I asked ten men about being single, and here’s what they said…
Well, the title is a little bit of a teaser, and a little misleading.
What really happened is that I asked ten male friends about why women always dominate the conversation around singleness or singlehood. We always seem to be the ones who author the books (Spinster, The Single Woman, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date etc.), we always seem to be the ones who sing the songs (Single Ladies, Single, Soulmate etc.), and we always seem to be the ones on the talk shows or receiving advice (He’s Just Not That Into You, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man)…
Whereas in other topics or on other subjects (sex, education, finance, tax, foreign policy etc.) the male perspective is prevalent (or at least audible), why do we seldom hear male voices on the subject of singleness specifically? That was the gist of my inquiry. For once, I humbly wanted this blog post to be my humble contribution to and the male perspective in that conversation.
So I put it out there. I conducted a completely unofficial and unscientific survey. Ten men. All single. Some Christian. Some not. Some heterosexual. Some not. Some with a colourful relationship history. Some without. In a Facebook message. Four people responded (and, come to think of it, those who responded were (and still are, thank goodness) all Christian men around the age of 32, interestingly enough). So I got a response rate of 40%. I wasn’t surprised, kinda expected it and didn’t take it personally. In fact, it proved my hypothesis (more about this later).
Here’s what I sent them one sunny Saturday morning:
I was at Chapters-Indigo this week and I saw a book titled Spinster. The author was a woman (of course). It got me thinking…
Why is it that whenever there is an article or book that talks about being single, it is almost inevitably written by a woman? Books about being single are almost always written by women. From what I’ve seen, men don’t write articles encouraging other men in their season of singleness. It seems like the conversation about being single (unlike many other conversations of our day) is dominated by women. Why is that? Why are women the only people talking about being single (or their relationship struggles) even though these experiences are common to both sexes? Why don’t men write about being single? Why don’t men talk about being single? Do you all not struggle? Does/did being single ever bother you? Does being single bother women more than it bothers men (because, by looking at what’s out there, it would lead one to believe so). Are single men really doing so well that they have nothing to say or share or add to the conversation? Don’t y’all have complaints and concerns too?
Is it really only attributable to the fact that women face different societal pressures than men? Is it really only because women typically like to have these female “pow wows” and get-togethers to express themselves? Is it because women are more at ease at expressing themselves emotionally and men are typically not so open? Or is there more?
I want to explore this further. I’d like to write a blog post on the subject, so I’ve convened all of you – single, intelligent men whom I respect — to respond to the above questions (and if you’re not currently single, surely you’ve been single at some point in your adult life). I’ve chosen you all because of your diversity of life experiences (at least from what I know of you). I’m also asking you all these questions specifically because I know that you will put some thought into your answer and not just say something trite like, “…Umm…women like to talk about their problems and men just don’t do that.” I’m looking for depth and analysis. Your response doesn’t have to be long. Your responses will be anonymous as far as the blog is concerned (unless you tell me otherwise). In terms of context, you can be as candid as you want or simply gloss over your relationship history – although, I have found, that candour tends to resonate more with readers. If you have nothing to say or don’t want to participate, I’d respect that too. I suppose that if you don’t respond, that would prove my point, but I would really like to hear whatever insight you have on the subject.
If you know of any other men who would be interested, would you let me know?
There is no remuneration, except my continued respect and a high five if and when I see you.
You can respond to this message or send me a personal message or send me a text or send me an e-mail.
Thanks in advance!”
Okay, so I admit…it was a long message. I’ve never been known for brevity.
As promised, they responded with candour in exchange for anonymity.
Some men (bless their hearts) misunderstood the question and did not know what I was getting at (maybe because of the length of my message???). So, instead, they just talked about why they are single or what it’s like to be a single person. I appreciated the insight nevertheless:
“For me, honestly, it is a money issue. It has a lot to do with how I make a living… Im not making alot of money as a [legal professional] and I have more debts than assets. and I dont exactly have an extravagant lifestyle… my professional fees are gobbling up my money. It’s sad to say, but I don’t make enough to have that much of a social life.”
He seemed to echo what I have come to understand is a concern for many men: men don’t typically look for a serious relationship unless they are financially stable. For men, career, ambition and wealth-accumulation, at least in the beginning, often seem to take precedence over changing their relationship status.
