I once read that true joy in life doesn’t come from finding another person to make you happy, but rather from escaping the many that could make you miserable. Now, I don’t believe that I’m a happy person just because I’ve never been married, but I have never felt that my joy has been diminished by being single. Unfortunately, however, there are many who look upon a single person, especially a never-married woman, as some sort of anomaly.
Like many other single people, I didn’t plan never to marry. Life just worked out this way for me. I have many friends, nearly all of whom are married, and thankfully very few have tried to guide me onto the road of matrimony.
However, I do remember one exception.
Several years ago at our Veterans’ Day parade a well-intentioned friend asked whether I objected to being introduced to a man. I assured her this was fine with me but was aghast at what she said to this gentleman.
“This is my friend Karen, and she’s never been married.” I found this introduction so amusing and envisioned myself introducing her by saying, “This is my friend ____, and she is married.”
When I was teaching at the Indian school, a missionary remarked one day that three single ladies had gone to the reservation. My reaction was, “Hey, we have names. You wouldn’t say three married ladies had gone some place; you would give their names.” My thoughts were that my name was given to me at birth, and my marital status came many years later.
Of course, “single” is not a negative word, just a marital status and not a disparaging label like “spinster” or “old maid.”
A few months ago a guest speaker in my church embellished the Scriptures with his opinion that the women named in a particular passage were old maids or spinsters. He then segued into a supposedly humorous story about the eccentricities of some unmarried women he had known when he was a child.
Several thoughts crossed my mind as I sat there stunned.
Why are there no jokes about single men?
There are never jokes about divorced people, leading one to assume that a failed marriage is better than having not had one.
Just jokes about single women.
The next thought was that any educated person should know that many people today are now delaying marriage or not getting married at all. Another thought was that perhaps there were some single women in the congregation that morning who had really wanted to be married but had never found the right person. I’m sure this man’s insensitive words could have been hurtful.
In my nearly 50 years as an educator, the only place I have ever occasionally felt like a misfit was in a Christian setting. This really seems odd since the Apostle Paul praised the single person as one who was able to “care more about the things of the Lord.” In contrast, my marital status was never brought up when I taught in public school and certainly not at Hocking College.
A few years before he died, I asked my father whether he had ever felt a stigma for having an unmarried daughter. I still laugh when I recall his immediate response.
“Hell, no. I never met a man I would want as my son-in-law!”
His words of affirmation did mean a lot to me.
Recently my friend, Marjie, related a story about her five-year-old granddaughter, Aria, which beautifully illustrates the non-necessity of labels. Last summer while the family was attending a graduation party, the children were playing corn hole. Among the many present were two African American boys. In route home, Marjie and her husband, Chuck, were discussing the day with Aria, who was talking excitedly about how much fun she had had and how well some of the children had played corn hole. One of the boys, in particular, was very good.
“What did he look like?” asked Chuck.
Aria then described what he was wearing, emphasizing his sparkling shoes. She went on to praise his athletic ability. “He could really throw,” she added.
“But what did he look like?” Chuck asked again. Aria then described his curly hair, adding that he wore a green hat. Then she added one negative comment. “He used some bad words,” she said quietly.
What amazed Marjie and Chuck about their sweet granddaughter was the fact that she had no awareness of racial differences! Not once did she mention his skin color probably because in her home she has not heard negative comments or jokes about other races. To this innocent five-year-old, the curly-haired boy in the green hat was no different from the others at the party.
Perhaps the guest speaker in my church didn’t understand that single women are really no different from married women.
I think he needs to have a talk with Aria.
Karen Kornmiller writes a bi-weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.