“You know what your problem is?”
Who doesn’t love a conversation that starts like that? But if you’re over 35 and single, people somehow think it’s an open invitation to diagnose why you’re still single. “You don’t have room in your life for a woman/man.” “You’re too picky.” “You’re not picky enough.” (Sadly, I’ve dated a few women who have elicited that response from my friends.) The very term “singles” practically sounds like a disease (oh, wait, that’s “shingles”), and for those diagnosing us, being single seems to be our defining characteristic.
As the last of my peer group to remain single, I’ve noticed that friends, colleagues, family members, even shop owners, are quick to diagnose me. I bought new eyeglasses recently and the salesman asked my female friend whether we were a couple.
“No, we’re just friends,” she said.
“Good,” he said, “because based on how long it takes him to decide on a pair of glasses, if you’re waiting for a proposal, you’re gonna wait forever.” As if choosing eye wear were somehow related to choosing a spouse.
Is there something wrong with being single?
Comments like these, repeated over and over through the years, were making me start to doubt myself. Maybe something was wrong with me. Maybe I did have the dreaded singles disease. After all, people never give flattering reasons for why you’re still single. The diagnosis is never, “You’re too good-looking” or “If only you were less smart.” It’s always something negative. “You don’t know what you want in a woman.” “You’re looking for a woman who doesn’t exist.” If everybody’s saying these things, after a while you start thinking maybe they’re right.
It got to the point where even I started to wonder why I was still single. So I decided to put my fate in the hands of my happily married friends, Andy and Lisa. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.) I agreed to let them set me up.
Andy and Lisa wanted to double date, so the four of us went to dinner. It turns out that the woman they set me up with had started a new job that day, and she joked — three times, so I sensed it was more than a joke — that she’s just not cut out for work, and she really just wants to marry a rich guy. That’s a nice thing to hear on a first date, because that’s exactly what guys are looking for in a woman. It’s the equivalent of a man telling a first date that he’s considering quitting his job to devote more time to chewing tobacco.
Then poker came up in conversation, and my date said she loves to gamble, but she’s having a bad year. “How so?” I asked. She said she’s down $19,000. Nineteen. Thousand. Dollars! I thought, Wow, so you don’t want to work AND you’ve got a gambling problem? You’re quite the catch.
After the date, Andy pulled me aside and excitedly asked, “So… what do you think?” Not wanting to be insulting, I said I thought she was nice, but not quite my type. To which Andy replied, “You know what your problem is? You don’t want to be happy.”
Now, wait a minute! I may not know myself perfectly, but I do know that an unambitious gambler is not my road to happiness. And that’s when I came to my senses and realized that the so-called “experts” who were diagnosing me didn’t know any more than I did. Being single isn’t a disease, yet so many married people think they’re Jonas Salk with the miracle cure. But with over 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, maybe single people should be diagnosing married people.
What single people need to remember
The fact is, we all go through life on our own timetable. I know many people who found their true love a little later in life. It wasn’t because they were crazy or afraid to commit or told too many corny jokes on dates or any of that stuff. It was because they found their true love a little later in life.
I have a well-meaning cousin who, upon hearing I wasn’t dating anyone, sighed and said, “There’s gotta be somebody out there for you.” She used the exact same tone that Dr. Frankenstein would have used if he were lamenting that his monster was still single. I told her, “It’s not like I’ve never been loved!” But then I realized that I didn’t need to get defensive. I mean, even Frankenstein’s monster found his soul mate, and I’m not sure he even had a soul. I have to believe I’m a better catch than he is. Just imagine what people must have said about him before he found his lovely bride. But did he listen? No. Ol’ Frankie’s monster just kept trudging along, with the bolts in his neck and his flat head held high. And until the rest of us find our soul mate, so should we.
Michael Kramer is an Emmy-nominated television writer living in Los Angeles. He is single, looking and, he likes to think, “well-adjusted.”