I just returned from a wonderful, heart-filling weekend in Portland celebrating a dear friend’s wedding and having a blast reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen in ages. As I got into my Lyft at the airport on Friday, the driver and I were making friendly chit chat and he asked what brought me to Portland.
“I’m here to celebrate my friend’s wedding!” I replied joyfully.
His response was full of incredulity and stopped me in my tracks.
“You’re here for a wedding…by yourself? No husband, no boyfriend?”
Now there are a lot of ways to interpret what he said, but all of them lead me to the same emotional place – which is white hot freakin’ rage.
First of all, don’t ask a woman who is riding alone in your car if she has a husband or boyfriend. I immediately felt unsafe [was he hitting on me? was this conversation about to take a turn that was going to leave me feeling uncomfortable – like so many of my conversations with “nice” seeking men sadly tend to do?]. Even if he wasn’t hitting on me – and I didn’t get that vibe – what the actual f**k dude? Is it 1950? Is it seriously that shocking that a woman would go to a wedding without a romantic partner? I am 100% confident that if I was a man going to a wedding by myself he wouldn’t have said a thing. Also, do I need a male chaperone? Are you seriously defining me by my proximity to a man? Again, what the actual f**k?
I have been told [mostly be men] that a comment like that is a compliment – that what the Lyft driver was trying to say was “I can’t believe someone as great as you is single!” Even if that was his intent, I’m calling bullshit on that because the underlying assumption is still that my worth and value is tied to a man “choosing” me as romantic partner.
I’m extra sensitive to this implication because the cultural messaging runs deep that a woman’s worth is tied to her relationship status, and to be single is synonymous with being unwanted, unloved, unworthy. I know so many kick-ass women who have stayed in relationships with extremely meh men out of fear that nothing better will come along. Out of a screwed up belief that it’s better to be coupled and unhappy than single and to write your own destiny. I have also been that woman, wondering if it’s better to stay in a relationship that’s just ok to escape what culture has taught me is a fate worse than death for women – singleness.
I was angry at his sexist remark, and also angry because it was yet another instance where I was reminded that I could be “put in my place” so damn quickly. As in, reminded that I am female and that somehow carries this potential for an emotional smackdown to hit me out of nowhere at any moment, as I try to simply live in the world. Like a few weekends ago as I was enjoying a rare 75 degree day in SF, walking home from church in a sundress, blissing out to the feel of the sun’s warm rays on my bare legs and shoulders. In a 30 second span, two different men hollered at me – one from his car “Hey Baby” and another from the street “Hey Beautiful.” My enjoyment of the day changed instantly to fear, rudely awakened from my blissful enjoyment of the sunshine, and on high alert to make sure the words didn’t turn into anything more threatening. I was happy, and then I was afraid – because I dared to want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I also felt shame and self-doubt, like it was my fault – because I knew that when I put on that dress that morning there was a high probability that street harassment would happen. I knew the tradeoff for enjoying the warmth of the sun’s rays on my bare legs was emotional exposure – and that breaks my heart. Because I guarantee that no man who was strolling the sidewalk in his shorts and polo shirt that day had that thought or fear. And that makes me angry. And sad. And deeply exhausted. And then I think about how much privilege I have as a white, straight, cisgender, upper-middle-class woman and how bad it is even with all of that privilege and try to imagine how bad it must be for anyone who doesn’t have all of the protective armor of that privilege – and I get even more angry. And sad. And exhausted. #allthefeelings.
Back to the singleness thing – to be clear, I’m not single because I’m anti-marriage or anti-relationship [though I 1000% – not a typo, literally one thousand percent – support any woman who doesn’t choose to be partnered or married. You do you, friends #allthesingleladies. I’m single because I haven’t yet found someone I want to build a life with, based on shared purposes and values – and I’m not willing to buy into the lie that I am a less valuable human because I don’t have a plus one.
At my friend’s wedding ceremony this weekend, my eyes filled with happy tears – not because she was getting married, but because she was marrying a wonderful man whom she loves and who treats her so well. I was happy not because she has checked some life box that is required for women, not because she is now partnered and that makes her intrinsically more valuable or worthy. No, I was happy because she had clearly found someone she loves with all her heart and who loves her right back – and together they were committing to build a life together based on shared values of love of family and friends, kindness, deep faith and a heart for others. I was happy because I was in the presence of true love – and that is always something worth celebrating.
So, I hope that I too find a wonderful man, someone I love who loves me right back, someone who wants a true partnership and to build a life together that is about much more than just saving each other from singleness. I pray that I get to experience that depth of love and joy, and deep peace from knowing that I am making a decision to enter a relationship based not on fear, but on love.
I pray that day comes, but until it does I’m going to keep flying to friend’s weddings solo and busting a move on the dance floor and sharing in their joy. I’m going to to keep wearing whatever I damn well please and soaking up the sun’s rays and be filled with gratitude for sunshine and this beautiful world. I’m going to keep living this one precious life I have to the full, and thanking God for all the love that’s already in it.