Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feeling Sorry for Single People

I know this woman, let's call her Helen, who has been single her entire life. She is now in her fifties and she says she is perfectlly content with her singlehood. Helen has a great career, many friends, she has lived in many different countries, and has tons of great hobbies. Still, many people insist on pitying Helen. I have actually witnessed "let's-get-together-and-feel-sorry-for-Helen" reunions where people seem to get together for the sole purpose of sharing with each other how bad they feel for poor, miserable Helen who is "all alone with nobody to take care of her." Even though Helen has been taking care of herself extremely well her entire life, people still enjoy discussing their fantasies of her misery.

Now, Helen herself seems perfectly happy. Probably for that very reason she doesn't organize pity parties to express how sorry she is for her partnered friends. The funny thing is that people who dedicate all this time to feeling sorry for Helen are in pretty crappy relationships. What would they do, I often wonder, if people like Helen didn't exist? How would they deal with the realization that their relationships suck if they couldn't take refuge from the sadness of their personal lives in the fantasies of miserable singlehood? "Well, at least I'm better off than poor Helen who's all alone," they tell themselves every time they feel their prized relationship is not that great.

Nothing, in my view, is a better measure of how people feel about their own romantic relationships than whether they experience hostility towards single people.


eric said...

I work with a couple people who are in their fifties and are lifelong singles. They are perfectly content. Like baby-mania, "being with somebody" has become a national obsession, the norms of which are enforced by those who should reconsider their current relationships.

Patrick said...

If 'Helen' had bemoaned the fact that she was single, there may be some justification for pity. Or if she was isolated (Think 'crazy cat lady'). From your description, she seems to be neither. Though I may recommend to 'Helen' to find a better group of friends. I wouldn't want to associate with people who pitied me for any reason.

fairykarma said...

I am single for life myself too, but I sometimes feel contempt for our kind, mostly because we don't have the courage to ruin our lives for a couple years in a completely unstable relationship. I hear all kinds of stories and sometimes I too wish I could have a girlfriend who threw shoes and furniture at me when she got frustrated.

But I do feel the stigma hits women moreso than men. Like Condoleezza Rice or Wu Yi. They're more likely to be asked, why why why why. With men, it is just concluded, "he can't get women.", or "his penis will make him cave eventually," which is fine with us and we go on our way without being pestered too much.

Anonymous said...

As long as "Helen" does not harrass you with stories about her cats or knitting, all is good. An assistant in my office is a lifelong single who seems content, but her endless stories with no punchline are beginning to drive me up the wall.


Anonymous said...

My mother, in her 80s, has started harassing grocery store clerks, nurses, etc. in this way, and she's married. At work there are the young mothers who never stop talking about baby minutiae, and the young male professors who never stop pontificating and already seem like old men. This is why married people look so lonely to me -- they don't seem ever to go out or do anything new.