Bas Melech was once single. And her greatest comforter in her sorrow was… the NMFs in her life. Repeatedly they assured her that being married was difficult, rough, and frequently unpleasant, and that she was enjoying the best years of her life being single.
Every once in a while, an “older single” publishes a letter about how miserable she is, and how her married friends just make it worse, what with rubbing her face in their children and never setting her up.
These letters make me sad. For starters, they perpetuate the angry old maid stereotype. I do not want to be pitied, however much these letter-writers do.
But mostly, I’m sad because there are single women who are unhappy with their lives. Yes, you want to move on to the next stage. But appreciate what you have while you have it!
As a very happy (too happy?) single, I feel compelled to write a brief guide to happy singlehood for all those miserable women out there.
1 – Move out. You’re a big girl now. Looking after yourself is surprisingly gratifying. I mean everything from making sure you’re fed (or eating out if you’re not) to coming home at midnight because “things came up” and not having to answer to anyone for it. Even housecleaning is more fun when it’s your own carpet that you’re vacuuming.
If you’ve got independent means, you should enjoy the fruits of your labor. Live like an adult. You’ll start to feel like one.
2 – Make single friends. Good4 says that for an introverted misanthrope, I have more friends than anyone she knows. That’s because I keep making them. And I do it very deliberately. Sometimes a little stalkerishly. It took me weeks to hunt down my first single when I first moved OOT. And when I finally came face-to-face with her, I actually blurted out “I’ve been looking for you for weeks!” To her credit, she did not back away slowly while fumbling for her phone.
3 – Hang out with your friends. You’d think this one was self-explanatory. Is that not the purpose of friends? But you’d be surprised.
In both OOT communities I’ve lived it, I’ve noticed the same pattern. Singles go to work, come home, eat supper, surf the net, and go to sleep, all while feeling sorry for themselves. They know there are other singles doing the exact same thing. But it never occurs to anyone to pick up the phone and say “Hey, wanna come over and play Bananagrams?”
Which is how this introverted misanthrope wound up being the social epicenter of a singles community. For lack of anyone else doing it, I organize game nights, trivia nights, Chanukah parties, Chinese+movie outing, creek walks, bike rides, birthdays, and a dozen other excuses to spend time with people I like.
I’m also very friendly to newcomers to the community. Not because I’m a selfless welcome wagon. I’m just ensuring myself a steady stream of single friends to make up for those lost by attrition to marriage.
4 – But don’t lose MFs. Letters like the one in the link put MFs in a difficult spot. Somehow, they’re at fault, discomforting singles just by existing. That’s unfair. If you’re single and you want to drift away, the ball is in your court. But chances are you were friends for a reason, not just via geographic proximity.
Maybe MFs are busy with a different stage in life, but you can still talk to them. I value the perspective my MFs provide on marriage and singlehood both. And one day I hope to be a young mother, and able to benefit from the years of experience they can provide for me on such topics as diaper brands and Time Out procedures.
5 – Host your own Shabbos meals. Spending Shabbos with a proper nuclear family that does things by the book feels like the best way to “do” Shabbos. But sometimes, you just don’t want to feel like a fifth wheel. Or the single invited because, nebach, she has nowhere else to go. Or just the person without a table of her own. You have a table! And If you don’t, buy one! Then fill it up with people you like and have a rollicking good time.
And 5b: host your MFs. Yes, your table is just as worthy as theirs. And if you’re worried about the awkward, host multiple MFs so their husbands can congregate at the end and talk about mishnayos or football or whatever.
6 – Invest in some real household goods. Maybe a nice set of dishes for your Shabbos meal, because nothing screams “Just passing through” like a table full of paper plates. Maybe a comfy couch or two sets of color-coded anodized-steel cookware. Your life has worth. Treat it right. And these are all just fewer things you’ll have to buy when you get married.
6b – Just spend some money on yourself. Savings accounts are great, but you can’t save every spare penny for yeshiva tuition. That’s a miserable way to live. Go on vacation. Buy yourself a nice toy. Save for the future, definitely. But occasionally splurge on the present.
