The In-between: Threat of a Single Woman

12/6/2018

istock/g-stockstudio

Back in September, I met a Television Producer in the Las Vegas airport as I was on my way home from Mexico City. He and I were both waiting for our connecting flights on a shitty airline, and found ourselves commiserating over just how shitty the airline really was. In between frustrating phone calls with customer service, we chatted about our respective work in media activism. And so, when it came time for us to part ways, we exchanged contact information, with the intention of possibly doing some sort of collaboration together in the future.

A few weeks later, however, I had all but forgotten about this interaction. In my experience, it is (perhaps, far too) often the case that such an exchange of business cards leads to nothing. As a result, the Television Producer was pretty much the furthest thing from my mind when my phone started ringing late one Tuesday night.

Although my glance down at the screen revealed only that the caller on the other end had an “Unknown ID,” I answered it anyway. I’d like to think that I did so in part because my Lawyer Aunt’s number also shows up like that, but, if I am being totally honest with myself, it was mostly because I am an inquisitive person whose phone rarely rings, and whose curiosity almost always gets the better of her (an inconvenient and occasionally disastrous combination).

Needless to say, the woman on the other end was not my Lawyer Aunt. Instead, I found an unfamiliar feminine voice that sounded both determined and slightly nervous. Without any pleasantries or even a response to my “hello,” she demanded to know whether I was Lorien Hunter from the University of Southern California. Then, ignoring my response (“Who is this?”), she launched right into the brief speech she had seemingly rehearsed, the gist of which was centered on advising me to stay away from “other people’s men” and to “respect their relationships.”

I believe that my exact words in reply to this speech were “Hehehe…seriously?” Firstly, I am so not interested in any kind of relationship that isn’t firmly rooted in honesty. Secondly, I’d been so busy with work and travel that it had been more than a month since I had even been out on a date. And thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), I hadn’t lived in Los Angeles for over four years, and had never dated or even been remotely interested in anyone from USC while I was there.  Thus, clearly, whoever this woman was, she was mistaken. But before I got a chance to tell her any of this, she hung up the phone.

It took me several days of wracking my brain before I remembered my brief exchange with the Television Producer in the airport, and concluded that it was probably his partner who had called me that night. However, before I had even managed to set down the phone, I knew exactly what kind of in-betweenness her call had illuminated. As a moderately attractive single woman in her thirties who likes to present herself as both sexy and feminine, it is practically impossible for me to be unaware of the conflicted ways in which most of the coupled-world sees me. And even though these views almost always have far more to do with the viewers than they ever have to do with me, I nevertheless continue to be affected by them.

The first thing that you learn about being a single thirty-something year-old woman is that, according to mainstream Western society, you really shouldn’t be one. We are all taught from a very young age that women who are single in their thirties are sad and lonely (thanks to pretty much every princess fairytale and rom-com movie ever made), and that they probably aren’t “taken,” or haven’t been “chosen,” because there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Thus, on the one hand, coupled women tend to look at me with a strange sort of triumphant pity, as if they are saddened by my impending fate, and yet also feel equally relieved and somewhat superior to me, that it is not their own.

Simultaneously, however, these same coupled-women also tend to view me as a threat. Because I am single and childless and, as we have already established, Western society says I shouldn’t be, obviously I must be on the prowl for a man like theirs to make my life complete. This presumption serves as the foundation for the other side of that single thirty-something year-old woman coin, which is another stereotype that says (perhaps because the first side dictates that we are all so desperate) we are also easy, hyper-sexed, moral-less jezebels that are always down for a spontaneous no-strings attached sexual encounter.

It is possible that I am particularly aware of this dichotomy because of my background as a so-called slut and because of my experience navigating the world as a current and now a former stripper. But whatever the reason, it would be untrue if I were to sit here and insist that both of these fears are completely unfounded. Yes, being a single woman in your thirties can sometimes be lonely, and yes, I have met many coupled-men who have appeared to be quite interested in breaching some or all of their partnership boundaries with me. But because, as I noted above, this type of relationship encounter does not interest me, it has also made me especially cautious and guarded when interacting with any man, coupled or not, in a professional or casual setting.

Then, of course, on top of all this, there is the slight tinge of jealousy that many of these same coupled-folks often feel toward me when it comes to the perceived freedoms associated with my single life. While many of them are stuck at home changing diapers or feeling frustrated with a fizzling sex life, they look on with envy as I plan my next international trip and flirt with the hot new bartender. Even though the truth is, of course, that we all make choices and compromises in our lives, it is also the case that the benefits we enjoy tend to fade into the background, thereby leaving the grass to appear much greener on the other side.

Thus, the biggest challenge I truly face being a single thirty-something year-old woman is learning how to navigate around these social pressures and anxieties to live out my best life comfortably in the spaces between them. Particularly in today’s media-saturated world, it is easy to get lost in the impossible expectations of somehow being, seeing, doing, experiencing, and having everything. However, living our best lives always ultimately comes down to simply accepting and loving ourselves.

Lorien Hunter on FacebookLorien Hunter on InstagramLorien Hunter on Twitter
Lorien Hunter
Lorien Hunter is a writer, researcher and aspiring world traveler who currently lives in San Jose, California. In 2017, she earned her Ph.D. in media studies from the University of Southern California, where she examined digital media, popular culture and marginalized communities. Today, she is a regular contributing writer at Bi.org, where her weekly column, The In-between, centers on her experiences as a biracial bi woman finding comfort and belonging in the spaces between worlds.