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.