Going through divorce has opened my eyes to the many subtle (and not-so-subtle ways) society views women without husbands. While it’s no longer a mark of disgrace to live life as a single lady, it still carries an unsavory stigma: unmarried woman are somehow looking for trouble.
“How’s that man of yours?” a mom in my small community asked about my boyfriend of two years. It’s a common question. People have been naturally inquisitive since I’d met Tim, a man with a degree in nutrition who taught me how to weight lift and eat clean. I’d always worked out, but he helped me transform my mom bod and regain my confidence after infidelity fractured my marriage.
After making some small talk, she asked when we were taking our relationship to the next level. I confided in her that things weren’t always easy and that we take things day-by-day, as there are a lot of adjustments to be made with three kids between us. It simply wouldn’t be fair to them if we moved in together or got married.
The next day, I got a rather accusatory call from a woman in our shared group of friends. When she blatantly asked me how I knew another woman’s husband, I told her I had met Shannon’s husband at a friend’s pool party years ago. “Why do you ask?” I pressed. “Because you’re friends with the husband on social media, but not the wife,” she hissed.
The conversation struck me as odd since I am friends with both of them, not only Facebook, but Instagram, too. They have two beautiful children and I hadn’t spoken to either of them since that pool party. Further, I had not given this man a single iota of my attention, or even so much as a Facebook “like.” Yet, the most basic of connections — a social media friendship — had people talking behind my back.
I hung up the phone feeling bewildered and irritated, since I’d done nothing to warrant this woman prying into my list of friends. Perhaps Shannon’s husband was cheating on her? I wondered. Was it really possible that voicing my ambivalence towards marriage made me a suspect by default? Did these women I once considered friends really think I was capable of such a horrible thing?
My confusion quickly turned to anger when I realized that the world isn’t entirely ready to accept a women’s strength and fortitude … unless, of course, she is another man’s property. Apparently, a strong, single woman is a threat to not only her peers, but to their husbands, too. The notion that maybe, just maybe, a woman doesn’t need a man for her survival, shakes the very foundation our society has been built upon.
Helen Betya Rubinstein explores why single women are viewed as “strange” in a world that seems to only value marriage. The New York Times contributor states, “There was something queer about being single: queer in the sense of ‘strange,’ yes, but also in the sense that connotes a…