Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

How Am I Supposed To Answer That?

So I was exchanging emails with a friend I hardly ever see.  It’s not because she lives far away.  She doesn’t.  She’s right here in the city.  But like so many of my old friends (READ-people I’ve known since my 20s) she’s and works a gazillion hours a week and so we really don’t have much in common anymore.   So we see each other once every couple/few months, at most.   Not because we don’t care about each other anymore, but because that’s just the way things are.

Anyway, she asked me about my love life (she knows about the blog but is way too busy/caught up in momland to read it). I gave her the short answer, “what love life?”.  I explained that while I still go on at least one date most weeks (2 or 3 some weeks) that I very rarely see guys more than 2 or 3 times and the last time I was “seeing” someone for more than a month was last winter.

And so she asked the question. The question that I dread more than any other.  Why?


Like there’s an answer to that.  OK, I’m sure that there are people out there that think they know the answer.

So I told her what I always tell people.  That that’s the way it is.  Because, as usual, I’ve gone out with a lot of really inappropriate guys (and that’s no one fault but my own).  And that, really, I’ve been kind of overwhelmed with other stuff (family, work, lack of work).

Blah blah blah blah blah blah.  I’m so sick of the blah blah blah.

More than anything, I just wanted to tell her to fuck off.  If I don’t get to say, in everyday conversations, to my married friends, “why did you for him, he’s such a dolt?” or “I know you were worried about getting too old to have kids, but really, was he the best you could do?” then they shouldn’t get to ask me why I’m still .

Yes, I know this sounds angry and bitter.  And I guess it is, in a very real way.  But I’m not angry because I’m single (and I’m very well aware that there are people who can’t/won’t believe that).   I wouldn’t trade places with my friend for ANYTHING.  I’m just annoyed because every time we talk it’s the same thing.  She’s the winner who gets to ask me why I’m not closer to the finish line.  And I have to pretend like I’m OK with my role as the loser.  Because I’m not allowed to say, “I’d never want your life and PS I think your husband is a jackass and I always have”.


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23 to “How Am I Supposed To Answer That?”

  1. lostplum says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying you don’t want their “life”! (but maybe keep the ‘fuck off’ to yourself)

  2. Hypatia says:

    AMEN! Sing it sister!
    “If I don’t get to say, in everyday conversations, to my married friends, “why did you settle for him, he’s such a dolt?” or “I know you were worried about getting too old to have kids, but really, was he the best you could do?” then they shouldn’t get to ask me why I’m still single.”

    and this:

    “She’s the winner who gets to ask me why I’m not closer to the finish line. And I have to pretend like I’m OK with my role as the loser.”

    Really resonate. And I think that last point is a particularly important one. We’re not allowed to comment on the bad choices married people make in their personal lives because it’s really impolite (and what’s the point? I mean, they already made their crappy choice— they can’t unmake it.) However, everyone and anyone feels the right to comment on a single person’s life because they are *obviously* doing something wrong.

  3. Powder Room Girl says:

    I’ve always been the same way. Going on a few dates here and there but nothing serious. I rather be happily single and keeping busy with other areas of my life than being attached to a loser.
    Yet, in front of married/attached couples we always gotta have an explanation to our choice of being single.

  4. marlowedh says:

    HI Simone,

    Your post today really hit a nerve: I think that in the case of single women who are reasonably attractive, accomplished, etc., there is a cultural assumption or expectation that by our early thirties we should have become married and happy–that there a mechanical rhythm to existence or an invisible hand that simply makes this happen. In due course, I think that *we* often ask ourselves this “why” question, and certainly there are more than enough condescending self-help books to give us platitudinous answers. Nevertheless, I think what is difficult to accept for both friends and us, is that not being in a *great relationship* or just a good one, isn’t a choice per se — luck, coincidence, and predisposition play an amazing role.

    Why? Because you haven’t been lucky. tout court. Your friend on the other hand may also have not had the best luck and has married someone who is a bit of a jackass out of cultural imperative; in that case, her piercing why has an aggressivity of rationalization for her own choices behind it. Or she may be simply perplexed because she doesn’t expect much out of marriage and is simply happy to be married and has found another who shares those limited expectations in her husband. In which case, she is, oddly, lucky.

