Posted by: Lula in London | December 5, 2007

How do you talk to these strange single people?

Although most of my readers will be single, perhaps a few of you will read this looking for ideas on how to talk to your daughter, sister, friend or that person in the ward that you see on Sundays.

You would think a Guide on what to say would be a given, but as a single person I can tell you this Guide is necessary.

Typically conversations with singletons come under two categories:

a) I’m here for the gossip. a.k.a. “Hit and Run”
b) I genuinely want to know how you are doing.

The Hit and Run

Last weekend I went to my cousin’s wedding. While in line for cake, I was attacked by a woman I had not seen for over 10 years. As I contemplated the bride’s color and cake choice our eyes met and I said hello…and then she shot me:

“How are you—are you married?” all in one breath in a loud clear voice. Everyone in the line turned their heads.

“No.” The answer seemed to bounce off the walls. Young married mothers covered their children’s ears. While others couldn’t help but tilt their heads to one side and give a sad smile and flip through the rolodex in their head of men my age. Just then the couple’s first dance as husband and wife began and the people around me seemed to weep inside for my horrible fate.

Okay, that was a little melodramatic. But there is a bit more truth to this than some admit. At my brief time at the reception this happened twice, “How are you—are you married?” Now, I understand people wanting to know if I have a husband and kids, because to miss that fact would be a big one to leave out. But a simple glance at my hand for the absent wedding ring, or noticing I am by myself with no diaper bag is enough evidence to assume I’m single, and if my ring is being cleaned and my nanny is with the kids that night while my husband is accruing our millions, well it’s my fault if I don’t bring that up, so you are off the hook. (and not necessarily in the hip hop way)

Examples of other hit and runs:

“Why aren’t you married/dating?”

“Maybe if you put more effort into your appearance?” (thank you USU fireside)

“Maybe you shouldn’t keep going to school, that will intimidate more men.”

And the man who didn’t know my name that as I walked out of church yelled out the door to say, “Hey are you still dating that man? Why aren’t you married yet? What is his problem?”

[Bang! Bang! Bang!]

…to which I replied, “Yes. And isn’t that his question to answer?” without breaking my stride and offering a courteous smile.

The thing is, we don’t mind talking about this with people we are close to, because the answers to these questions are not simple. And it can be nice to express feelings about it with people who know you and care for you, almost therapeutic. But when someone asks in public without warning from age 16 until your wedding day:

“Why aren’t you dating/married?”

There is no casual in the hallway answer for that. However, I’ve found that ridiculous questions deserve ridiculous answers, *some of these I’ve actually used, when caught in a hit and run:

“No one has asked me, thank you for pointing that out. And now that you have, let’s figure out if it is because I’m too ugly/boring/emotionally unavailable/afraid of marriage/career driven/lame/intimidating.”

*”My mail order husband is stuck in customs.”

*”Hey, are you planning on having more children?”

“Does your husband still find you attractive after your weight gain?

 

How to Break the Ice Properly with a Singleton

Yes Please
Compliments are easy ice breakers. Something like “I like your new hair cut” or “It makes me smile to see you.” are great. So please do compliment our shoes and our sense of humor (not that those two relate).

Please No
However, don’t get this confused with the pseudo-compliment: “Wow, I really admire you for still having the courage to live your life without a spouse.” While this may be true, it’s not really a compliment. Some variations of this may be:

“I think it’s great you are doing so much schooling while you are still in your situation.”

“I bet your work/volunteering helps make your life feel rewarding (worth living).”

“It’s so nice that you get to travel while you wait for a man.”

What to say after the ice is broken?

Try asking about school or work, in a specific way. “How’s school/work?” will get you the answer of “good”. Try something like “Are you glad you picked this major? What made you decide to do this program/career or attend this school?” “Do you like your boss?”

Ask about roommates, interesting stories from our week, tv shows, callings we’ve had, current events. Ask for internet tips/finds, or invite us to a movie.

While inviting a singleton to your FHE or your mother’s group could be fun (to make us feel “included”), typically it feels awkward or like we are the unofficial babysitter, especially if we are the only singleton there. It can also cast a large spotlight on the fact that we’re not only single, but very single. It can be like inviting an albino to compete in Miss Tropicana, which if I did would be about the same effect.

If you are a singleton and are caught in a hit and run, try to steer the conversation into other directions mentioned above. Sometimes laughing in response to a ridiculous question and then starting a new topic does the trick, for example:

Married at 21: “So, why aren’t you dating anyone?”

You: “Oh, ha ha! You know I read this article today in the news that talks about women and their sense of smell being better than a man’s, do you think that’s true?” Then you can talk about all of the smells you know and discuss your favorite scented candles and get them to do the talking and not the asking. But don’t get roped into a candle party.

