Are you still single?Why? Don't worry, you'll find someone soon. Many singles face such questions and comments. Checking up on singletons is considered a thoughtful thing to do by friends and family. While the number of people who are single appears to be increasing globally, so does single-shaming.
"Are you still single?Why?"
"Don’t worry, you’ll find someone soon."
Many singles face such questions and comments. Checking up on singletons is considered a thoughtful thing to do by friends and family. While the number of people who are single appears to be increasing globally, so does single-shaming.
Regardless of how far we’ve come as a society celebrating the individual, there is still a social stigma attached to people who choose to remain single — giving rise to a slew of assumptions: ‘you must be depressed, you must desire a partner, you must have a problem....’
"People who do not have or are unable to find a partner are considered bored, sad, lonely or depressed. That is not always true," says sexuality educator Apurupa Vatsalya. "Even people in happy relationships may experience these emotions. It is dehumanising to suggest that a person is only valuable or desirable if someone chooses them as a partner." Apart from friends and family who may indulge in the shaming, the response is institutionalised too. Certain schemes and rights are restricted to married people. Furthermore, studies have shown that living alone is more expensive due to rising expense of necessities.
Complete or incomplete? Apurupa
"In the Indian content, it’s also a very gendered issue. Single women are judged more harshly than single men, and they are shamed for actively dating. We live in a society where people believe they have the right to dictate this aspect of our lives; so if you’re single, you should brace yourself for the type of comments that may be made to you," warns Apurupa. "They’re crossing a line, due to their own biases, insecurities, and socialisation needs. Looking at it this way: ‘This person wants me to be with someone because that’s the most beautiful way for them to experience life’ can help alleviate some of the frustration," she suggests.
Vasumana Ghosh Singles may be happy with their situation, but this is not often acknowledged. "We’ve been taught that women are unfulfilled and incomplete without a man or children. Are men held to the same standards as women?" wonders Vasumana Ghosh, founder of Black Sheep Media House. "It used to irritate me that I was never able to rent an apartment because I was single, and a single woman is considered ‘available/loose’ in India. However, it only motivated me to work harder and buy my own home."
Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist
The consequences of single shaming are numerous. Singletons are treated differently, which has a negative impact on their self-image and leads to mental health issues including severe depression. According to experts, women are the worst affected."People across cultures and timelines are led by social norms and ideas of right and wrong held by the majority rather than what is good for all," says Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist, founder-director Manasthali — Mental Health and Wellness Services, Gurgaon.
Although in general it is assumed that the goal is the good of the whole, she claims that this is not always the case. "For example, even in Western countries, attitudes toward women have not always been liberal, like attitudes toward blacks or homosexuals. Similarly, being single has been perceived as not conforming to society’s norm of having a life partner or designating marriage as the ultimate goal of every individual," says Dr Jyoti.
A matter of perception
"When you talk to any parent, especially in India, their main concern is their child’s marriage, which is equated to settling in life. Parents believe their obligation to their child has not ended until they are safely married. Further, it is commonly held that only those with significant physical, mental or social health problems or character flaws have difficulty in finding a suitable partner, because normal people instinctively want to be in a relationship," Dr. Jyoti notes, but adds that people are beginning to accept that being with someone should be a choice rather than a tradition, and that everyone should be free to make that choice for themselves.
Nirali Bhatia, cyberpsychologist and psychotherapist"Certain societies also see singles (specially women) as a threat to their opinions about women’s freedom and living life on their own terms. Single shaming is the result of our biases that make us see completeness only when there is a partner, and the person who is not in a relationship as being incomplete or flawed. Singles are perceived as lonely, sad, or always looking for someone, with no regard for the fact that being single can also be a choice," says Nirali Bhatia, a cyberpsychologist and psychotherapist.
No explanation needed
Actress Drew Barrymore wrote in her memoir Wildflower, ‘The truth is, most likely, one day you will meet someone and it (the state of being single) will be gone. And once it’s gone, it’s really gone! Why does no one tell us how important it is to enjoy being single and being by yourself?’ "You don’t owe society any explanations, simply give a non-specific answer, nip the conversation in the bud and pivot to other topics," advises Apurupa. "If you have internalised shame about being single, consider where this judgement is coming from. Is that your voice? Is it what you’ve been told is the right way to be? I liked how Emma Watson described herself as ‘self-partnered,’ implying that self-development and growth are just as important as seeking companionship," she adds.
"I don’t consider single shaming real — not for me at least, because my family loves and accepts me for the eccentric person that I am. I love my life and while I’m all for companionship and having a partner, it can never be at the cost of my freedom and liberation," Vasumana says. She thinks it’s also about how one projects one’s state. "In fact, I am told by literally every married girlfriend of mine to continue living and enjoying my life the way I want to," she says.
Havovi BatliwallaIt may be a difficult pill for some to swallow, but divemaster Havovi Batliwalla is happy being single. "As a child, my family always told me that I should be financially independent and not rely on anyone, which led me to believe that this could only be accomplished if I remained single. I could work longer hours and was preferred over other women for most of my career because I didn’t have a commitment to feed or care for a family. I could pursue my dream of becoming a Divemaster because I don’t have any responsibility at home," says Havovi, divemaster at Lacadives, Andaman.
Though she acknowledges that while her single status worked for her professionally, "personally, finding homes, being questioned by family, and seeing everyone settle down made people wonder if there was something wrong with me," she reiterates that she’s content with her single status.