10 Interesting Aspects of Singleness That No One Talks About


I always click on articles that have “singleness” in the headline. Maybe because I’m single. Maybe because I secretly hope I’ll get some never-before-seen insight into my own psyche. Or learn how to catch a man, once and for all.

Instead, what I usually get is a very feelings-oriented person informing me that “singleness is hard.”

“You know, because your heart has deep longings and stuff.”

“But just trust in Jesus.”

“The right one will come along. Maybe. We hope.”

Okay, fine, but what about all the other interesting aspects of singleness? The things that are sometimes a struggle, and sometimes nice, and sometimes just things you have to deal with?

Here is my list of ten aspects of singleness that I find interesting, and wish people would talk about more.

(Disclaimer: These are coming from a very Mennonite, very female, very 26-year-old frame of reference.)

1. Being single at 26 is an entirely different ballgame than being single at 20.

…and, I’m assuming, being single at 32 and 47 and 63 are all distinctly different stages.

Between the ages of 18 and 23, my feelings of singleness were lumped in with a whole host of dubious feelings about life, identity, figuring out my future, etc. And though I felt single, I was young enough that the rest of the world didn’t necessarily label me as such.

23 on, I’ve felt more settled and sure of myself in general. At the same time, my “singleness” has become more of a core part of who I am in the eyes of the people around me. 

Most of this post will be focused on 23+ singleness, but before I get there, I have one thing to say about the 18-23 stage.

2. The hardest thing about being a 20-year-old single Mennonite female is deciding what to do with your future.

Okay, maybe not the hardest thing, but definitely a hard thing that people don’t talk about much.

Good jobs for females within the Mennonite community are scarce. Going outside the community is intimidating and requires a large time and money commitment, and, let’s face it, a decreased chance of finding a nice Mennonite boy to marry.

I like to talk to Mennonite girls about the possibility of going to college, and I see this struggle written all over their faces. Sure, if they’re going to be single, they want to have a job they love which pays decently. But if they’d happen to fall in love and get married, they don’t want to slave away to pay off student debt, they want to stay at home and raise babies.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a Mennonite girl who hasn’t had this struggle to one degree or another.

Now, on to the interesting and varied aspects of 23+ singleness. Such as…

3. Who’s pretty and who’s not pretty changes a lot between 20 and 26.

Honesty time: have you ever Facebook stalked that gorgeous girl whom all the boys liked when you went to Bible School together, only to discover that she’s had a few babies, wears an unflattering hairstyle, and, while not ugly or anything, looks, well, like a normal mom?

My pet theory is that the effortlessly beautiful girls got by on looks alone for so long that they never had to learn to present themselves to the best effect, and it came back to bite them as they aged. Other girls really blossomed in the latter half of their 20s. Obviously this isn’t true in every case, but my point is, the fact that the boys didn’t think you were cute when you were 20 doesn’t really mean anything when you’re 26, and I find that really interesting.

4. The older you get, the easier it is to figure out which guys are worth your interest and which guys aren’t.

I am convinced that people change as much between the ages of 18 and 23 as they do between the ages of 13 and 18. I look back on my pre-23 crushes and feel a palpable sense of relief that I never married them. But how could I have known at the time that we’d eventually disagree on so many key values?

When you’re 26, people have figured themselves out. The intellectual guys have gone to college, and the nice guys are helping out their community, and the lazy guys are living in their parent’s house and hopping from job to job. You can peg people easier. You don’t have to do as much guesswork about what they’ll eventually become.

5. Making big life decisions alone feels overwhelming.

This has been my most recent struggle with singleness.

Preparing to graduate college, a whole world of possibilities is open to me. I am overwhelmed. How will I ever decide?

“You know, these decisions become so much easier once you get married,” my mom says.

6. Always getting crushes is exhausting.

Staying single until I’m, say, 35, doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until I think about the crushes.

I can just imagine myself, 34 years old and crushing on the latest nice cute guy I met. “I’m too old for this,” I’ll think. “Crushes are for 16-year-olds. People were not meant to have crushes for eighteen straight years of their life. This is exhausting.

