The Terminology of Single, Single Shaming, and Being Happy Alone

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I’ve now seen the movie ‘How To Be Single’ twice. I love it, for many reasons. The costumes are gorgeous – Alice’s style in the movie is on point -, Dakota Johnson is delightful and her fellow cast members are hilarious, the soundtrack is great, and the message of the movie is exactly what so many of us need to hear.

Both times that I’ve come out of watching it, I’ve just felt happy and secure in being single. So often, it’s easy feel like being single is bad. Like it’s not just “being single” it’s “being single while you’re looking for a relationship”. Society tells us, especially young women, that we need relationships. That without them, we aren’t full, rich, happy people. Screw that!

My flatmate said something really insightful in the car ride home from my second viewing of the movie. She said how she hates having to say she’s single, in fact she avoids it, because she doesn’t agree with the idea that her relationship status should be such a huge identifier. And I completely agree. Being single or in a relationship is only part of who you are. We talked about how simply saying that you are single seems to automatically imply that you are ready to mingle. What if you’re just on standby or something? Happy on you’re own, open to something, not searching though? Why does ‘single’ have to mean ‘waiting for a relationship’, why can’t it just mean ‘rocking being on my own because I’m independent and don’t need a relationship to feel validated as a person’?

I looked up single to check out some different definitions. Here’s what the internet has to say about this:

Urban Dictionary: When you are currently not in a relationship with a significant other.

Dictionary.com: 4. unmarried or not in a romantic relationship
5. pertaining to the unmarried state

I know that yes, that is the technical definition of single, but I hate all the baggage that comes with it! Single-shaming is a thing, guys. Think of it in movies: In Bridesmaids, Annie gets major pity from everyone she meets at Lillian’s engagement party when she says she’s there solo. Why? Why is being single something to be pitied? Fun story: I work at an after school care, hanging with kids aged 5-12, so I have had loads of hilarious “kids say the funniest things” moments. When I first started working there at age 19, I made friends with a 7 year old girl. She asked me if I was married (I think to kids people are split into two age brackets = children, and adults, so to her, I was like her parents) and I giggled and said that no, I wasn’t. She patted my arm sympathetically and said that that was okay. WHAT. Then, for a good few months after that, every few weeks she’d ask me if I was in a relationship yet. Every time I said no and every time, she’d reply with a sympathetic/pitiful (it’s hard to see which it was) pat on the arm and say “You’ll get there”. I was being single shamed by a SEVEN YEAR OLD. It goes to show just how widespread the idea is that we should all be playing Noah’s Ark by the time we hit 20.

The worst part is the reaction people have when you say that you are genuinely happy on your own. Saying “I’m happy alone” tends to be met with grimaces and flinches because apparently the law dictates that I can not enjoy any aspect of my life unless I have someone to share it with. I think people expect all single people to feel a little Bridget Jones-y, sitting around singing ‘All By Myself’ by Celine Dion or rocking out to ‘On My Own’ from Les Mis. NO! On the contrary, I’m rocking out to ‘Love Myself’ by Hailee Steinfeld.

We all know that we shouldn’t let ourselves get consumed by relationships, or let them define us. So why do we let our single-ness do that? Can’t we just be, simple as that? Just enjoy being how we are at this moment in time, and learn who we are, without constantly being in or out of a relationship? Single isn’t a stopover on a long haul flight of relationships. There are so many wonderful things on offer in life, relationships are just one of them. Don’t dismiss them, but don’t forget about the other things. Don’t let who you are in relation to someone else define you.

I no longer feel like I need some sort of validation, someone to give me the seal of approval, as if to say ‘you’re okay on your own for now’. I’m just me, not single, not coupled, just me. It’s a damn good feeling.

xxx Lula

P.S. If any of this mildly incoherent babbling resonates with you, let me know in the comments. And, if you too like ‘How To Be Single’, let’s be friends. xxx

  • Yes, so much yes! I was single for the entire first 19 years of my life and I enjoyed it. No way was I going to date any old guy just for the hell of it, just because people thought that was what we should do. Being single let me find out so much about myself before finally getting into a relationship, that’s probably why this one has lasted so long and is going strong. It’s great to be single and be owning it, you go girl!!

    • I think what you said is so true, finding out about yourself is such an important foundation for any relationship! Thanks <3

  • I feel this! 20 years of being single and absolutely not bothered.

    • Go you! I’m all about owning it and just remembering that the right one will come along at some point, no use pining after someone you haven’t even met, just enjoy life as it is!

  • I really want to watch How to be single. I need to learn how! I was in a relationship from 17-23 so I’m still learning how to be an adult on my own!

    • Would absolutely recommend – I am SERIOUSLY tempted to see it a third time…. Good luck! It’s easier than you think 🙂

  • Georgia

    Just read an article of yours on Hello Giggles (which is great and my exact situation!) and decided to have a read through your blog. This post hits home for me – I am constantly asked why I am single and friends are always setting me up with other people… but i am not looking for someone – which many people can not comprehend!

    • Hi Georgia! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. That’s so true, so many people don’t understand how single people can be happy! Like people can only be happy if they’re in relationships, it’s kind of sad!