Lately, something that has been a big part of my life and at the forefront of my mind, is my identity as a single woman. I have been reading a book and a blog written by the author Bella DePaulo; a social psychologist and a happily single woman. Her book "Singled Out," is about how single people are "stigmatized, stereotyped and ignored and still live happily ever after."
Her blog "Living Single" has really confronted many issues I deal with as a single woman.
This whole journey of venturing into my struggles of being a single woman all started when I admitted to a close friend recently (a friend who is marreid btw) that when I am in a group of married women or even women who are engaged... I automatically feel less important. I am an opinionated and independent person and I think as a result, a lot of times, I come off as very confident and strong (even though I rarely feel that way inside) and yet...put me in a group of married women and I will automatically feel self conscious and less important...less valued. Like how I feel or what I think is not as worthy as what a married woman has to say.
Admitting that for the first time was huge for me, because to be honest I don't think it was something I had even openly acknowledged for myself.
I think for a lot of women...in fact the majority of women in our culture, marriage is something that defines you. Women find worth, value and identity in being a wife or being desired by a man... but it wasn't until I had this conversation with my friend Kelly, that I was able to stand back and really evaluate my view on marriage and singleness.
Shortly after that conversation, I came across a post on the Living Single blog that truly resonated with how I felt. In summary this is what the post was about.
30 single women from the UK, between the ages of 30 and 60 were involved in informal interviews about their singleness. The researcher, Jill Reynolds told them she was single, even though she was married, hoping they would speak more freely to her about the subject.
This is directly from the blog post:
"Reynolds identified four different ways of thinking about single status. (She called them "interpretive repertoires of singleness.")
1. Singleness as personal deficit
2. Singleness as social exclusion
3. Singleness as independence and choice
4. Singleness as self-development and achievement
The women who talked about singleness as a personal deficit were not necessarily saying that they felt deficient because they were single. Rather, they recognized that women who are single - especially past a certain age - are often viewed by others as deficient. Their hesitation in saying that they don't have a partner (even though they already said so in signing up for the research, and even though they were talking to a woman who told them she was single, too) could have been an indication of their sense that their single status was something that needed to be explained. As Reynolds put it, "Single women in effect always stand accused."
One of Reynolds' most intriguing suggestions is that there are dilemmas involved in all of the different perspectives on single life, not just the negative ones. Of course, it is painful to be viewed as damaged goods and to be excluded. But women who describe their singleness as independence and as a choice they have made are not home free. For example, others sometimes see them as selfish. Or, people tell those contented single people that they are just rationalizing.
The single women, as I've noted, seemed to feel the need to explain and elaborate when asked if they had a partner. Reynolds found it even more surprising that the women were apologetic when they said that they DID want a partner in the future. Why should that have been so difficult to admit? Why even think of it as an admission?
The dilemma, Reynolds thinks, is that when women "talk unashamedly about their desire for a relationship," they "risk being constructed as deficient and ‘desperate', and marked by their failure to already have a man.""
I think she hit the nail right on the head there... I think in so many ways I have viewed myself as unworthy of love if I am single and in the process have had a very insufficient view of marriage and of singlehood as a result.
I could really write forever about the subject because it is something I have been intentionally sorting through...but I won't go on forever about it in this post... hence this being "Part 1". :)
In the meantime... I'm curious about your view of singlehood? For those of you who are married...did you ever feel deficient because you were single? And those that are single now...do you feel like you are viewed as deficient by others because of your singleness?