7 – Take up hobbies. One day, you will have to be home at 5pm to warm up supper. One day, you will have to be home whenever you told your spouse you would be. One day, you will have to be home simply because someone has to be there when the kids are. One day, in short, you will be tied to your home and your spouse by a short leash. Your recreational hobbies will be limited to things that you can do indoors while being interrupted by crying children.
But now you are free as the wind! You can use this opportunity to level-up your skills in anything. So take a course—in cosmetics or Gaelic or carpentry. Learn a new skill, like kickboxing or rock climbing. Join a book club or sewing circle. Experience the joy of fitness: buy a bike; join a gym; run a race.
If you are the type of person who sees everything you do in light of the marriage you hope is to come, trust me: it will all come in handy. Knowledge, skills, and good health will always come in handy. Plus, you’re more interesting with hobbies.
Imagine you’re sitting across the table from a guy who admits that after work he comes home, stares at the walls, and waits for a shadchan to call. Now imagine you’re opposite a guy who speaks enthusiastically about steeple-chasing, or who shows you pictures of the longbow he carved himself. Or who is a fount of information on the history of Jews in Omaha. Or who uses a 3D printer to make mini-you action figures as customized birthday presents. Who would you rather see again?
Nothing is more appealing than joy and enthusiasm. Get some!
I enjoy it whenever someone reminds the world that being single and female is honestly not the worst thing that can happen, because it’s really not.
Of course you don’t have to say things to insinuate it. I was recently at a classmate’s wedding. You know, the one who officially makes me the 10-percent forever single. I met a truckload of long-lost classmates, all wearing black, all busy working in some sort of therapy (occupation, speech, physical, mental). Somehow a few of us wound up in conversation with an even older (married) woman in black who spoke about her single days, crammed in an attic with other singles, living on leftovers from their dates.
“We had such good food every night, and we didn’t appreciate it,” she sighed. “When you’re single you just don’t appreciate these things.”
I was immediately jealous that her dates were so generous with the food. Mine, although usually employed, rarely spring for dinner. (And I, with the unfeminine ability to devour an entire entree and then peek at the dessert menu, rarely have leftovers to bring home.)
“I appreciate it!” I protested. “Sometimes the food is the best part of the date!”
I immediately felt an uncomfortable shift, and when I glanced at my classmates they were gaping, rather. Had I taken the conversation into awkward territory? Had I done the equivalent of declaring that “I love chemo! You lose so much weight!”?
The conversation broke up after that, although I suppose it would have broken up faster if I’d just nodded and smiled: “Yes, singles don’t appreciate the goodness they have.”
For the record: We do! At least, I do. I appreciate everything about being single – my parents would say too much. And when a fellow takes me out to eat, I definitely appreciate that too.
It’s always nice to hear someone make singlehood sound like the good old days. It sure beat when they make it sound like a terminal illness. Which brings me to the link: Things you really shouldn’t say to single women. (Link goes to Huffington Post.)
I interviewed some MFs and asked them to give me advice on how to get married, based on their own experience. The results are at the other end of the link.
When I was in 9th grade, our Chumash teacher encouraged us to do “neck exercises,” which was her way of describing “looking around including other people in your social activities.”
NMFs do neck exercises too, but not as altruistic ones. NMF #7 called it the NMF Twist, and it just one more burden to bear when hanging out with NMFs.
Well honestly – aren’t you curious?
Three single people in a shared apartment living room. They are discussing how comfortable they are in their current living situation, and how perhaps a Boston marriage is in order, and who needs to get married anyway?
“Everyone I know who is married has issues. Either it’s the spouse or it’s the kids or it’s the trying to have kids. But they’ve nearly all been messy – sometimes permanently – in some way,” says First Single.
Second Single nods in agreement. One of her good friends recently filed for a divorce after five years with a deadbeat.
Third Single looked at the first two incredulously. “Are you saying you think being married is worse than being single?”
First and Second Single look at each other. “Well, it does look that way, from the outside.”
“Look,” Third Single began. “Granted, all the married people I know have Married-People Issues of some type. But don’t we all have Single-People Issues?” Her voice trailed off as she realized the inevitable response.
“Um, aside from the fact that we’re not married?” First Single said. “Not really.”
