“We’ve been groomed to believe being single is wrong. It’s not”
Written by Shani Silver
Tired of the way singlehood has been sold to generations of women, writer and podcaster Shani Silver asks: what if being single wasn’t wrong?
In 2019, Shani Silver decided to shed the shame that has so often been associated with being single by starting her podcast, A Single Serving. Over 550,000 downloads later, the New Orleans-based writer is releasing her first book: A Single Revolution: Don’t Look For A Match. Light One, a radical and unapologetic guide for anyone who wants to overthrow what they’ve been taught about singlehood. In this exclusive essay, Shani explains why we need to reframe the way society has groomed us to think about singledom.
Singlehood needs a new publicist. That’s just fact. The narratives around singlehood are overwhelmingly unsavoury, unpleasant, and packed full of shame. How many “old maid” and “spinster” narratives have we been treated to throughout our lives? How many times have we heard: “Be careful… you don’t want to end up like her.” Being single has long been marketed to us as a malady to avoid at all costs, a strategy that you’ll notice is working out very well for the dating industry and its for-profit apps. I don’t like the way singlehood has been sold to generations of singles, because in general, I hate liars.
It’s a big game of smoke and mirrors, the narratives teaching us how wrong and shameful it is to be single. They’re presented to us with such sleight of hand that we never even stop to question them. Think about it: have you ever had any reason to ask yourself if being single is actually wrong or bad, or have you just assumed that it is? Have you ever asked yourself if you enjoy dating, or if it’s just something you do because you believe it’s required of you if you’re single? Have you let the assumption that being single is wrong convince you to hate what you are? Convince you to try to change what you are with a relationship no matter what you have to endure in order to find it?
Here’s why this is all a problem: the realities of single life, once you peel the rind of lies off them, are actually quite lovely and worth exploring. All this freedom, possibility, lack of compromise, the ability to starfish in bed – why are we supposed to hate this again? Oh, right… if we start liking singlehood, we’re worried that will somehow communicate to the universe that we don’t want a boyfriend or girlfriend ever again. Got it.
Society gets away with a lot of lies around singlehood, but you can’t really spot the lies until you understand the most essential, basic tall tale: we’ve been groomed to believe that being single itself is wrong. It’s not.
We accept the idea that being single is a wrong state of existing very casually, going along with a massive falsehood, assuming it’s true. And why wouldn’t we? On the other side of singlehood is love, and love is nice! Sex on a regular basis with someone you love and trust is nice! Having someone to try new restaurants with is nice too! False narratives around singlehood are easy to believe because love and relationships have had excellent public relations teams speaking on their behalf.
The practical problem with this casual acceptance of singlehood as a wrong state of being is that it can have detrimental effects on our self-worth and self-esteem when we do everything we’re “supposed to do” and still find ourselves single. What then? When we listened to the narratives about singlehood being wrong, tried our best to avoid it, and still couldn’t “find someone” because the modern dating landscape is akin to a festering pile of rubbish lit aflame? What are we supposed to believe about singlehood then? What are we supposed to believe about ourselves?
We believe we failed, that’s what we believe. We believe there’s something wrong with us, that we’re flawed, that our approach to dating is flawed; we internalise all sorts of nonsense about something that was never actually wrong in the first place.
The negative narratives of singlehood only hold up so long – because eventually we get wise and start questioning things. When you question “Is being single even wrong?” it tends to quickly fall apart like wet paper. We start to see that being a part of a couple doesn’t make anyone “better” or more valid. We see that relationships – though wonderful – change and end all the time, and that’s okay. We start to see that there isn’t any one “correct” way to live life, and we start writing and living life stories that are a bit more bespoke to us. I don’t know about you, but the older I get the less value I see in a life that’s off-the-rack.
Being single isn’t wrong. Sit with that a while. Because when you do, singlehood starts proving its worth to you
Being single can feel wrong to us as individuals; I don’t discount that. As lovely as the freedoms of singlehood are, loneliness is a real thing, and I’d never deny that. But I wonder how often we ask ourselves why we’re lonely. Do we really crave another human being that badly, or is at least some of that loneliness and longing caused by our own fear around being perceived as wrong? Do we hate being single because we’re lonely, or do we hate it because we’re ashamed?
In my opinion, it’s vital to understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with being single in much the same way that there is nothing inherently perfect about being in a couple. One way of existing is not better than the other; they are entirely equal where our self-worth is concerned. That’s just the plain truth.
Our happiness will never be a relationship’s responsibility. This matters to me because I see so many actions motivated by the idea that once we “find someone” everything will be OK. This completely ignores the idea that everything is OK right now – we’re just too convinced by society’s shaming of singlehood to ever look up from a dating app and notice.
Being single isn’t wrong. Sit with that a while. Because when you do, singlehood starts proving its worth to you, starts showing you all the little pleasurable pockets you haven’t been able to see before. If you give a happy, valid singlehood a chance, I think you’ll like it. I think you’ll give fewer bad actors in the dating space the chance to negatively impact how you feel, too. Understanding that being single isn’t wrong isn’t the same thing as “choosing singlehood” or deciding to be single forever, as if those are actions that are ever required of you. Once you know the lie, and understand that there is literally zero inherent wrongness in being single, you set yourself free, and you realize you always were.
A Single Revolution: Don’t Look For A Match. Light One by Shani Silver is out on 26 October 2021.
Images: Getty, Shani Silver/Atta Girl Press
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