But the only other alternative is to not have feelings at all.

7. No one really knows what you’ve gone through, romantically.

If you’ve made it to 26 without getting married, chances are that something romantic has happened to you which you’ve felt deeply. The guy who you thought was interested, but never actually bothered to ask you out. The wonderful friend that DID ask you out, but you didn’t have feelings for him.

Some single girls have spent YEARS silently pining for guys who never noticed them. Some girls have had a far bigger heartbreak over the “unofficial” boyfriend than they ever did over the “official” boyfriend.

Yet few people really know about any of that, which is so interesting to me.

8. Everyone will try to figure out why you’re still single.

…as though there’s some mathematical formula that explains it. How come no one comes up with mathematical formulas to determine how certain people ever managed to get married at all?

This isn’t just a community thing, it’s something we do to ourselves. “Why am I not married?” I ask myself. I have multiple answers.

Answer 1: The guys I liked didn’t like me back, and vice versa.

Answer 2: Mennonite guys think I’m weird and college-y, and college guys think I’m weird and Mennonite-y.

Answer 3: I never wanted to get married as badly as I wanted to get my college degree.

Take your pick.

9. It’s hard for a single Mennonite to properly belong anywhere.

Life encircles some people like a protective womb. They are surrounded by people like them. I have to carve out a place for myself wherever I go.

This is fine. I like that I can hang out with 15-year-olds in the youth group even though I’m more than 10 years older, or with the married ladies even though I’m not married, or with grad students or international students or homeschoolers that host Pride and Prejudice-inspired dances because really, hanging out with people who aren’t like you is one of the great joys of life.

But sometimes it’s lonely, and exhausting, and I just want to belong somewhere once and for all.

10. You will probably eventually get married, statistically speaking.

But knowing for sure would make being single a lot easier.

This has been my last post of the April Blogging Challenge! Jenny posted on day 27 here, and Mom posted on day 26 here.

36 responses to “10 Interesting Aspects of Singleness That No One Talks About

  1. I think I could say amen to every one of these. Especially 3, 4, 6, and 7. This is definitely worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post! You explore the complexity of feelings about singleness/ marriage so well… my thought after 20 years of counseling women is… marriage doesn’t fix this… it just rearranges the problems… blessings for your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Appreciate your honesty! I think you spelled things out quite accurately.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is very interesting, and quite spot on. And number 3 is enough to make me sing praises that I’m still single. Hah. Please keep writing even as April ends!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amen to 6,8, and 9! About #6, I never want to live without emotions. I merely want to learn to guide my emotions. And #9 can be so exquisitely painful. I often felt suspended between three different worlds: the university, the community, and family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t belong to a Mennonite church anymore but I grew up Mennonite and this really hit home as I’m turning 30 next week and am single.
    Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so good! And being a 32 year old, single, Mennonite female I am probably in the next stage. The struggles are still there but for me they have changed more to the #’s 5, 8, 9. I made some big decisions with my parents guidance, bought a house which gives me a place that is mine and I can be me, I didn’t go to college but I have a job that I love and can support myself on. Find your place in the world, because there is one. It’s not always easy but find a job you enjoy because honestly we don’t know how long we will be working and if it’s gonna be 10 years you may as well enjoy those years.
    This has gotten long enough. 🙂 blessings to you as you journey, and know that you ARE NOT ALONE!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. WOW. You hit the nail on the head so many times here!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 🙂 being single and mennonite. I had an ‘unofficial” romance at a very young age. i was part of a pretty cool youth group, but i spent most of the time unconsciously comparing every possible candidate to the first “love of my life’ and toss them over my shoulder with an ‘eeh’. by twenty one, i was the oldest single person in the group. i had jobs.and we had great fun doing group activities on the weekends. during this time, i went through a great dissatisfaction with the way Mennonites view being single. I read apostle Pauls letter about single and married people and the things he said about being able to serve God better as a single person, because when you are married, responsibility to your family takes priority, and while it is a good priority, you won’t really be as free to be out in the trenches, freeing people from slavery, literally and figuratively. and God needs single people who can focus on the task at hand. but as mennonites, nobody trust single people to send them out to rescue the perishing, so they send family units, which is okay, but having been there as well, the family units serve best as a base from which to support and send out single, mature, soul burdened adults.