“We’re missing something, I think…” Second Single said, perturbed.
I found this post fully formed in my “Drafts” folder. If it’s already been posted once, I apologize. If not, enjoy. Either way, be warned.
Why I Don’t Like It:
1 – You have those husbands in near or close orbit. We can pretend they don’t exist, but that delusion only lasts about until their presence comes and smacks us in the head. (Like when we want to sing zemiros, or flop on the couch, or eat dinner out.)
2 – When two people marry, they seem to form some weird, unspoken book of rules that they live by. Sometimes we hear about these rules via “My husband doesn’t let” and sometimes it’s more discreet, like when you go real still and say, “No, let’s not do that.” Either way, we keep banging into these walls that never existed before. It’s like doing a maze blindfolded. Everything we do is some kind of faux pas, either due to the husband, or due to the kids: current or future.
3 – Once you have a kid and a half you’re always tired. This makes us feel guilty for sapping your energy with our non-somnolent entertainment options. We spend the entire time wondering if you’re enjoying our company or if you’d rather be sleeping, which makes us less inclined to pop in or invite ourselves over. The only time you seem completely engaged in the activity is when we’re shopping. In the supermarket. I’m not objecting to socializing over fruit purchases, I just wish you’d look half as interested when we do other stuff.
4 – Your completely pooped mien is not exactly an advertisement for marriage. Who invented this housekeeping-mothering-working ideal anyway? Visiting MFs makes me determined to drop out of the working mom class the minute I become a mom. My husband beware. Watching MFs busy with all the work marriage dumps on them makes one want to retreat to the singles crowd, where marriage is this simple, cure-all business to be looked forward to.
Why I Like It:
Well, who doesn’t like to watch happily married couples be happily married? Hinei matov umana’im, etc.
SMFs, unlike NEFs, are the most desperately unhappy people on the planet. Not to say that they’re sad – but they definitely lack ebullient good cheer.
It’s hard to characterize the SMF because their state of mind manifests in so many diverse ways. In general, they are nervous. But some are quietly nervous, biting their nails in the corner and gaining weight or losing weight or managing both at the same time (which just heightens their distress because that gown has got to fit). But if you ever get one of these quietly nervous people alone, beware! There is much that is troubling them. You will only hear about half of it – something to keep in mind when you hesitate to swear off marriage forever.
Some are hyperactively nervous. These people spend the week before their wedding on an apparent permanent high. They’re everywhere, apparently enjoying themselves at the top of their lungs. Get them into a car alone and you just might get treated to the sight (and sound) of them equally loudly tearing their hair out. However these people behave, you can bet they feel the exact opposite. Just get them onto the subject of their FMiL (future mother-in-law) and see how effusively they praise her.
Some seem calm and act calm – they claim their only worry is whether they’ll be able to hide their organic chemistry flashcards under their bouquet throughout the reception. Or for the less academically inclined, if the champagne-colored gowns their family picked up in Brooklyn will match the champagne-colored gowns their future in-laws picked up in LA. These people are powder kegs. If one too many things go wrong on any given day, they will dissolve into a helpless, weeping, complete basket case. If they’re not the weepy type, they might spend the evening shouting over the phone at you while dabbing at their inexplicably drippy nose.
A note to friends: SMFs need to be handled very delicately and with an excess of low-fat ice cream.
Once an SMF finishes explaining to you the reason for her distress, she will give advice. Usually the advice is not an outright “Don’t do this to yourself; stay single” but often it seems to amount to that.
“Elope – weddings are horrible!”
“Marry an orphan – you don’t want to have to deal with an MiL.”
“Don’t have anything to do with your wedding plans; just show up that night and smile at everything.”
“It’s not just that your wedding day is like Yom Kippur – the entire month before is atonement for everything you ever did in your whole life!”
“The reason parents act like this when you get engaged is because they don’t want you to have any second thoughts about moving out.”
“If you get yourself put into an induced coma the month before your wedding it will save you a lot of agony.”
If every single girl was paired up as a Siamese twin with an SMF for around 3 weeks, I think we can guarantee that about half of them would withdraw from the shidduch pool due to weak stomach. Badabing!—more men to go around for the rest of us.