom to live life more fully aligned with our deepest sense of self.
Alas, we all need human relationships and connections to thrive. Fortunately, I have a wonderful daughter and close family and good friends. I am free to be generous with my time and resources to help the less fortunate. I am happy and whole. I am neither selfish nor self-centered.
My point is that not all of us need “to couple” to live our best lives. My hope is that as our culture continues to evolve, single people will be respected for who they are rather than maligned or pitied for who they are not. Being single is a choice and it is a legitimate way to live a full life.
By Anne M. Haule