A New York City university recently offered continuing-education students a course on "Living Single."
"Now, more than at any other time, the single lifestyle is viewed as a viable, desirable choice for men and women," read the course description. "Whether they find themselves single again, or single still, many adults are not completely comfortable flying solo--or confident in their ability to do it successfully. Topics include: viewing the contemporary world; relating to couples; the dating scene, how to be part of it (or not); and battling the blues that sometimes arise. Enrich your life with resources on what to read, pursue, reflect on, and talk about to gain confidence with single living."
As a final note, the description added, "No grades are given for this course."
Phew! What a relief. After getting your certificate in "Living Single," wouldn't you hate to have to confess to some guy you met in a bar that you got a C-minus in "viewing the contemporary world"?
Seriously, as I read that course description touting "the single lifestyle," it all seems to boll down to a single word: lack.
The paradigm for modern singlehood is yin without yang. The modern single woman's goal is to relate to men from a single perspective, and to have fulfilling relationships with them without ever becoming part of anything larger than herself. As my parents' generation would have said, she is on her own trip.
For a woman with the least bit of longing for something deeper, this modern-singlehood rut ultimately devolves into the familiar Bridget Jones merry-go-round revolving around the hope that the ever-distant Mr. Darcy will come along one day and stop the music. I find the whole mind-set terribly stifling, and I think most other single women do too--they certainly complain about it enough. Yet, most seem helpless to find an alternative.
The truth is that there is another way, but most women don't want to think about it. It's scary to get off the merry-go-round while it's still spinning. Sometimes, however, it's the only way to get off a ride to nowhere.
A woman with the courage to step out into the unknown, risking temporary loneliness for a shot at lasting joy, is more than a "single." She's singular. Instead of defining herself by what she lacks--a relationship with a man--she defines herself by what she has: a relationship with God.
A single woman bases her actions on how they will or won't affect her single, lacking state. She goes to parties based on whether or not there will be new men to meet--if there won't, then the food and drink had better be first-class. She chooses female friends who likewise define themselves as single and lacking, thus reinforcing her own cynicism. But a singular woman bases her actions on how they will enable her to be the person she believes God wants her to be. If she longs to be married, she trusts that God has a plan for her and that a husband is part of that plan. Moreover, she trusts that God will provide all that He has planned for her if she follows His will for her life, making the best use of the gifts she has been given. She'll still enjoy parties and meeting people--but as ends in and of themselves, not just as a means of finding a man.
A single woman, in seeking a husband, feels the need to act in a coy, sly, or deceptive manner--even if she normally would never think of intentionally misleading someone. Somehow to be cagey to a man within the parameters of a budding relationship doesn't seem wrong to her. Likewise, she accepts a level of superficiality from a man she's dating that she wouldn't tolerate from her friends. She's not stupid--she just loses perspective when facing the possibility of a relationship. Her brain compartmentalizes dating into its own relative morality--"all's fair in love and war."
A singular woman behaves with an honesty and lack of guile that will appear arresting to the love interest who expects a superficial relationship--as well it should. With her words and actions, she is speaking a deeper language, one that can be understood only by the kind of man for whom she longs--one of integrity. Such a man will understand that the singular woman's straightforwardness and absence of pretense is rooted in deep respect for him as a fellow child of God. For example, Miss Singular is not going to suggest to her love interest that he faces competition for her if no such competition exists. She expects him to be equally truthful in return.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between a single woman and a singular woman is one of gratitude. Because she defines herself by her lack, the single woman is plagued with a sense of sadness and resentment at what she doesn't have. When positive things happen in her life, she may be thankful, but she may just as well respond with a sense of entitlement--"At last, I'm getting what everyone else has."
The singular woman not only expresses more gratitude than the single woman, but she also expresses it for different things. She's not just grateful for things she receives, but for the opportunities she has to give. She knows in her heart the spirit of G. K. Chesterton's words: "The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."
Being single places you in a mind-set where you are measured by what you do, whether good or bad--how well you are able to attract men, acquire friends, make money, say witty things, and put forth other social commodities. Ultimately, your capacity in these areas is finite; you can do only so much before you've exhausted your resources. The world may say you can never be too rich or too thin, but all it takes is a look at celebrities' love lives to see that wealth and slenderness don't guarantee happiness. (That's not to say I wouldn't be very happy to squeeze into the size 6 silver 1960s minidress I bought for $45 on what turned out to be the only day of my life that I ever weighed under 115 pounds.)
To be singular is to embark on a wide excursion of discovery. No more is your identity limited to qualities that can be defined by the checkoff boxes in an online personal ad. It's no longer what you do--but who you are. Prayerfully, you strive to develop inner qualities--like empathy, patience, humility, and faith in spite of hardship.
Such a transition is not easy especially when your temptation around an attractive man is to shift back into your single self. There's a comforting familiarity in interacting with others on a superficial level and knowing that they will interact with you in the same way. But I can tell you from experience that the more you develop a singular identity, the more confident you will become around men and in every area of your life, because you will be comfortable in your own skin.
I spent many years of my life being single. I have nothing to show for it except the ability to toss my hair fetchingly and a mental catalog of a thousand banal things to say to fill the awkward, unbearably lonely moments between having sex and putting my clothes back on. You never see those moments in TV or movies, because they strike to the heart of the black hole that casual sex can never fill.
Now that I'm singular, I understand why the popular culture tries so relentlessly to define single women as superficial, libidinous singles rather than deep singulars who value marriage enough to hold out for it. To be singular is to understand the meaning of chastity and chastity by its very nature goes against the popular culture's beliefs regarding sex and choice.
The culture tells us unmarried women that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to act on our sexual desires--all the way. We only have to take the right precautions--physical ones, like using a condom--and we are "safe." What is abnormal, and even destructive, in the eyes of the culture, is to resist such desires, especially if we are doing so for moral reasons. The concept of deferring pleasure makes no sense in a consumer society where we are told we must take something when it's offered or risk its going off the market. Men come and go like buses, we're told--but we're warned that the next one may not be such a good ride.
In light of such social prejudices, a singular woman is a revolutionary Think about it: All it takes is one unmarried woman to live a dynamic, well-rounded, and happy life while avoiding premarital sex, and the culture's image of the drab spinster crumbles like a house of cards. That's why being singular is so exciting. It's an act of open rebellion--liberating you from an oppressive culture.