    I still feel that it is wrong to press the idea into our single young adults that thier ultimate calling is to get married. it is not. according to Paul, you should stay single as long as you can, work for God’s kingdom, but if you find some one, you should marry, it is better to marry than to burn. i had great intentions of returning to a certain country, setting up a children’s home to rescue children from awful situations, and lessen the chance of many being trafficked into slavery. but I got married at twenty four. I now have two children. I know my life isn’t over, and there is much i can do, but i cannot do what i could have done if i had pressed on with that vision.
    So with that experience, and knowledge, i refuse to be another Mennonite asking single people why they aren’t married yet, rather instead, encourage them to really take this time to get to know God, His Word, the Calling,maturing enough to know who they are and what they are about. and get out there and do until they find someone they love so much it would be better for them to marry than to burn. God bless you as a single person, I, for one, respect you as a mature adult, married or not:-)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is good! Right on. You seem to be able to put words to us single ladies’ feelings. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hmmm, all very interesting. I did a speed read here and could say much. I gotta agree, life is interesting and worth talking about.
    I’m 38 and single and it just gets more interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Emily, I ‘ be never met you but I like your blogs. Some are fun and some are insightful. This one is very insightful. Keep sharing your thoughts and keep having adventures and sharing them. Nancy English

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t know you but you pretty much got into my head here. I actually got married at 23 but it was after 4.5 years of college, which kind of bumped me into the 23+ category simply because I wasn’t involved in my Mennonite community much during that time. And then I became a widow at 26 which really messed with all the categories. I did remarry a year later, but to a non-Menno, which of course I am now.

    I am particularly happy to find this post because, having left the Mennonite culture, it’s so nice to find a well-meaning explanation for what I experienced, which isn’t quite understood by my current culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hah! Autocorrect has bitten me. I meant to say “well-stated,” not “well-meaning.” 😀

      (And now it got me again and changed it to “well-deserved,” so I guess you get to choose which you like best.)


  14. Jubilant Harmony

    It is clear to me that you are a profound voice within your community and I applaud you for this. Religious orthodoxy has a place in our world, and happily, usually, that place nurtures and nourishes the community members who follow the path. But young people in our world are suffering now from an indoctrination into a society in which the values implicit in your essay are sorely lacking. Here are some values that you embody that you don’t even have to mention because your audience, the religiously orthodox, “get it” without being told.

    You are virtuous, chaste, and modest.

    I am not religiously orthodox but I learned the hard way, through wantonness, lust, violence, and gluttony that my indoctrination into the culture sent me into a tailspin of self-loathing, isolation, and depression.

    But I have not turned to religious orthodoxy because I do not believe in myths and lies and control.

    If you feel caught between two worlds, imagine my situation.

    I am a refugee from the dominant culture that worships money, drugs, and genitalia above all things.

    And, as a gift from one of my wanton pairings, I received a child. She is now nine years old. And I cannot help her with the transition into adulthood she is about to make. Her friends all listen to the sluts on the videos and she will likely be getting advice about how to give blow-jobs before she is twelve years old.

    I am desperate for her to receive some of your nobility and grace without your obvious (and sad) religious brainwashing. I want to be able to reach her with ideas about virtue, chastity, and modesty without connecting those ideas to the dictum of an imaginary deity. I believe that virtue, chastity, and modesty are valuable because the reduce the suffering of people who can awaken the the lies inherent in the worship of money, drugs, and genitalia.

    You can write. I write too but I am already known as a novelist in a genre in which money, drugs, and genitalia are central themes. Yes, I am a hypocrite as well as a desperate refugee.

