Unsolicited sympathy

I mentioned yesterday that I had my first knitting class on Monday. A friend was teaching two of us to knit over hot chocolates and a catch up in a book cafe, and it was very pleasant.

Once I had mastered casting on and while (rather unevenly) weaving wool around my needles, I mentioned that I am currently half way through Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. After giving some initial thoughts (which I will save for later for you) we started to talk about female stereotypes and my fellow knitting pupil said something I wanted to share with you.

“I am really fed up with receiving unsolicited sympathy for being a single woman in my mid thirties”, she said. “If my friend is in a loveless marriage, that is socially acceptable, but somehow the fact that I am very happy yet single is an uncomfortable proposition for people.”

I had to agree with her. I am usually a bit of a serial singleton, totally happy in my free-to-be-selfish state. However, for the last few months I have been happily paired up with a very socially acceptable man and it’s made me realise how much easier this state of couple-ness sits with people.

The friend in question has, in the past, been paired up at dinner parties with a spectacularly pear shaped man (“have you ever *seen* a pear shaped man?” she asked… “very odd.”) And her friend doing the pairing up seriously thought that she would be grateful for the partnership.

If she was a man of the same age, would she experience the same misplaced societal sympathies? Is an adult of any gender going solo seen as someone who hasn’t yet achieved their life’s goal, or is this a particularly female burden to bear? As always, your thoughts from both male and female experiences are solicited….

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4 responses to “Unsolicited sympathy

  1. I have a female friend in her mid 30s who told me a story that shocked me rigid.

    She was asked at a recent party whether she had children of her own. She answered ‘no’ because that’s the case; she isn’t especially interested in kids and doesn’t intend to have any in the future.

    The other person’s response? ‘Oh dear, I am sorry!’

    Choosing not to have children is still something that a lot of society sees as a ‘fake’ desire; i.e. a woman who claims that she doesn’t want children is clearly lying because she never found the right man/had the chance. I see this even in some of my most forward thinking and feminist friends and it’s really sad.

    Another fab post by the way. Thanks!

  2. I think I’m guilty of this sometimes. I would never say to any of my late 20s single friends “i’m sorry” or “how sad” but sometimes I think it. Admitedly only about the ones who confide in me that they’d really like someone to share their life/laughs with on reasonably long term basis. Those that wield their singledom with pride are immune from this because if they’re happy, I’m happy. However these genuinely happy gals are definitely the minority of the bunch. I also feel I’ve lost some essential camaraderie with my single girlfriends since I found an important plus one. I’m no longer part of the fun singles club, and I miss it a bit!

  3. I think there’s maybe a bit of people wanting their friends to find the happiness they have. When you do find that Mr Right, you feel complete (even if you thought you were before). Therefore, when you have found someone and are happy you want nothing more than for those you love to also find a soulmate and be happy.

    I think that once you in are in a state of coupledom bliss, you can forget that there are other ways to live your life, and we’re all sometimes a bit guilty of assuming people aren’t happy just because they are alone.

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