I was babysitting an 11-year-old girl a short time ago, and while I was tucking the duvet under her legs and cocooning her in the sheets, we talked about love.
The conversation centered on "Twilight," the open book on her bedside table.
Specifically, it was what she had learned about love from reading the series (twice) that focused the conversation.
Somehow, the conversation spun around to her experiences of love with her boyfriend. She assured me they weren’t in love, but it was definitely like love.
She asked me if I'd had a boyfriend at her age, and I replied, "No. At 11, I was still trying to figure out how to jump off a swing at its highest point without hurting my ankle when I landed."
She nodded thoughtfully, perhaps wondering what sort of 11-year-old chills at parks, then asked if I had a current boyfriend. Again, "No." Her little button nose crinkled. She cocked her head to the side and asked, "Why?"
Being a single woman in your 20s is, for many of us, not a big deal.
A partner doesn't define my happiness or success, and my job, coursework, friends and family are great, thanks for asking.
Being single for a short or long time, by choice or by circumstance, is okay.
Yet, it seems that at times, a woman at a certain age is expected to be in a relationship (or at least be dating someone).
Here are seven encounters — all irritating, all imposing — that may resonate with single, 20-something women.
1. Questioning your sexuality
If I had a dollar every time someone questioned my sexuality, I’d have four dollars.
For those of us who are more tentative when it comes to relationships, it can mean there isn’t a remarkable list of them.
This spikes some people’s curiosity and leads them to ask questions like, "Is she gay?"
This, of course, is only relative to heterosexual women. It’s as though some people need a reason for why you’re not in a serious relationship or even searching to light the sparks of one.
Someone even asked me outright if I might be gay because I said I hadn't dated anyone for a while.
There is nothing wrong or shameful about being gay; what made me narrow my eyes was the reasoning behind it.
I couldn’t be single because I wanted to be — oh no — it had to be because I wasn’t being honest about my sexuality.
2. The ongoing pursuit of happiness
There are a few hopeless romantics who mean no harm when they ask if I'm happy being alone.
It comes down to a difference of perspective instead of malice when these few people can’t easily understand my current single state.
Happiness, however, is in a constant state of flux. It’s not a fixed, static feeling, but rather, one that ebbs and flows. No one is happy all of the time.
Loneliness is a treacherous monster that snaps at contentment here and there, but people both in and out of relationships are never permanently happy. We’re human; it just doesn’t work that way.
A charming man on a white horse won't tear me from my misery because being single doesn't make me feel miserable.
So, yes, as much as is humanly possible, those who aren’t partnered up are happy.
3. Explaining emotional availability
Sometimes, you’re not ready for a relationship. Maybe it’s because of the lingering sting of an ex-lover, or a choice to live life solely on your own terms for a while. Whatever the case, single people aren’t constantly scouting for potential partners.
Explaining this to some people can be arduous. It's a tedious conversation where their lips mouth, "I understand," but their pinched eyebrows and bitten bottom lips show sympathy no one wants to receive.
It’s a questioning of your emotional availability, a "he must have hurt her really badly" internal explanation.
We’re emotionally available, and frankly, it’s a little presumptuous to assume otherwise.
4. Learning to cope without frequent sex
Fun fact: If you desire, sex can happen outside of a romantic relationship. A reasonable response to anyone who asks you about this is, "How are you coping with my glass of water dripping down your face?"
It's just damn rude if anyone but a close friend brings this up.
5. "I wonder why she’s single?"
This is a fun game — it’s where people subtly assess you in order to determine why you’re single. There are no winners, just friendly humiliation.
Some of my own friends have received this from distant family members: "Maybe if you weren’t so headstrong, you’d be more approachable."
It’s like a game of "pin the tail on the flaws that might be hindering romantic prospects."
6. "Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone soon."
My blood boils so much at this comment that all I’d need is a kettle full of water and I’d be making my own tea.
It’s intended to be a kind, warm gesture of reassurance, an offer of comfort or a hug in the form of words, not a mean-spirited jab.
It’s a difficult conversation to navigate because of its sincerity, yet it makes whomever is on the receiving end distinctly uncomfortable.
The person feels as though he or she has to politely defend him or herself.
Of course, there are people who appreciate these words, but more often than not, it feels like unnecessary pity.
7. "You must have a lot of free time..."
This one, I’ve found, comes from acquaintances who act as though they’re somehow superior for being in committed relationships.
Sure, people in relationships have to juggle their partners in conjunction with friendships, work, family and so on, but rest assured, single people are not idly sitting by, twiddling their fingers and daydreaming about having stuff to do.