    And you are young and virtuous and just now gaining your own voice. Regardless of whether you find your perfect Menonite, I hope you will write essays and blog posts representing your solid values — but set these values free from the control of your orthodoxy, religion, and community! Live these values because they lead to greater self-respect and happiness. No man has ever come all over your face and neck. I do not want my daughter growing up into THAT world and would rather see the both of us perish in an awful pact than have her join the ranks of the tawdry sluts that stroll around in yoga pants reading about how to please men in their disgusting magazines.

    Please pardon if I have transgressed the bounds of decency. It just flows and I can’t stop it and this is why I make a living at writing about a world I hate. But you, Emily Smucker, have a gift, a light, that you can bring to young women, if you will disconnect all your sweetness from the lies that planted all the seeds. Please write about virtue, chastity, modesty and the rest in a way that that fans of Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift, and Sia can understand.


    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Non-Mennonites often react to Mennonites in one of two ways. Some people see them as these pure, undefiled, angelic beings. Some people see them as brainwashed, under the thumb of a terrible patriarchy. I think you’re the first person I’ve ever come across who believes both lies simultaneously. Remember: We are human. There are beautiful parts to our culture, and broken parts to our culture, and in the end, some of us decide to leave and some of us decide to stay. Nevertheless, the parts of my culture that you like and the parts that you don’t like are both real, and I’m going to write about both, because that’s my experience.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I found it very interesting.


    • every tree (ie. virtue, etc..)grows from a specific seed(worldview). it cannot grow from another. if you like the tree you should explore understanding the seed better. it’s true that there are a lot of false characatures and lies out there to confuse people about the true seed. it will take much effort and an open heart.


    • I agree with Jeb. You cannot separate the things you admire about Emily (chastity and modesty) from the source of what gives her those values (her relationship with God).
      I for one would never have been able to resist succumbing to the same type of lifestyle you describe if it hadn’t been for my relationship with God, choosing to do what I knew pleased Him rather than what pleased me. That relationship was my moral anchor. Believe me, sometimes it felt like an intense internal battle between what I wanted and wanting to be what He wanted. Thankfully He always won out.


  15. I read your article at 3 a.m. when a thunderstorm woke me up and decided, “I’ll wait to comment til the storm of comments rolls in.” Hee hee.
    Yes for #1, especially because whatever motherly desires did not appear pre-college, sometimes in your late 20s, you get these surprising longings for your own “home” and a white picket fence. (Weird for people who never though they were “that girl.”)
    You’re right that #3 is never talked about (at least single people probably don’t discuss this WITH married people. I’ve definitely been in conversations with single people who talk about kids who “got married and got fat.”) I was never sure if this happens simply because our bodies change A LOT in our 20s (and a lot of people get married in their 20s), if it has to do with the problems of learning to cook healthfully (for just two), or if people, once they get their catch, decide that it’s safe to let just a little bit hang out.
    And yeeees for #9. Sometimes I feel very comfortable with singleness, but I find that my community just ISN’T comfortable with it. (Not helped by the fact that I work primarily with starry-eyed teenagers, longing for love and relationship). In the past, the vitriolic reactions I’ve had from young people when I’ve suggested that single living isn’t that bad (and may even be preferable during the teen years and early 20s) have been surprising.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a quick comment on #3. Married women also notice friends from our early twenties that have changed appearances. And I think most of us come to the same conclusion as Emily. The fact that boys did or did not think you were pretty doesn’t matter very much and find that comforting and interesting. However, I do think Emily, your pet theory is incorrect, as well as the ideas of health cooking and catching your guy so you let things go. These are things that from my experience, only single women or men normally say. Our appearances change primarily from two biological facts. The point you made here that out bodies start noticeable aging near the end of our twenties, due to our metabolism starting to slow, etc. And bearing and birthing children. The changes to a women’s body with childbearing are shockingly permanent and complex. Getting married and having children chances our personality SO MUCH LESS than single women often think, but our bodies DO change in ways beyond our control. Even our crazy hair is often because we are physical exhausted. So when we hear single women or men, ascribe personality/character changes to why our bodies have changes it doesn’t sit well

