“Are You Still Single?”

It’s been seven years since I set up a dating profile on a niche site – an online service that yielded two dates, and that was it.

I’ve long since lost the password to the account, and accessing my information to delete it isn’t high on the priority list – particularly as I haven’t received any contact in years. But this weekend, a message came through with this: Are you still single?

The question makes me frown.

It’s problematic on so many levels.

Here’s the dilemma. First, I have no way to respond and say “I’m in a relationship but thank you for your interest.” That would be the polite thing to do, and this service is big on polite interactions, which is one of the reasons I joined in the first place.

Second, “single” feels like a dagger, an accusation, a label that sums you up and sets you aside – at least, when you hit a certain age and your gender is female.

Online Dating Detritus

I think about the trail of profiles scattered all over the Internet – bits and pieces of peoples’ lives, the love-starved detritus of so many expectations. So much loneliness.

I think about how lousy it feels to be dangling on the end of an unanswered question – or text, or email, as is now so often the case.

Then again, aren’t we inured to exactly that behavior – thanks to the Internet? Aren’t we bombarded with communications of all sorts, without the bandwidth to get to everything important?

And I find myself pondering (and fuming over) the term “single.” How charged a label it truly is. I wonder if it’s asked more often of women, as a mechanism for sizing them up less than fixing them up.

I think about how many times I’ve been asked “You’re still single?” or the remark has been phrased as a statement – “Oh, still single.” The word “still” is the prickly offender, with its emphasis playing into our cultural expectations that we marry, remarry, and possibly remarry yet again.

Hierarchy of Marital Status

Those four little words – Are you still single?

Irritating enough when I was 30, and 31, and 32. Still irritating all these years later.

Smiling blonde woman middle agedThe hierarchy of marital status is alive and well. Should we position it as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Marital Status?

Married sits at the top (with so-called fulfillment). Divorced is better than never married (at least you had a shot). Remarried redeems your value, if you were formerly divorced. “Still single?” If so, with or without divorce in the picture, there must be something wrong with you!

Once we’re considered too old to be worth marrying again – now, now – you know that’s real – I suppose the instances of questions (or statements) about marital status dwindle. We’re moving into that more invisible stage of womanhood known as midlife.

More invisible in some respects, but certainly not in others!

For some of us, aging means we’re more vocal, more confident, and working on those reinventions. Marital status? We discard it as a measure of our worth much less “success,” though I doubt society at large has caught up on that score. Don’t we ask – routinely – what a person’s marital status is? Don’t we make assumptions based on their answer? Don’t we judge, especially as women?

Midlife (Dating) Madness?

I suppose I should be content with my genetics – and I am – such that the stranger who contacted me looked at my picture and my age, my thumbnail profile, added 7 years, and figured I was still worth contacting.

Then again, he could be 20 years my senior for all I know, though I was explicitly looking for someone roughly my age. That would be par for the course and typical (in my experience) when it comes to midlife dating madness.

Now, I am guessing that this individual asked my status because of lack of activity on my profile. That makes his question perfectly reasonable.

Theoretically, I could email this service and ask for a replacement password, sign in, and respond politely to whomever sent the message. Judging by dealings I had years ago, that would transpire over a day or two.

Will I – to be polite? Should I – to remove my profile?

Blast from the Past

Oddly, I recall the picture posted on that site – the youthfulness in my skin, in my stance, in the hopefulness that I’m certain shone through when I believed in the promised land of “recovery” after divorce. At the time, I was convinced that there would (and should) be remarriage – good for me and good for my boys. Yes, a naive assumption – but one that is shared by millions, isn’t it?

I had no idea how much “life” would be thrown my way – much beyond my control – the challenging as well as remarkable opportunities to learn.

I didn’t realize how askew those societal norms can be – expectations that if remarriage would “happen” then life would resume with a new and happier rhythm.

If you take care of yourself.

With the right attitude.

More judgment in those assumptions, because acknowledging the role of luck or timing is too damn frightening?

