"We raise girls to see each other not as competitors; not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are."
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nineteen years is a long time to be single, huh.
As a writer, I've always been interested in the business of reading about, creating and writing about multi-faceted women.
Which is actually astonishingly difficult, because even though I am surrounded by beautiful, intelligence, fiercely independent and complex women, the media and subsequently our society insists on viewing and treating women in a narrow range of one-dimensional stereotypes that consist entirely of tired cliches and characterizing women in the context of their relationships, or lack thereof, with men.
And it's fucking bullshit.
One thing that's stung me the most is this idea that single women are 'on the shelf'; there are many lovely terms for us ladies, including but not limited to 'leftover girl' and 'yellowed pearls'. The thinking here is that women are incomplete without men, and that all women really aspire to, at the end of the day, are romantic heterosexual relationships, suburban marriages, and changing diapers.
Single women are unsexy and sexless; because if they were sexy, they'd find someone to wine and dine with, and heaven forbid a woman look at a man without being lured in by a shiny ring. Single women are, apparently, not only deprived of the only thing that gives their life meaning - a man - but also sex. I've always found it hilarious that we don't see single men as these sad pathetic childless people who are never getting laid. We view single women as being on the shelf because we can't wrap our heads around the idea that good girls would get off the damn shelf and find a pretty person at a club just like boys do; we can't imagine women wanting any kind of sex that isn't romantic anniversary face-holding sex, and we can't fathom ladies who want relationships that aren't of the somewhat-permanent marriage variety.
In heteronormativity, guys do the asking out. Guys do the proposing. Girls just stay put and let it happen. When we view male sexuality as strictly aggressive and female sexuality as strictly passive, it's easy to see single women as being single because nobody wants them, rather than looking at the whole plethora of reasons why anyone of any age or any gender is, at the moment, not spoken for. We are afraid of women who resist this imposed passivity; which is why when you're single, you can either be a fat sad virgin or a fucking slut.
Our fear of female sexual agency and this need to view single women as needy or incomplete has led to the weirdest kind of rivalry that has, in my experience, even managed to penetrate the most rebelliously feminist circles; the Crazy Single Bitch Trying to Steal My Boyfriend.
You can't steal anybody, because nobody owns anybody. It's not like your boyfriend is a parrot in a cage and I casually broke into your house and whoop, it's mine now. That's not how human relationships work.
Also, I don't want your damn parrot.
Single women, even the most cynical, bitter, twisted sort, are not looking for boyfriends. Any idiot can get a boyfriend. Most women, just like most normal people, are looking for a person or people who make them feel safe, loved and secure; we're looking for spark and chemistry and affection, not some trophy to drag around to pretentious cocktail parties. If I wanted just any old boyfriend, I could go out and find one within ten minutes; I'm not especially hideous or exceptionally stupid, so why not? If all I wanted a *boyfriend*, if my only criteria was 'under 70 and preferably male', I wouldn't be single.
When you're looking for a sweet, smart, partner who is committed to you, other people's boyfriends is not a great place to look because they are, at least in theory, already committed to someone else, which is kind of a deal breaker if monogamy is your thing. Yes, maybe I could make your boyfriend leave you, maybe for good, maybe just for a night. But you can't make someone leave if they want to stay, and, at any rate, why would I want to? If someone can break one heart, they can break a thousand, and I'm not looking for a cheater no matter how perfect his abs are. If you really think your boyfriend is so easily distracted your problem is with your man, honey, not with me.
In a world that privileges romantic relationships, people in these relationships simultaneously feel superior and ferociously insecure. Because there are so many thirsty, incomplete women out there who want to take your perfect white picket fence life away from you. THEY'RE ALL OUT TO GET YOU.
Single women don't want your boyfriends. If he's your boyfriend, he didn't want any of those other single women. That's how this shit works. We move on to hit the clubs and give ourselves RSI dancing to Single Ladies, and you're supposed to move on and create a relationship for yourself instead of stressing that every vagina within 100 miles of your new man is some irresistible slip up waiting to happen.
The worst offenders, of course, are the girls who date your ex, or that really temperamental friend, or that guy you once liked, or your abuser, or the girlfriend you didn't know your boyfriend actually had. The narratives of single women that also involve men are notoriously few and far between, mostly because single women who have men in their lives are sluts; or crazy homewreckers. There are girls who are so ferociously insecure about their perfect relationships that anything you say or do that is in any way vaguely connected to the man they're swapping saliva with is read as a declaration of war. Guess what, honey, your bae was a dick to me and I'm going to tell the world. It doesn't mean I want him; Jesus Christ, you can keep him. But I'm going to talk, and you're going to have to deal.
If you're with someone, and I'm not with someone, there is a good reason. Unrequited love, incompatibility, 'hey, I love you, but kind of like a brother if you weren't white', I like my own company and I hog the blankets, nobody digs my noodle fetish, whatever. There are millions or reasons why people are single and 'not good enough' ain't one of them, with the sole exception of Robin Thicke and MRAs. Singleness in a woman isn't a failure, or a lack of anything but receiving some fucking respect from a society that thinks that you need a man, or would kill to get one.