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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Judgement Daze

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM

I'm a 47-year-old heterosexual male, never married, no kids, and single for many years now. I've always appreciated your statements on the podcast that there isn't someone for everyone. I also agree with your statement it's impossible to give the undateable useful dating advice, and I'm not asking for such advice here.

I've never wanted kids, and over the last few years I've made peace with the fact I've been alone a long time, and will likely be alone for many more years. I have a good job, I have friends, hobbies, I go out and enjoy myself. I recognize my life is pretty good, and I'm grateful for what I have. I'm not shutting the door completely on love, but I'm working on not beating myself up over not being partnered.

So what's the problem? The opinion of everyone else in the world.

It comes across in many ways. A co-worker gets married, then has a child, and everyone talks how this is achievement—like marriage and children are items you accumulate. Someone mutters "He's X years old and unmarried—is he gay or a serial killer?" I was listening to another popular podcast where the host and guest discussed how many times they'd both been married and then the host suggests if you're over 40 and have never been married "something is wrong with you!" Well, I'm far from perfect but I see nothing wrong with me that isn't wrong with married folks with kids. My personal pet peeve is people who tell me I just haven't grown up. Excuse me? I'm a child because I don't have kids? I can give myself all the pep talks in the mirror, but society keeps telling me that being old and single indicates some horrific personality flaw that wipes out any positive qualities. I get it: People judge. We all judge. It's human nature. But having the value of my entire existence boiled down to whether I have a romantic partner or offspring just sticks in my craw.

My question then is simple: Is this constant feeling of being judged just something I have to live with? Do you have some thought or insight on this?

Single Not A Psycho

My response after the jump...

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There isn't someone for everyone—I've been saying that for years (much to the consternation of some readers (mostly partnered ones (it's always the partnered who seem most invested in seeing others live in false hope)))—so single people are well advised to build lives for themselves that are rich and rewarding (meaningful work, good friends, hobbies) whether or not they expect to remain single all their lives.

Because, hey, there's a chance you might be single all your life. And even if you happen to be partnered now—and forgive me for being morbid—there's a 50% chance that you'll outlive your partner. Your partner could die decades from now or your partner could be dead right now and the authorities haven't been able to reach you yet. Since the odds are good that you're going to wind up single again at some point... you're going to want that rich and rewarding shit to fall back on, right?

Okay, SNAP, you have a good job, you have plenty of friends, and you have hobbies and activities you enjoy—it sounds like you're doing everything right. The only missing piece is the ability tune out the unfair, harsh, irrelevant, and sometimes imagined judgement of others. It might help to bear in mind that partnered people and parents come in for their (un)fair share of judgment and disapproval. The same coworkers who were cooing approvingly over your married colleague's first child will turn around and judge your coworker for vaccinating that kid or failing to vaccinate that kid; for letting that kid to eat too much junk food or for giving that kid food issues by limiting that kid's junk food consumption; for homeschooling that kid or for not homeschooling that kid; for raising that kid in the wrong faith or for not raising that kid in any faith at all.

And I gotta say... unless those expressions of delight at the birth of a coworkers child come bundled with shitty comments about you being single and childless, SNAP, your coworkers weren't judging you. Those comments weren't about you and there's no reason to make them about you—unless you enjoy making yourself miserable.

As for anyone who would tell that you haven't grown up or that being single and middle aged makes you a creep or a serial killer... fuck those people. Don't listen to them. If I can tune out the millions of motherfuckers out there who tell me that I'm sick and sinful and perverse and unnatural and "intrinsically disordered" for being gay, SNAP, you can tune out the odd idiot podcaster or boundaryless asshole who tries to make you feel shitty about being alone.

Finally, SNAP, I think you should read these two recent-ish books: Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo and Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg. DePaulo and Klinenberg will show you that you're not alone in being alone and they'll arm you with arguments you can use against anyone who tries to make you feel shitty about being alone.

Good luck.

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