Some people believe it’s “wrong,” even odd, to be single. Apparently if you’re single and OK with it, people will look at you like you have two heads—both of which you should hang in shame. Well, according to many of you, there is a stigma surrounding being single, and I for one think we need to address it.
For the life of me, I don’t understand how shaming someone about being single (of all things), let alone around Valentine’s Day, is a thing. If anything, people in crappy relationships who act as if everything is hunky dory should be shamed … but I digress. So, before you let the haters, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, shake it off and follow my top three quick and dirty tips for handling single shaming:
Tip #1: Shaming at Work
Alexa from Philadelphia reached out to me via Facebook about how her coworkers are having a hard time wrapping their brains around the fact she has been single for six months and doesn’t come to work crying every day about it. You know, because six months is so long to be on the dating shelf—clearly you’re missing out on life. Here’s the deal: why you are single is no one’s business. Also, it’s not a bad thing to be single! Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, etc., just because you’re not always dining at a table for two, even on romantic holidays like Valentine’s Day, doesn't mean you need to personally explain yourself. So here's my advice for Alexa, who was picked apart by her coworkers: never feel embarrassed for not finding love at this very moment. That’s the first thing to note. But also, you have to remember when others pry into your romantic life, they’re simply violating Unmannerly Rule #1: Thou Shall Mind Their Own Business.
Now, I understand that it’s easy to say, “Oh, just ignore them,” so don’t think I’ll just stop there. Come on, Mannerly Nation, you know me better. To handle the people who constantly shame you for being single at work, it’s good to remember you don’t have to discuss your personal life in the office. There is no rule that says that. So if it comes up at work, try the “professional approach.” I recommended Alexa say something like this: “That’s very sweet of you to care, but right now, I’m really focused on work. Not that I’m not looking but for now, work is my top priority. It will happen when it happens.” Here, you aren’t being rude in your response, you’re just telling them your main focus right now is work and not romance. Whether it’s the the case or not, how can a coworker knock you for being dedicated to the job? That’s a hard concept to argue with and is the best way to stop the argument before it gets more frustrating or upsetting.
Tip #2: Friend Shaming
Everyone has that one friend who constantly gloats about their relationship. You know, the friend who can’t fathom how their single friends wake up every day without someone next to them. This friend is so filled with arrogance that they can’t see how others aren’t basking in the romantic glow of love. Now, I say filled with arrogance and not filled with joy, because usually this friend is more focused on just having someone—anyone—in their life rather than the true value of that person. I mean, I love my wife more than anything in the world but I’m not going to wave that flag in front my single friends’ faces like they’re doing something wrong. Sadly, not all friends always have your best interest at heart when it comes to issues of the heart. With that, friend shaming towards single friends is always the most frustrating to handle since you'd expect more from them.
Take Victor, who DM’d me Twitter about his friends giving him a hard for being single for so long. Victor said that due to his “inability” to keep a girlfriend his friends constantly ragged on him for “choosing” the single life over commitment. And that label bothered him the most. I mean, just because someone is single may not mean they like it, let alone choose it. So if you’re the friend who is time and time again improperly labeled as “romantically aloof” because you’re single, take this time to throw it back at them. And don’t think fighting back is rude—in fact, it’s only proper to stand up for yourself when your “friends” take jabs at you this way. Come back with something like, “I’ll be honest guys, if you want to be concerned for me, that’s kind, but don’t shame me for being single.” Then follow up with, “It’s not as easy for me, and not everyone is in the same boat, so before you judge, just remember that.” Be serious to shut them down and stop it. Sometimes friends feel that ragging on one another is a part of the game, regardless of the situation; love, work, clothing, etc. However, if any “friendly ribbing” gets too much to stomach, don’t be shy and speak up before it snowballs into you avoiding them. Proper friends will understand … and if they don’t, it may be time to find ones that do.
Tip #3: Family Shaming
It's very likely that the Oscar for the Best Single Shaming goes to your family members. Need I really paint a picture to make this point? We’ve all been there or been a close witness to family members shaming others—mostly people in their 20s and 30s—about being single. “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” “When are you going to settle down?” “When will I have grandchildren?” And the truly devilish family members will add some tears to go with their serving of guilt and shame. Take Allison for example, who at every Thanksgiving (the grand holiday for single shaming) is faced with a table of family members grilling her about not having a boyfriend, let alone a husband. I mean, how dare she, time and time again, show up to a family gathering without a man on her arm? The worst was when her mom actually asked, “Did I do anything to make you this way?” Really?
Mannerly Nation, what are we going to do? Well, for starters, we’re not going to take it any more. See, like in Tip #2 with rude friends, unmannerly family members believe it’s their “right” to pry. Maybe I missed something, but I get annoyed when people use being family as a way to be overly-sarcastic and of course, shame single family members for not settling down. To handle this, you can try two approaches. First, sarcasm. I love sarcasm and when it comes to annoying family members, I recommend to use it often and layered on thick. Something like, “Oh, I forgot to tell you: I got married and didn’t invite you. Yeah, it’s true!” Or, “I was going to settle down but I much rather go through this barrage of torment for not being pregnant yet.” Choose your poison but make sure they know you’re not phased. The second approach is to blunt and honest, as I said in Tip #2: “I understand you’re all concerned but it really hurts me when you make it worse with your shaming. When I’m with someone, you’ll be the first to know.” With family, you can be blunt. They won’t abandon you like friends who you put in the place. Use that to your advantage and use it often… And never be ashamed about it.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.