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Pity Energy Isn’t Helping

There’s a better way to show your single loved ones that you care

Photo: Massonstock/iStock/Getty Images Plus

SSelf-love is the mood. Wellness, loving who we are, living our truths, and generally planting the seeds of being happy within ourselves—I’m into it. I’m happy to incorporate self-love and care into my daily docket. But self-love is only going to get me so far if it takes a hit every time I leave the house. I want more than self-love, I want societal love, too. Instead, what I get is pity energy.

Pity energy is the gut reaction to single women, the first thing that comes to mind. It is a head tilt, a warm frown, a pat on the hand or a nurturing hug. It’s a reassuring phrase, a dismissal of wrongs, a verbal confirmation of a person’s validity. These all sound like nice gestures until they’re constantly aimed at you because you’re single. They breed a belief that something’s wrong with you. And in our society, if you’re single and a woman, something is.

Of course her friends and family love her; of course they respect her. Pity energy is a difficult thing to squelch because it generally comes from a place of love and care. They only want the best for her. My question, though: Why is being single never part of “the best”?

There is an inherent sadness to being single that competes with self-love. Their goals are different. If being single is sad and wrong and needs to be fixed, there’s naturally going to be a level of self-acceptance and appreciation we can’t surpass as long as we are single. If we put in the work of embracing our lives as they are and society doesn’t follow suit, our joy, confidence, and comfort are bound to suffer, one look of pity at a time.

Here’s the thing about pity energy: Single people aren’t asking for it. When I answer the inevitable “So, are you seeeeeeeeing anybodyyyyyy?” with a no, I wasn’t asking for “Oh, well I’m sure you’ll meet someone” in response; I was simply answering a question. I’m sure I’ll meet someone, too, but every time society tries to comfort me due to my singleness, I’m reminded that there’s a reason to comfort me in the first place.

Single is billed as shitty, I get it. Mostly because it’s always sold in comparison to being partnered, and that’s tough to compete with. The benefits of coupledom are obvious—and quite amazing by the way, I’m not diminishing them. Companionship, sex, split rent—you certainly have my attention. But the benefits of being single are harder to see, and kind of impossible to understand unless you’re living them. They do exist, however, and I hate that so many of us gloss over them in fierce pursuit of partnership.

I see no cause for pitying someone whose life is lived entirely in response to their own motivations, desires, and tastes.

I get to be selfish 100% of the time. Everything from my dinner menu to where I’ll spend a couple grand on this year’s big trip is entirely up to me. I never have to be quiet because someone is sleeping. I never have to scoot over on the couch. Of course I’m free for dinner next weekend, I don’t have to check with anybody to confirm.

I see no sadness in that. I see no cause for pitying someone whose life is lived entirely in response to their own motivations, desires, and tastes. Maybe I have a slightly easier time of it because I view being single as something to savor before I enter a coupled phase of my life, rather than a state to end as quickly as possible because it’s wrong. I’ve been working on this mindset a long time and I will admit that you can’t just adopt it with the snap of a finger. It takes work, and time. And societal pity always knocks it back—even for me.

Often, pity energy goes unseen by the person being pitied. At a dinner table of couples, a single woman they all know comes up in conversation. You can feel the pity energy swell as they remark on how they “just want her to be happy,” or “can’t wait until she meets someone.” I’ve been doing this single thing a long time and I’m telling you, even if we can’t see your pity, we feel it. It is energetically unnecessary and it’s not doing your single friends any favors.

So what, as a single woman, am I actually asking for here? Now that I’ve dismissed a lifetime of kind gestures as insulting, demeaning drivel, what exactly would I like society to replace them with?

Acceptance, for one. The inherent “wrongness” of being a single woman over a certain age has become obsolete. An entire culture that views single status as a problem only contributes to single women hating their situation—even hating themselves—and that I won’t allow. I know it will take time, but it is very easy for society as a whole to start today. Begin thinking of single women you love as all the things they are, all the things they have, rather than the one thing they don’t.

Pride is also an option, just sayin’. Single women do quite a lot on their own, and as a result we are some of the most innovative and resourceful creatures on Earth. If something needs doing, the responsibility is entirely on our shoulders, and this kind of responsibility creates a lot of confidence. It’s not easy to be 100% responsible for everything in life on an emotional, physical, and financial level, but we’re doing it. We’re crafty. Notice us. Be proud.

You know what else might be nice? Admiration. I’d really love it if the world looked at my single status and thought, “Cool.” Single people have been admiring couples to the tune of expensive plane tickets and hotel rooms for destination weddings since before cordless phones existed; I think it’s the single community’s turn for a little love, don’t you? Admire us! Make us feel like an adored — dare I say envied — component of society. Omg I can’t wait to be single. Can you imagine?

We have no need for pity, either emotionally or energetically. There is nothing wrong here, and the sooner society both accepts this as true and starts to show it, the sooner any sadness or lack inside of single women will begin to dissipate, too. The love society has for its single friends and family is genuine. Now let’s put it to good use. Share more acceptance, pride, and admiration for the single people you care about. Your positive energy is so valuable to us, and so appreciated. It would be a pity to waste it.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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