Another guy friend said:
“Hi Simone! being single as a guy changes from person to person. Some guys are super lonely and don’t get out much to interact with ppl. On the other hand I love [heading] out and interacting! Single life isn’t so bad at all! You’re always meeting new girls, who all have interesting stories and funny habits! It really helps justify what you want and don’t want in a girl. And find out what meshes well of not. I think what happens often in churches is that ppl have this belief that you’ll only date one girl or guy and bam— get married! Completely unreasonable. By meeting many ppl you get to know what your options are and you really develop your personal skills so when the right girl comes along you don’t end up fudging it by being super awkward since you have barley any experience in talking to girls or dating them. I see this happen often with guys in the church. tis sad indeed. I’d love to do a men’s ministry thing where we talk about social situations in dating as a Christian guy. Even start a blog about the adventures!!! Muahahhahahahh *evil laugh. Enjoy.!!!”
So, it seems that some guys, despite their actions to the contrary, actually do want a relationship, whereas other guys enjoy the single life and what they have been able to make of it.
And yet, no one would know that unless they were asked… We women tend to spill our guts and have no qualms about lamenting our single fate. Men don’t seem to do this, even though we both seem to have problems meeting the right person (or do we?). I still wondered, “Why?”
The response from another one of my male friends seemed to encapsulate the dilemma:
“I have both personal and observational responses to your questions. Personally, I have been single the majority of my adulthood. When I was younger, this was a source of a lot of angst. It seemed nearly impossible to find someone I was compatible with; in part because I wasn’t sure what that meant besides someone who was not too feminine; who liked sports, etc. I went to the clubs and bars (where gay men tend to meet) and grew weary of the tired scene of segregated groups, singles posed against the walls, looking desperate while trying desperately not to (all the while sneering at anyone who said hello that didn’t match whatever it was they were looking for).
When I matured and stopped “looking” (and especially in bars), I STILL had no luck. Internet dating yielded mixed results, but nothing that stuck and I got tired of the empty dates. Eventually I just came to deal with being single, as many of my friends were, anyway. I have very few close gay friends, most of them single with the notable exception of a couple I know who’ve been together for 17 years, and it’s not something we really talk about. It’s a muted fact of life. My straight (girl) friends, and a few guys, have questioned my singleness (for lack of a better word) as they felt I had qualities that they found would be attractive to others. I never had an answer for them. Nor for myself. I don’t know if my “situation” bothered me, per se. I would have liked to date someone, but not at the expense of my tastes. If anything I was frustrated.
[…] It’s still relatively new, being single again, and I do miss being in a couple a little more this time than before; but it’s nothing I feel down about. I’m hopeful and more confident, if anything. I haven’t talked with anyone about it, and am finding it difficult even now. Maybe it is a guy thing not to obsess about the single life; well, to not do so in a showy way: to talk about it, share it; just silently pine…which is so like me.
From observation, in the black community, outside of the church (generally), for men to be single doesn’t seem a big deal as long as they have children…otherwise, people talk. My own family is full of players and men who date around. If they do marry, it’s because they found a woman who’ll take care of them. Sounds harsh, but that’s what I see – especially in smaller towns like my hometown where, frankly, marriage rates are quite low in the black community compared with whites (however, I’ve also found class to play a prominent role, here). They’re not likely, however much they may feel, to talk about feeling lonely or wanting a relationship for fear of appearing weak. Most of the women I know here are single and not afraid to share frustration, advice and sentiments on men on FB or with each other and their gay friends, if they have one (and the gay men, single as the day is long, are more than happy to throw their two cents at the matter – I was once that person). The black men I know (now) who are looking for a wife and not afraid to share it tend to be more religious. It’s something I’ve watched growing up, especially in the church, where women have married men because they were available, churchgoing, only to find themselves divorced after a few years and tossed back into the pool, despite all the teachings, preachings and supplication because the men turned out to be no good to the point of even being physically abusive (in several cases), which may speak of a larger problem facing men and, in particular, black men and their ability to maintain a caring relationship.
Hmmm…do Black men know how to love? That would have to be a whole other topic for a whole other blog post, but it is worth mentioning. Do Black men expect subservience and obedience according to “scriptural interpretations” or what they have been taught about power and respect? Is the fact that Black men are so often disrespected (read: killed) in the streets that they, in an effort to re-assert their power, become tyrannical at home? Is it because they learned from example? Is it a combination of the above?