    When people ask me that question–i get it often–my response is always that I haven’t met the right person. I respond that way because it is true. It’s the same for you. Hopefully, one of these dates, that will change and you will :)

    Hang in there.


  5. bobmatnyc says:

    Great post. Probably worth pointing out, though, that the question — from anyone, married or not — is either insensitive or oblivious. You’re actively dating, you’re smart and (assuming) attractive, and if you haven’t found the right person, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the many reasons this could be.

    So perhaps there is some truth to the other posters who imply that there is an implicit cruelty to the question, which begs motives.

    In any case, painful to go through.

  6. periken says:

    ARRRGHHH! like you’re failing at life because you didn’t do it “their” way. I’m sorry, but I have ZERO desire to be married to my high school boyfriend with 3 children and no idea how to send them all to college because neither of us earn a decent living, since we couldn’t go to college because we got married early (i.e. when I got pregnant).

  7. pansophy says:

    I always found it strange when women would argue that Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was a book about male oppression of women. Yeah, that’s in there (sort of) but the oppression women inflict upon each other is far more systematic and insidious…

  8. Quirkyeconomist says:

    I recently wrote about why I hate the ‘why are you single’ question (totally agree with bobmatnyc that it’s either insensitive or oblivious) but I never really thought about the parallel to the stuff we aren’t supposed to say to our coupled friends. Telling someone I think she’s made a mistake in her relationship is considered rude or insensitive because presumably SHE doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with her situation – so if my friends think I’m making a ‘mistake’ by remaining single, AND they tell me that, it suggests that either they think I AGREE that there’s something wrong, or they think it’s OK to be rude. I’m guessing it’s the former, but that just gets me back to being annoyed that they think there’s something wrong with being single in the first place. Ugh. But at least this gives me some ideas of how to respond the next time this comes up – “Why am I single? I guess I’m just lucky. Why do you put up with Bob?”

  9. TerrySimpson says:

    Reminds me of when Walt Whitman asked Thoreau why he was in jail, and Thoreau asked Whitman why he was outside of jail.
    Reassure her that it is ok to be single – and she can be single anytime, and will find it to be a happier place – nothing is a lonely as being with someone

  10. AF says:

    Superb post! Marriage (or living with LT partner) is seen as some sort of holy grail by those who believe in it – it’s just another religion and “believers” want everyone else to believe also, simply as proof that their own (often stupid) blind faith in the institution is not misplaced. You go girl! There’s only one thing you should believe in FOR YOU and that’s YOUR way!

  11. pups4me says:

    This is why I love your blog–such a great topic and it makes me feel good just reading your post and the comments. I’ve even had a “friend” tell me that maybe I’m being too picky. I wanted to respond “maybe you weren’t picky enough when you got married!”
    I’d rather be alone and happy for the right reasons than settle for someone for the sake of being in a relationship.

  12. nucc10 says:

    Dont think you are the loser. Dating life is a Marathon. Married people are not asking the loser, they stepped in lots and lots of cases to the sidelines and simply quit the race because they couldnt handle it. Many of them lost gave up and settled. They get credit for entering the race and feel satisfied with the distance but didnt finish and get any trophy of true happiness. Being single does not make us the loser, we are unwilling to quit until we are assured happiness. We can look back at them behind us and persevere. We win. Most of them lost if they have to ask you in that way.

  13. LittleMissAngry says:

    Stumbled accross your blog and loving it so far! Especially this post.. I get that question too. A lot.. from married friends/cousins/ aunts/etc and I for one would love to say ‘fuck off’. I don’t mostly cause I’m..well not rude. But really, you’re so right – these people asking these ‘why’ questions – most of them should not have the right to..

  14. jenmata says:

    I hate when people ask that question because (1) it implies that being single is bad, something you need to overcome, (2) it begs an answer no one really has, and (3) it gives the person asking the question an upper hand, having something you don’t have. We don’t go asking people why they’re poor or why is it again that they are not educated, right? Why would it be ok to inquire on the relationship status when we obviously think what they have is not enough or not right? I’d probably look her in the eye and ask “Why is it that you’re married again?”

