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How do you handle the “I can’t believe you’re still single!” comments from people? I think they mean well, but it’s still discouraging.
This statement is usually said to me at weddings. And I generally respond with, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER! Thanks for affirming my fear that I smell like cheese and will die alone!”
Then I try to give some grace as I remind myself that most people filter life through their own stories.
They got married young. They think you are great. They think marriage is great. Therefore they can’t understand why you wouldn’t be married. In their efforts to encourage you, they end up making you feel like you must have a mysterious fungus that repels possible dates.
An example of someone’s words probably coming out differently than they intended occurred during a baby dedication at my church. It started like this…
One father was sharing how he and his wife couldn’t get pregnant. He said, “I finally realized we were going to have to adopt. I knew this would be so hard—BUT a miracle happened! We got pregnant!”
The tone he used when saying “have to adopt” rang in my ears as though it was the worst possible option. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Hey! My brother just adopted the most amazing boy in the world! Adoption RULES!”
The reality is, this guy was explaining his mourning over the loss of a picture he had painted for their lives. He was contrasting the pain he was feeling of hope deferred with the joy of finding out their pregnancy surprise. He wasn’t bashing adoption…
…I just chose to hear it that way and react out of my experience.
When I got a grip, my annoyance turned to joy. I realized that while the words flowing from his heart to his mouth may have bypassed his P.C. filter, he was being totally honest and my reaction was wrong.
So, why do I share this story?
Often the people you run into at weddings are also speaking from a place of honesty. As you said, they probably mean well, and they’re simply saying the first thing that comes out of their mouths via their hearts—not trying to annoy you or make you wonder why you smell like Gouda.
Let’s try to get in their shoes by backing up the convo two steps.
Them: “So, are you here with anyone?”
You: “Nope. I’m not seeing anyone at the moment.”
In .0004577 seconds, the following subconscious thoughts arise in their minds. (Read this fast like the Micro Machines Man and insert your name in the blanks.)
I can’t believe ______ is single! ______ is amazing, attractive, talented, smart, and far more of a catch than I was. How in the world did I get someone to marry me? I feel slightly guilty and awkward that I have someone and they don’t. Ahhh, now I feel like I have made them self-conscious. I’m uncomfortable so I’m sure they are uncomfortable. I should let them know how amazing they are.
Before they can let their emotional heart response take a pit stop in the “tactful” department of their brain…
…out of their mouth comes,
“I can’t believe you’re still single!”
See, they mean well. (Unless of course they followed up with, “Especially since there are so many people in this town who seem like they would date anyone!”)
It’s easy for me to say, “See, they mean well. Don’t be discouraged; it’s a compliment!” But when it’s actually in my face, it’s a bit more difficult. Like the baby dedication story, the words sting because it’s a pain I have felt and questions I have asked. Their comments remind me of my fears.
Joy, why are you still single? What if you can’t have kids?
While being single or not having children is a choice for some people, I believe for many it’s a vivid painting of our brokenness. So this summer, when you attend wedding after wedding or baby shower after baby shower and people ask questions that sting the heart just enough to wake it up and remind you how tired it is, smile.
Replace the thoughts of discouragement or annoyance with a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13).
Make a choice that you will trust His goodness and that He knows what He is doing. Then, after you realize you have been smiling and talking to God in your head and an awkward amount of silence has passed, look at “them” and choose to trust the goodness of man as well.
Then respond. (You’ve been talking to God in your head for a bit and the silence and awkward smile you have had on your face is starting to get creepy.)
Maybe ask them a question.
Like, “So when did you start going gray?”
From my heart,
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I just have to comment again. Don’t think I’m a blog stalker…ok…maybe I am.
I love this post for a variety of reasons. It’s very funny, and very honest, and very right on. I love your comment that most people filter life through their own stories. I have discovered the same thing recently. So many people want to talk about my HUGE stomach, and discuss how I must be so uncomfortable, and discuss how great kids are, and then discuss their own birth story. It wasn’t until last week that I realized…almost every stranger that wants to discuss my pregnancy at length is usually looking for an opportunity to share their own story. So, to get the attention off myself (because I hate talking about contractions and fluids and labor pains) I just respond with, “Oh, so tell me about your kids” or “It sounds like you also had a summer baby…” They will ALWAYS chat my ear off at that point. Let’s be honest- that can also get annoying at times but it’s better than having to discuss intimate details about my life with random strangers.
I am encouraged by your idea to give thanks, and give praise to God with where we’re at–whether that’s a hard place or an easy place. Thanks Joy!