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I am 23, so I am just moving into the stage of singleness you are writing about, and I really like that you don’t just say all the thing that every article about singleness says. I kind of feel like crying reading this, because it can feel very lonely to be a single girl in a Mennonite community. Hearing that the things I am feeling are not just me is very comforting in a way. So, Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Very accurate! I’ve been thinking over the whole “no one knows what you’ve been through romantically one” a lot lately. Because, even though I’ve never officially dated, I feel like I’ve been through a few borderline dating relationships…but I can’t tell anyone about them because “I’m a good Mennonite and I should keep a tight reign on my feelings.” I’m 25, and I get the whole “Why – are – you-single?” guessing game one too. It has always frustrated me! Thanks for putting words to the things I’ve been thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I always click on articles that have ‘singleness’ in the headline. Maybe because i am single. This post was not what i expected to find on my FB newsfeed. Interesting reading here. Each of the ten aspects make sense. Some i can relate to, even being non-mennonite, male and 40- something. Being single is the default. It is how we enter the world, so i would think that society in general would treat singles better and understand them. That we would belong somewhere. But i guess not.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Enjoyed your comments, Emily, and found them to be pretty true as well. I am a Mennonite almost 40, single, professional. I have always been very goal oriented and find great fulfillment in my career. And although there have been men in my life who would have been willing to try to walk with me to discover the right work-family balance for our situation other elements that were important to me were missing. And so single I remain.
    As I reached 30 the uncertainty is what really got to me. I had lived the last 12 years of my life half expecting that at any juncture any plans I had made would all get over-turned. I always made plans with that awareness in the back of my mind. Finally at 30 I threatened to just take a vow of celibacy. That way the decision would be made once and for all and this nagging uncertainty and suspense would be over. 🙂
    As my siblings have married and started families in their 30s I’ve mourned that I will not be giving my parents the wonderful and much-coveted gift of grandchildren. But I think it bothers me more than it does them.
    It has gotten easier as I’ve gotten older. For one there are fewer guys to have crushes on. 🙂 And making big decisions independently gets easier with practice. At this stage that is much more complicated for my married friends who have to take their children’s welfare into consideration.
    But would you believe I STILL have some people who upon hearing my single status say, “Don’t worry! You’re still a baby! You still have lots of time.” I’m not worried. I know I am single. I’m fine with that. From a child-bearing standpoint I don’t still have lots of time. It isn’t what I thought would happen. It isn’t what I would have chosen as a 20-year-old. But looking back I have no regrets. It would be great if others would be okay with that, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Patricia Petersheim

    This is interesting, Emily. I was single for 29 years and married for 15. I get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. One question. Was that bouquet thrown over the brides shoulder?


  22. That’s ok, I wasn’t expecting a graph or trajectory model of the bouquet in flight, or if you had to jump to catch it.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. As a 27 yr old single, Mennonite girl, I get this! All your points are spot on, but I smiled when I saw #6 because that is so true! Thanks for writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Just thought you might like to know that somebody printed this out and it’s being passed around the girls dorm here at Faith Builders. We are all laughing and sighing over it appreciatively. 🙂 You write with power and truth.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Rose Zimmerman

    Love it! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thanks, Emily, for writing a more practical commentary on singleness, that doesn’t presume I am miserable in my current unattached state, nor that my be-all, end-all plan for serving God is wifedom and motherhood. (Though I figure that if motherhood is my calling, God will make it happen one way or another, husband or no. Adoption, fostering, mentoring–there are so many ways to be practical family for a young person, that I’m not worried. )
    Whilst I don’t fit into the 23+ category yet, as I look around and see more and more of my peers in relationships or (gasp!) getting married, and as I become more independent, I do notice myself wanting to be wanted more frequently. However, I don’t want to live my life always staring wistfully towards the next thing, so I am determined to be deeply content with where I am and with what I have.
    That being said, yes, getting crushes is exhausting, especially when the nice fellow in question proves his lack of interest by getting himself a girlfriend. And then marrying her. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Pingback: August 2017 Life Update | The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots

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