  15. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles says:

    I just did a post on how to answer the dreaded “Why are you single?” myself, so this has been on my mind, too. Most of my married friends are pretty new to marriage, but one in particular has been acting as though she’s suddenly an authority on life, the universe, and everything since she tied the knot. So I’m in the same boat with you whenever I talk to her, which is less frequently than before she got married even though her life is arguably less busy now.

    I will say this in defense of the married set–sometimes they know not what they ask. They may be asking out of idle curiosity, lack of anything else to say, or the mistaken belief that you want to talk about it. For instance, in this case, I wonder if your friend was trying to prompt you, out of interest or politeness, to share some details about what went wrong in the specific situations you mentioned. But I’m sure there are also people who ask out of their own arrogant assumption that marriage is best and marrieds KNOW best or a petty desire, conscious or unconscious, to rub your nose in your “defeat.”

    When I have the time and desire to inform my interrogator about why I choose to be single, sometimes I do. Other times, I prefer a more oblique answer like yours, short, sweet, and not open to further comment.

    Truly, asking someone why they’re single is like asking them why they’re tall, thin, brown-eyed, or freckled. They just are, and that’s that.

  16. Simone Grant says:

    First, LittleMissAngry, welcome to the blog. I guess I’m not the only one who’s sensitive to this. Thanks everyone for adding you voice to the mix.

    Perhaps we’re some kind of tipping point and someday soon it will no longer be considered socially appropriate to ask this question. I hope so.

  17. Onadrought says:

    Brilliant post and comments too. You have put into words what many of us singles have been through. Imagine if we said, stuff back to these married folk like “why can’t you be single?” oe “why did you marry such a jerk?”

  18. Simone Grant says:

    Thanks so much. Maybe I should have some t-shirts made up?

  19. Chizuko says:

    I LOATHE!!! that question from people, “Why are you single?” I feel like asking them “Why AREN’T you single?! (Seriously Onadrought, Right on !!!) It is completely rude and inconsiderate, and how are you supposed to respond to a question like that !!! Especially when they add how confused they are, since they think your pretty and have a great personality, is that supposed to make us singles feel better? No, it kind of makes us feel worse. So PLEASE to any non singles reading these posts, STOP ASKING THAT QUESTION!!!

  20. Simone Grant says:

    Welcome to the blog (this is your first comment, yes?). Excellent point, it IS even more insulting when followed up by “I don’t understand because you’re pretty and …”. It’s as if they are trying to figure out what our secret defect might be.

  21. Sarah Day says:

    Honey, I may have just found your blog but it just became my new favourite. I have been in this situation a MILLION times both with friends and strangers and I want to poke the person in the eye when they ask the question. I also get the follow up questions of “but your pretty, and smart, and intelligent?” to which I want to respond (but don’t), “I know… if only I were dumb and ugly… maybe I’d have as much luck as you” (insanely cruel but so is asking the question).

  22. Simone Grant says:

    -Sarah Day
    Thank you for the lovely compliment, and for my new favorite potential answer to that question. It’s ridiculous that with all of the changes taking place in our society the one thing that seems to hold steady is the expectation that women marry and breed. Oh, and welcome to the blog. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of you.

  23. KateF90 says:

    I feel exactly the same… I didn’t get involved with anyone for three years, during which time almost all of my close friends were in long term relationships. I’d always get asked why I wasn’t interested in anyone, or why I didn’t want a relationship, and it was the most irritating thing. The answer was simple – I didn’t want to commit to just anyone.
    Now I’ve been with an amazing guy for almost a year, and a lot of my friends relationships have broken down due to growing apart/wanting different things etc, because they got involved with people they weren’t entirely compatible with for the sake of it.
    A lot of people seem to think that if you’re single, you need pity, because there must be something wrong with you – if anything, jumping into relationships that don’t work because you feel as if you can’t be on your own is what’s pitiful.