I’ve lived a lot of life as a single Black woman and I’ve resisted writing down these thoughts for a while, but usually in my writing I find solace sprinkled with liberty and saturated with courage. Courage to share that I am nearly FORTY (yep, the big 4 0) and I have spent almost half of those years navigating life as a single woman. This is at times a difficult truth because it is far from my desire or even what I had “planned,” but that’s NOT what this post is about. This post isn’t about the difficult aspects of singleness, it’s about the silent directives whispered to women by well-meaning friends and family to be someone other than their authentic selves to rid them of this thing called singleness.
The title “chronic singleness” is hyperbolic in nature and intended to conjure up thoughts of potential cures. Why? Because women who are single into their mid-to-late thirties begin to be treated as if their singleness was brought on by their selfishness (clearly they must be chasing a career), insecurities, high standards, or strong personality. In essence, the problem MUST belong to the woman… And of course some might say that all of the aforementioned “symptoms” are curable.
Here’s where well meaning peeps enter the scene. They begin asking the woman about things she could possibly change about herself to garner the attention of a man. Even recommending that she change her standards of desirable characteristics in a partner to simply look like… “man with a job.” It may sound funny to some, but this is only comical through your twenties. Once you reach your mid-to-late thirties it becomes exhausting. If this sounds personal, it is. I’ve received advise from people I love dearly that varies from trying an online dating app to revealing less of my educational background to appear less intimidating to men.
I’m exhausted fam. I have been told over and over again that I must shrink back so that the man can shine. Veil portions of my full self so that his presence can supersede mine. Why can’t we both shine together? This exhausting narrative has become awkward as I approach forty. Like, what else can you ask me to do to “prepare” for this mystery man? And why aren’t men being asked the same types of questions?
Truthfully, at this stage, people engage me with caution as they see my love for children and family and approach me with uncertainty to ask if it’s okay to pray for my future husband. Or the look on their face indicates that they are genuinely baffled as to the cause of my singleness and long for a day where I will share in the joy of a long term relationship and family of my own. I want to thank friends and family for their concern and care, but I must also request that you all stop treating me like singleness is something to be cured. The longing in my heart persists for marriage and a family of my own, but my life is full today. I am not lacking as a single person.
I remember the shame centered around this conversation as a woman in my mid-thirties when people who know me unintentionally communicated that I was not enough. A Christian community that idolizes marriage and gives little value to the single person often did the same. I began to embrace the idea of searching for a cure for my singleness; my chronic condition of incompleteness until I realized that I am enough. God’s design of me is COMPLETE. A change in marital status should only add to the beauty of my life as most relationships do. No single person completes another person. Periodt.
I, like, Ekemini Uwan of Truth’s Table, now hold this desire of marriage loosely. Her post titled, Singleness: My Only Companion, beautifully expressed many of the sentiments of my heart and communicated that I am not alone. Thank you sis. This past year God has shown me the beauty in daily gratitude for every met need. As I said every day last year and will continue to say, “I have what I need TODAY, therefore I will not complain.” This includes not complaining about being single. Each year God adds new relationships to my life when I need them and for this I am grateful.
When you see a woman in her mid-to-late thirties who is single, don’t offer her your unsolicited advice. Don’t make her feel like a leper because of her marital status. Don’t presume she is lonely or unfulfilled. Don’t even assume that marriage is a desire of hers. Remember, Jesus was single. I never hear anyone speak of his life of singleness with disdain. The Apostle Paul was single and that is never the first thing people mention when speaking about him. Peep this. All I want you to do is LISTEN if singleness is the topic of conversation. It is often more complicated than swiping left or right on an app or “putting yourself out there.” If the woman is a friend, a daughter, or colleague, listen to her heart when she shares it. Pray for her to live fully and freely in her singleness. And lastly, if she does desire marriage, pray for contentment in the longing. I believe she will benefit from those prayers. I know that I have. Life is full of unmet desires and yet God faithfully meets every need.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. – 1 Timothy 6:6