Thanks for this, Joy. The baby ded. story has encouraged a deeper level of grace in me. I have not shown much grace for people who put their foot in their mouth and yet I can go entire days uncontrollably blurting out obnoxious things and I certainly want grace. I’ve been pondering how “people see/hear what they want to see/hear” and this post encourages me to slow down and take a second look/listen.
“So when did you start going gray?” Well said…I was cracking up! The one I am getting now (if anyone says anything) is, “You aren’t that old.” I’ve still yet to think of a response to that one. But, I usually smile and excuse myself. It is getting harder though…wandering when/if it will happen.
Mmm… my younger brother (and last single sibling) is getting married in less than 2 weeks, so I’ve already spent the last 6 months fielding this question in tandem with “So, how do you feel about your *younger* brother getting married before you?” I try to remind myself that they are caringly inquiring after the state of my heart and reply with something, He’s ready, I’m not. I’m to darn stubborn to get married any time soon.” People find this humorous enough not to press any further.
…Though, I admit, every now and then I throw grace out the window and rant for a bit about how life doesn’t start when you say I do! But that’s a topic for another time.
People are always asking me when I started going grey. I wonder if its in response to something untactful that I’ve just said. I must pay attention next time.
And fyi, it was when i was 17. My first grey hair was found by my friend as i was sitting outside our classroom waiting to go in. It was incredibly tragic, and lots of squealing was involved.
I always struggle with a similar question “When are you going to start trying to have kids?” I never know how to answer it. Should I be giving them a history of my fertility, or show them my ovulation charts, or explain my contraceptive choices. Its such a loaded question, because it implies that I haven’t been trying and that I should be trying, and what on earth is wrong with me, because I’m not rushing off to have babies. But usually i decide that they don’t really want to know what’s wrong with me, and I tell them maybe next year.
I haven’t been getting the “why are you still single” line during weddings, but I have been getting, “so when are you getting married?” even if I am not dating anyone. heh. I haven’t reached the point of attending too many weddings in a year yet, so I still have time to recharge before the next one.
But I like this post. 🙂 Trust in God’s goodness, and trust in the goodness of man.
I love the gray question though. Hmm. =D
Good writing, Joy. I concur. I’m in agreement.
And like most of humanity, I will reply with a little story of my own .
Recently, my visiting aunt asked me if I wanted to get married. I said yes. Then she asked me if I wanted to have children someday. I again answered in the affirmative. Then she asked me if I was going to get my eggs frozen. Wow! I responded. I’m glad nothing else followed, like a direct address that hinted at the canine. But then I stopped and thought where her line of offensive and stinging questioning came from: my cousin and his new wife’s delay (so far) at getting pregnant in their mid-thirties. So in my mind I had to translate for her. I had just been playing with my nieces and have always always loved kids. She was watching this, and her line of questioning followed that. So here’s what she meant: “You are so good with your neices, and have always been so good with kids. I hope you have some, because you would make a good mother. But you are now thirty, and my daughter-in-law is trying to get pregnant in her thirties and is having a difficult time. She wishes she would have frozen her eggs.” So translated, it comes out as just a little aunterly advice. Done in love.
Great job on this, Joy. You have a maturity and wisdom here that some never achieve. Though you still understand the pain words can send to a heart you are learning to respond with grace and give thanks. Love the gray hair comment! I am 60 … and still single … and the comment “I can’t believe you are single” still comes, so your words are a good reminder to me as well. Maybe I DO smell like gouda!
love this Joy! thanks for the encouragement. 🙂
Crap, I’m single, almost 35, AND grey. That might be worse than gouda! ; )
This makes me think of my friend’s quote:
“If old people are going to insist on telling me “You’re next!” at weddings, I’m going to say it to them at funerals.”~Jason Windsor (http://www.jasonwindsor.com/)
No one ever asks me why I’m still single though.
They never try to set me up with people either, come to think of it.
…it’s almost like they know something I don’t….
Thanks for reposting this, and for the great perspective.
Love all the angles in this piece-like a kaleidoscope of good introspection. Making casual conversation still needs to be mindful and sensitive. I laughed when I read, “So when did you start going gray?” I was blessed to be sprinkled with gray early 30’s, soon after being married. Ha. Photos records don’t lie. After children, gray was just in high speed along with root canals! Singleness has it’s blessings for sure. Gray hair does attract attention in a strange way. I like my salt and pepper look. I’ve had complete strangers making remarks about my gray-from both m/f in pos./neg ways. FYI: Low lights can slow the graying effect if you get weary with all the stranger attention. Here are two scriptures that helped me not to “fear” the gray. Embrace the splendor baby! 😉
Proverbs 16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.”
Proverbs 20:29 “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.”