My friend went on to say:
[This] leads me to believe it’s cultural as opposed to regional or environmental (i.e., urban vs. small town; or black vs. white, though I find parallels in some Latino communities, as well). Should you enter a black (or Latino) barbershop on a Saturday, the talk will not be so much about being single as about how fine so-and-so is. Or sports talk. This doesn’t mean that behind the talk of looks, body, etc. there isn’t an underlying desire to couple up with said so-and-so on a deeper and higher level; it’s just that the tone of the conversation betrays anything beyond the purely physical. But that’s where it starts. Which shows itself in the clubs where men (single and attached) with their fresh cuts and clothes, smelling to the high heavens, pose and compete for women doing the same. What the two sides are after is an evolutionary question, the approach, as well; it’s just that one side tends to be more willing, able, to talk freely about it.”
And I have to agree. I suppose my answer to my questions was hidden in the response – or lack thereof. Both men and women have their struggles and frustrations, but only women seem to be more comfortable or willing to talk about it, hence their domination of this subject.”
So women are more comfortable about talking about being single than men. That, I kind of figured. I admire the fact that my male friend above was brave enough to say that men too do have their problems in finding the right one, and it’s not just a difficulty for women worldwide. But, according to the next male friend who responded, the hurdles and issues that men face are vastly different from those of women:
“Overall, I think women generally seek solace in expression whereas men seek solace in solution.”
He explained and cited the video below:
I’ll let you be the judge of whether it’s true or not, and the judge of whether it’s funny!
So you asked quite a few poignant questions and I feel like I could write a book unpacking all of my thoughts for you…
(One of the most interesting things to note is the Bible’s take on desire… It doesn’t seem to note Adam noticing His singleness as opposed to God noticing it… Then even more interestingly, God un-mutually pronounces that Eve’s desire will be to her husband… just interesting thoughts)
Ok so, next you MUST watch this video:
If you did, you’ll understand a bit better why men currently tend to have a few more options and therefore their singleness is quite often a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends that are single for different reasons, some have too much choice others get too little attention, but the main thing is that guys don’t publicly discuss their issues for a bunch of reasons. Some of which include:
Pride: It can be construed that a guy doesn’t have a significant other because of the fact that he’s not “manning up” enough and therefore is single. The problem here is that in the secular mind there are quite a few of the opinion that there are few things as emasculating as expressing your area of weakness with other guys… “Guys don’t express a problem, you fix it.” You see how this can lead to a vicious cycle.
Sexuality: Again, based on the video and sticking with the secular mindset, you will see that while women are more often interested in the social aspects of relationships, quality time, romantic expression, working together & marriage, guys are, on the other hand, way more provoked sexually and unfortunately notice that lack more than females… Now add to that the fact the digital age provides men with means of (albeit negatively) satisfying themselves sexually with much less effort than yester-year; and what you have are a lot more sexually “satisfied” men with lowered EQ’s and less willingness to deal with the social ups and downs of relationships.
Privacy: I can definitely attest to the fact that guys talk about singleness quite a bit (especially me now as most of my male friends have recently gotten into relationships), but one of the unspoken bro-codes is not discussing too openly about why you are single. Sometimes it can be embarrassing for the guy and sometimes it can be embarrassing for the girls that might be interested in him, but there are bottom-line reasons why they can’t date that either party might have trouble dealing with, so as a result guys quite often keep that stuff on the down low.
In conclusion I’d say there’s definitely more to this conversation but as you need this pronto I shall wrap up my thoughts to what immediately came to mind. That said, I just want to say that there are MANY a secular and Christian man that can empathize with the ladies on the frustrations of singleness. [T]his is a fact. However, the main difference is how the genders deal with it.”
So there you have it folks. The initial e-mail sent out and this blog post are both case in point of how women communicate differently and tackle their problems differently from men. I, a woman, initiated this discussion — a discussion that I can’t imagine a man initiating. By just asking the question, I answered it.
We talk about these things not only because we are women, and women like to talk, but because we have been socialized to talk about these things. I always say that girls are raised to be wives and boys are raised to be men. Boys aren’t raised to be husbands, and we aren’t raised to be just women. We were raised on Easy Bake Ovens, fairy tales, Barbie and Ken, Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club books… in many ways we’ve been taught to talk about this. We’ve been taught to focus on our marital/relationship status, and to be vocal about it when it doesn’t go as planned. Men are simply not socialized similarly.
That said, just as many women are disgruntled over being single, many men are too. And, likewise, just as many women are happy about being single, many men are too. It’s just that only women talk about it. But it’s consoling to know that we all struggle in a similar fashion. In a strange way, despite our differences, we’re all in this together.