Trying to be “helpful”

Sometimes well-intentioned friends/family/strangers/ces speakers use conversations to try to help a singleton along by offering advice or reminders that they should get married. These helpful comments usually go something like this:

“You know, if you wait for Mr. Perfect you’ll find he will be looking for Miss Perfect, which may not be you.” (see the future post entitled “You are not too picky.”)

“We just got married and married life is great, hey! you should get married too! We’ll find someone for you.”

“You’re not getting any younger you know.”

“Getting married is a commandment, don’t you want to obey the Lord?”

“You know they say any two people can get married if they both work hard.”

“Hey, aren’t you a menace to society or something? Wouldn’t Brigham Young throw you out of town by now?”

We don’t forget we’re single, don’t worry about that. We also know we have a birthday every year. But girls cannot decide when they are getting proposed to, or when the guy is going to ask them on a date—that’s their question so go bug them.

In the end, the answer is “we don’t know, but that’s part of the fun.” Including running the gauntlet of questions during our single years or decade or century (in mormon years = age 29+).

And now for the visual representation of what us singletons go through at many ward/wedding events, courtesy of the American Gladiators:

 

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Responses

  1. You really have a way with words. For years I was in a family ward and all the “well meaning” married women – 40+ – would always ask “So, David…are you seeing anyone?” “David, you’re so handsome why don’t you have a girlfriend?” “David, here is so and so’s phone number, you should call her and ask her out.” Ok, first off I have never met so and so, nor do I wish to ask this unknown on a date. But thanks anyway. The younger married women didn’t care, because they probably remember being hounded and didn’t want to dish that out to anyone else. Bless them.

    Then if I was dating someone, keep in mind that the life span of the relationship was not even a thought, they would ask “So are you two getting married?” Holy crap! We’ve dating like two weeks! Take some advice from Frankie and relax.

    I especially enjoyed the AG clip because it perfectly illustrates what Sundays – and even ward activities – became for me after years of interrogation. The end zone was the doors leading out of the chapel, and “Siren” was the throng of older women who were ready to “tackle” me with their repetitious questions. Sure they might mean well, but if only tact was something more clearly laid out in the BoM, then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

    Cheers.

  2. Although I’ve never been married, I’m going to start telling people I’m divorced so they’ll stop asking what’s wrong with me or assuming that I’m a lesbian.

    I just finished my MA and for the entire year I’ve been writing it, by far the most frequently asked question from ward members has been, “Aren’t you concerned that you’re still single?” I’ve had two responses to that: 1. No. Are you?; and 2. Obviously you’re a bit more concerned about my marital status than I am.

    It would be nice if I were dating but I’m not and get real… I’m in Arkansas. If I felt like going out with every knuckle-draggin Jethro I would, but I have a bit more respect for myself. I’m doing the best I can with my life and right now. Now I’m done and I’m moving to LA and of course that’s when…

    a new fellow showed up at our ward Christmas party on Saturday. Because at the age of 34 I’m the oldest singleton, I actually heard people talking about me getting together with this man I’d never met! The stares were intrusive! My home teacher brought it up on Sunday and told me maybe I shouldn’t be moving to LA in two weeks just so I could see if things would work out with this man, who I still am yet to meet. The woman I visit teach said the exact same thing tonight at enrichment. Apparently the new guy moved here sans job to follow his ex-wife and their 3 children because she’s crazy. I decided that I’m going to leave the new guy and his baggage at the turnstyle and let someone else claim him.

    I know I’m single… this is not a news flash. But if I’m happy with my life, why does it concern everyone that I’m single?

    • I feel you… Thank you for your post!

      Ps: haha, the lesbian thing… Ah, just because i never brought a guy to my ward… I think there are some people who thinknthis way of me…

  3. More and more people are opting to stay single, according to census figures. We really need to allow/find an unthreatening connection with each other.

    I’m searching blogs today and everyone is saying they’re not lonely. Well, how is that possible during this season? I admit it, this season is the worst for me.

    I once thought that everyone had a good relationship except me, but after finding out little things about what people tolerate to be in those relationships, I realized that my choices are: 1. Occasional lonliness, and 2. A bad relationship.

    Single people are, as you alluded (mother covering child’s ears) sometimes feared, often misunderstood, and too much alone while so many of us knock around individually. It hurts me to think that my status as a single is repulsive to some.

    Being alone is good, compared with the choices. Being alone at Christmas is pretty bad when the press and advertisers escalate diamond ads and children to Heavenly heights.

    We need a better way do cope during this madness.


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