This blast from the past has dropped me back into that long-ago mindset, and the recollection of that flavor of optimism as well as convention.

Time changes us, as does experience. To some extent, both can free us. We may not be living the life we imagined; that does not mean we aren’t living a life to be proud of – messy, unpredictable, rich, and meaningful.


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  1. says

    I think I did actually find a way to log onto my old profile and reply to just such a query a few years ago. It turned out to be one of those spammy people.

    Women judge women much too harshly. They should stop that.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Hadn’t even thought of that, Teri! (And yes, we need to stop that judging thing. Childish. But women still do it. I’ve often wondered why. Any ideas?)

  2. says

    So, are you going to respond or not? Aren’t we all just a tad curious as to who’s on the other end of the line? Even if we’re involved, we’re still curious about anybody who shows interest in us. Ego? Vanity? Don’t we all like being liked? Certainly does wonders for my self-esteem.

    Years ago, a comedian during his stand-up told a story of visiting a gay friend in New York. When the two of them walked around, the comedian noticed that other men, other gays, looked at his friend but didn’t seem to bother to “check him out”. He told his gay friend that he was upset and his friend laughed saying something like, “What’s the matter? You’re not gay.”

    The comedian ended with, “Just because I have no intention of going to the party doesn’t mean I still don’t appreciate getting an invitation.”

  3. says

    This reminds me a bit of life before caller ID. When the phone would ring but no one would leave a message I would find myself wondering who had called.

    Maybe it was the girl I loved and lusted after in secret or maybe it was Ed McMahon trying to reach me to tell me I had won the sweepstakes.

    It used to make me smile and frown all at the same time.

  4. says

    I have several acquaintances here in Britain who have never married. They are somehow in their own category to me, women who had other goals. They may have their own difficulties, but at least they don’t have the emotional and financial risks of divorce. I’ve always felt that being twice or thrice married (and so on) is well down the ladder from once married. I know people in their 70s who have married again, so I wouldn’t give up the idea that it could still happen. As for women judging, it’s about measuring the competition isn’t it? If sex, territory and hierarchy are the ideals that drive humans, judging is about figuring out the hierarchy. And although not married, I’m thinking from what I’ve been reading lately that you are not single, is that right?

  5. says

    First of all, as a veteran online dating (OY), my guess is that his question is really, “I see that you haven’t been on line in a while and I wonder if you’ve found someone and haven’t removed your profile, so I wanted to ask if you were still single?”

    And, I hate the Still Single thing. My mother is the worst, doing this passive agressive thing that is designed to make me feel abnormal. It rarely occurs to people that some of us might be single by choice (not the case here!) and enjoy our lives without needing to be defined by our relationships!

  6. lunaboogie says

    I would say, that if you are in a solid and exclusive relationship, you are not single. You are coupled. I have never equated single with unmarried.

    I would guess this gentleman means – are you available.

  7. says

    Such discontents this post riled up in me–midlife, divorced, re-coupled but not remarried me. Sometimes I swear I want to get married again just so I can have the easy shorthand of saying “my husband.” But, although we share a household and a life, he is not, in fact, my husband. So I can’t just toss that word out, and I fumble with such unsatisfying (and potentially confusing) words as “partner.” And yes, I do feel the hierarchy. I know that in the eyes of society (and, likely, some in my life), I am not at the rung I once was. While that doesn’t really matter, it also does.

  8. says

    I liked what Walker said…don’t read too much into a simple question.
    Years ago in our Princeton departmental library, on a Saturday, we didn’t ask if girls/women were single. We (working at the desk on the weekend) asked all visitors to please raise their (left) hand — that was shortly before Princeton went co-ed. One way or another, that worked.

  9. Diff N. Bachia says

    Or, looking at your profile and picture, he could have meant, “Are you still single? You can’t be. Whom am I kidding?” In other words, he was hoping against hope.

    Mandelstam, your reliable plumber.

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