We sat in a small lodge atop Colorado
foothills. The windows were wide and open, revealing a view ripe for
distraction. But no one was distracted. We were there to learn from a
bereavement expert and learn we did.
Before Dr. Wolfelt began the first
session, he asked we go around the room to introduce ourselves.
Discussing grief and loss would bond the 16 of us in a unique way. We
were there to learn from one another and he wanted our community to
start off right.
We each took a turn sharing where we were from, our jobs, our personal experience with loss, about our families, and then a few fun facts. I gave my spiel, then added my fun facts: White Sox fan and host of an annual Chili and Doughnut dinner for my friends. Both facts received quite the attention but it didn't prepare me for what happened the next day.
After discussing a variety of topics at lunch, a co-participant turned to me and said, “you're a baseball fan and you make chili. How on earth are you still single?” The group laughed but inwardly I cringed. I tamped down a sharp retort and instead replied with, “if only it was that simple.”
Yes, guys have been intrigued by my White Sox fanaticism and penchant for hosting dinner parties. But “fun facts” are not enough to sustain a relationship.
“I don't understand why you're single” is the inverse of “Why are you still single?” Both subtly tell the recipient there's something wrong with them or with their suitors. Either way, neither affirms the goodness of being single. The message hones in on the preference of marriage, the implication you've not yet arrived if you're not married.
Most people don't mean to imply any such thing. When a friend expresses their befuddlement, I try to hear their heart behind it. They know I want to get married, they think I'm a “catch.” They don't understand why a deserving man hasn't picked up on this. But the sentiment stings.
Especially when it comes out of left field. And trust me, it always comes out of left field.
Were I discussing my feelings about being single, the words might fall on willing ears. After all, I hope there isn't a reason I'm single. Most days I'm confident there isn't a reason but that wasn't always the case.
Several years ago, my singleness especially vexed me. I asked my parents and a few trusted friends to set me straight. I knew I wasn't perfect but was I doing something wrong? Was I blind to some habit or character trait that screamed “man repellant”?
Each one said I wasn't doing anything wrong. They cheerfully agreed I wasn't perfect and suggested areas of growth but equally honestly said none of these things were enough to make men steer clear. We talked through the dates I'd had and why these guys had not been the best fit for me. This was the reassurance I needed at the time. It went deeper than a catch-all phrase. Plus, I had asked for their input myself. Soon thereafter, I developed my theology of singleness and fully and finally embraced contentment. It's a beautiful thing.
When someone seemingly out of the blue tells me, “I don't understand why you're still single,” I wonder why it matters to them. I wonder if they're feeling disconnected due to our marital status difference or if there's a bit of the “grass is greener” effect going on. If I'm not bringing up my dating life, why are they?
Do people not trust me when I say I'm enjoying my life?
It's been 5 years since the bereavement conference but I still remember sitting at lunch, suddenly feeling as if I didn't belong. I was an excellent hospice social worker and child and teen bereavement counselor. Professionally, I had every right to be there.
But on a personal level, an off-handed statement about my marital status made me feel as if I'd been sifted, like wheat from its chaff. While there were a few people who'd lost spouses and partners, I was the only one who had never been married. Once again, I was Other.
Were they trying to understand why I was single? Did they assume it was my choice or I had some fatal flaw? Or did they guess I hadn't met the right person yet?
It wasn't the first time someone told me they didn't understand my singleness, nor has it been the last. Each time dredges up old feelings of insecurity and doubt. Each time I cast off the lies and replace them with truth.
I'm “still” single because I am.
Singleness has its perks. Marriage has its perks. Neither status is better than the other.
God is using me mightily in this season of my life.
If I never get married, my life will have meaning and value regardless.
Rest assured, each spring I'll be cheering on my White Sox and come fall I'll be serving up chili with doughnuts. You can count on that.