Christmas is a weird time. What is sold to us as the festive, merry season often causes us more stress and trouble than any other time of year. The mad rush to buy presents for loved ones who don’t need them, the over-catering of food to ensure everyone is sufficiently gorged and the uncomfortable conversations that are forced upon us by those we share DNA with can all add up to it being a very un-jolly time.
One common theme that has come up in my conversations this year is that dreaded question that plagues singletons everywhere “Have you met anyone yet?”.
For me when this question is aimed in my direction I can’t hide the shuddering cringe that runs through my body.
Because the answer is No.
No, I am not seeing anyone.
No, I am not dating anyone and No, I do not have a boyfriend.
In an instant any of my other achievements for the year turn to dust because horror of horrors I have still not validated my existence by catching and keeping a man.
I am independent, I am a feminist and I do not think that a woman’s primary goal in life is to find a husband, and yet when I am asked these questions there is a large part of me that can feel ashamed.
When you are surrounded by people who are all coupled up including much younger ones, it is hard not to think, what is wrong with me? This very question is one I was quite literally asked recently, after advising this person that I was still single this inquiry slipped out and although she quickly attempted to cover her Freudian slip with “Whats wrong with them?” her true thoughts were out and it stung.
In China there is a term for women who are still single after 27 – Sheng Nu. It loosely translates to ‘Leftover women’, as if women were a commodity to be sold and bought and those not married were the left over stock that nobody wants and will probably have to be sold at a discount. To be fair there is also a term for the men – Shengnan – which means ‘bare branch’, the idea being that the man will not be adding any branches to the family tree. At least in that way there is a little bit of equality even if it is derisive.
It’s a weird thing when you reach your thirties and suddenly it seems like everyone is coupled up and beginning the settling down plans. When you are not one of the halves of these couples and instead are watching everyone else planning out there lives together it can feel like you are in fact one of the ‘leftovers’.
You start to question whether you missed the memo which mentioned the deadline stating that anyone not with a partner by a certain age will just have to go without.
Maybe you were too focused on other things like career and travel to notice and now the boat has left and you are at the dock watching the relationship boat sail away. Except that everyone else were doing the exact same things and still managed to bag a person so maybe that’s not it either.
Whatever the reason and the metaphor it can be a very lonely place to be.