Navigating the Singledom Censure Vortex


While there are common situations singletons face in which they’re censured for not being with someone, it’s not always easy to know how to respond. Amal Awad shares some tips that work for her.

Because uphill climbs don’t have to be uphill battles

A while back I wrote about the sort of things single women tend to get from friends, family and strangers. From censure to sympathy, we’ve heard (and seen) it all. Judging by the response, it seems I struck a collective nerve.

What my article didn’t traverse is how to deal with the queries, prying and judgment. So, I’ve decided to compile a how-to survival guide. This list is by no means exhaustive, or in a particular order – but the next time you find yourself being sucked into the Singleton Censure Vortex, refer back to these suggestions and tweak as necessary. In fact, save it to Evernote. Or frame it. Shrink it and laminate to wallet size. Just remember: it’s not you, it’s them.

The sympathetic head tilt

This is a particularly frustrating kind of beast because it involves the person you’re speaking to dropping their head to the side, nodding slowly and offering an expression of deep concern and sympathy.

It’s the same sort of body language you get after a divorce, redundancy or unceremonial dumping. The only difference being that they’re actually things that require sympathy, unlike your awesome single life.

Suggested response: Tilt your head the opposite way and nod sympathetically in return. Then drop the ‘Yeah, I’m single and it’s so hard. I just don’t have enough time to do all the fun stuff I’m invited to.’

Inserting a sigh at this point will add gravitas to the moment, but it’s optional.

Weddings, parties, anything

There are just some events where singledom censure is unavoidable. These include but are not limited to: engagements, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, kids’ birthday parties, adults’ birthday parties and dinner parties where you’re the only one without a partner or the only other single person isn’t someone you’d want to tweet let alone marry.

Exhausting, but they’re crucial life milestones you’ll be exposed to at least a few times a year.

The important thing to know about these events is that you can prep. Research – who’ll be there and what is their likely approach? For example, if it’s an Arab–Muslim wedding, you’ll encounter more than a fair share of people who really, really want it to be your turn next because, well, who the hell knows?

‘O’balik,’ they’ll say. Possibly followed by the aforementioned sympathetic head tilt.

Suggested response: Always be respectful and polite, which means saying ‘insh’Allah’. Then you can guilt trip them by talking about how cruel naseeb can be at times. Praise Allah and nod sagely – you are accepting of your fate, and rather than having cats, you have fun.

Or, if you’re in a particularly dry mood, make an offhanded comment such as: ‘I’m going to make elopement cool again, though.’

Or, ‘I really only want a wedding for the cake, and I can have that any day.’

The belated catch-up

This is the well-meaning friend or relative who hasn’t seen you in months (if not years). When they finally do see you, the only thing they’re curious about is how you’ve progressed in the romance stakes. They’re not interested in holidays, awards or having had your wisdom teeth taken out, except as an afterthought.

The question making their temples throb and eyes widen is: ARE YOU STILL SINGLE?

What makes this strand of censure so vicious is that there are often so many interesting developments you could have experienced in your life, which might include the final Harry Potter film, but they count for little in a world where we’re measured according to who’s picked us as their significant other.

Suggested response: You can really have fun with this one. There’s the offhanded, ‘I can’t keep track of all the guys who have shown interest. Either way, I prefer abseiling.’

There’s the playing-dumb act: ‘Will he buy me cupcakes and flowers? Cos I really like them both, but my empty existence means all I do is shop for shoes. So it would be good to have someone who’ll buy me cupcakes and flowers.’

There’s the crestfallen look followed by, ‘Yeah, it’s really tough travelling the world and doing stuff alone. Sometimes you can have too much fun, you know?’

You complete me

I won’t lie: I liked Jerry Maguire. But I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive Cameron Crowe for the line that haunts humanity – ‘You complete me’.

The idea being, obviously, that you’re incomplete, not whole, not quite baked, if you haven’t found someone who thinks you’re worthy of a ring and a lifetime of shopping expeditions together.

Just make it stop. What the well-intentioned people in relationships do is take that line and plump it up to epic proportions, delivering such doozies as ‘I just want you to be happy’ or ‘I just think he’s out there waiting for you, and you’ll see how wonderful it is to be with someone when he comes along.’

This last one is a kind of double whammy. Not only are you incomplete, but you’re powerless and waiting for someone else to make your awesome life so much more awesome. Which is about as compelling a prospect as waiting for someone else to live the life you’re hankering for.

Suggested response: Bring up your last bad experience with a guy and watch them squirm. It might not be terribly nice, but neither is the suggestion that you’re not living your life to its full potential because you’re sans partner.

Maybe you should…

This is perhaps the most frustrating form of censure. It’s the whole ‘there’s nothing wrong with you, I don’t know how you’re still single, but you’re maybe too confident and awesome, and guys just don’t like that’ deal.

Really, all you want by that point is a bag and a quick escape.

It’s not only rude, but also insulting. We’re all imperfect creatures, and we’re entitled to our preferences, but I’ve never heard a woman tell a man that maybe he should just stop being who he is in order to catch a gal. That fancy office you occupy and the six-figure salary? Intimidating, so cut it out.

Women who are successful, driven and not basing their existence on their marriageability are frequently advised to change, and be less prosperous and ambitious (not just in career), if they’re to find themselves a husband. Never mind the contribution women bring to the world – tone it down, already. You need to have babies!

Suggested response: Sarcasm. And then more sarcasm. Do not – I repeat, do not – be drawn into the intellectually deprived notion of self-worth(lessness) that forms the basis of this conversation.

Say something like: ‘Okay, I’ll stop using big words.’

Or there’s always, ‘I feel worthless without male validation, so okay, I’ll quit my PhD and spend money on nicer clothes.’

You’re welcome.


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