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"Why Are You Still Single?": Here's the Best Way to Answer

No one should ever have to defend their single status.

Source: Unsplash

In Jessica Francis Kane’s novel, Rules for Visiting Friends, the main character, May, is 40 and has always been single. She decides to invite herself to stay for days at a time with each of several once-close friends she hasn’t seen for many years.

May’s visit with Vanessa, who is married, is humming along. The two of them have caught up on the outlines of each other’s lives, and they are settling into deeper discussions.

Vanessa asks May, “Can I be brutally honest?”

May says OK.

Vanessa then asks, “Why are you still single?”

May responds without hesitation: “Why are you married?”

That might strike you as a snide remark, or a clever come-back. And it can be used in that way, though I would modify it a bit to parallel the question May was asked, “Why are you still married?”

Asking a single person why they are still single is doubly insulting. It suggests there is something wrong with being single, something the single person has to answer for, and the “still” part implies that, ultimately, just about everyone will marry. (They won’t.)

In the novel, though, the conversation is not an exchange of insults. It is an intimate talk. What happened after May asked Vanessa why she was married was this: “The rims of her eyes grew red, and she took a sip of wine.”

I think the question “Why are you single?” when asked in an accusatory or insulting way, should be retired. No one should ever have to defend their single status, any more than people who are married should have to defend their choice to marry. I have always believed that, but the case for shelving that inquiry is stronger than ever, now that more people are living single than any other time in modern history, and even people who do marry are getting around to it later than ever.

A new day has dawned. Being single is now utterly ordinary. The question “Why are you single?” can be asked in a curious, open-minded, affirming way. Personally, I love being single, and I love hearing from other people who are “single at heart” about why the single life is so appealing to them.

One way to answer the “Why are you single?” question, then, is seriously. The alternative is the snappy comeback. I’ve discussed both options before. Here I’ll share some examples of each.

Witty and Unapologetic Rejoinders to the Question of Why You Are Single

When you are not inclined to give a polite response to the obnoxious question of why you are not married, you can consider something along these lines:

Clueless Question: "So why have you never been married?"
My Perverse Answer: "So why have you never been an accountant?"

Clueless Question: "Why aren't you married?"
My Perverse Answer: "Why aren't you a Christmas tree?"

Clueless Question: "When are you going to get married?"
My Perverse Answer: "When did you last have sex?"

Clueless Question: "Will you ever marry?"
My Perverse Answer: "Maybe if I get hit on the head with a rock and turn into a different person."

“Why do you ask?” is another good response, though maybe that belongs in the next section about serious answers rather than flippant ones.

A few years ago, a writer for Yahoo cooked up some great clickbait with her story on why people are single. (Happily, it is no longer there.) Without any evidence, she claimed to know what single people say to themselves about why they are single—for example, "I'm not attractive/smart/rich/young/hot enough."

I had a lot of fun with that. It turns out that if you ask the analogous question of married people—“Why aren’t you single?”—the same answers apply. For example: "I'm not attractive/smart/rich/young/hot enough."

Or how about this one? The Yahoo author thinks singles sometimes use this explanation:

"I'm better at being single. I guess I'm just supposed to stay single forever."

Here, we can turn this into a married person's explanation for why they are married by replacing just one word:

"I'm better at being married. I guess I'm just supposed to stay married forever."

The other examples work, too:

"I'm cursed. I'll never meet anyone."

My parallel explanation for staying married:

"I'm cursed. I'll never meet anyone."

Serious Answers to the Question of Why You Are Single

My serious answer to the question of why I am single is straightforward. I am single because I am single at heart. Single is how I live my best, most fulfilling, and most authentic life. I am not single by default. Single life is my Plan A.

Some of the best serious answers to the question of why you are single were offered by Samhita Mukhopadhyay at Jezebel in 2012. In her list of reasons, the one that comes closest to the single-at-heart answer is this:

You legitimately just don't want to get married.

“No, you are not lying to yourself; you actually just don't want to get married. You've been to lots of weddings, you appreciated some of the sentiments, you were happy for everyone, but you didn't walk out wishing it were you that got married.”

Mukhopadhyay recognizes that not everyone is single-at-heart. Importantly, she also realizes that even if you want to be married eventually—maybe even if you wish you were already married—the fact that you are single does not mean that you and all of the other single women are “crazy, angry, slutty liars”—her characterization of Tracy McMillan’s writings. (Mukhopadhyay is addressing single women, but single men should never be put on the defensive, either.)

Here are a few more of the reasons from her list.

You are focused on your career.

“And you are not going to apologize for it. Some people call this being a ‘b*tch,’ because you are a lady and you have a job that you might be more focused on than smiling pretty and making sure you don't intimidate Mr. Right. Most of us just call this being alive in 2012 (you know the time the economy tanked, and we had to work to eat).”

You can't afford it.

“…men don't feel ready to propose until they have the cash to support a family. There is no special Spanx you can buy that will bolster a man's self-esteem to convince him that you don't care he is broke.”

You've got a life and friends that you are happy with.

“If a dude shows up, that's cool, but you are not sweating it because every day is an awesome new adventure full of phone calls from loved ones, cupcakes, yoga classes, and dance parties. You enjoy each minute, focus on the positive, and when you are down (a symptom of life, not just single life), you have 500 friends to call, because you have spent time on all types of relationships, not just the kind that will lead to marriage. Friendship—the realest investment a lady can make.”

I know the readers of this blog will have lots more ideas about how to answer the “Why are you single?” question. Again, I regret that the people who would not stop posting vile comments have forced me into shutting down the comments section of this page.

Facebook image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

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