Editor’s note: To get you excited for the upcoming winter issue of Shameless, we are posting a series of blog posts every Friday on the theme of love and relationships. What does love mean? Who are our relationships with? What kinds of love are there? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Look for the new issue on newsstands in January!
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by Rezwana Bhuiyan
I hadn’t seen Mary in years, so I was elated to see her. However, that elation dissipated when one of the first things she asked me after our years apart was, “have you ever had a boyfriend?”
“No,” I replied flatly.
“Aw!” she cried, and proceeded to give me a hug.
Wait. Why “Aw?” Why the hug?
Recently, I have been getting a lot of pressure to engage in a relationship. Family and friends, albeit mostly the latter, frequently bring the subject up. With family, it’s just in jest, but also hints towards me “coming of age.” With friends, there is a definite push.
But, the thing is, I don’t really want to get into a relationship. Nor have I ever seriously thought of getting into one. I won’t deny that there are people I find attractive, but so far that’s where my level of engagement comes to an end.
Right now I want to focus entirely on myself and on my ambitions.
However, whenever I express these views, most people wonder (aloud I must note) if I’m making up an excuse (e.g. for not having a boyfriend/girlfriend, for being “traumatized,” and so forth). Or I am not taken seriously at all and patronizingly told that I only feel this way because I have never been involved with anyone.
I don’t understand why such a decision of mine has to be analysed any deeper. Cannot my admission that I Am Not Interested be enough? Such analyses are intrusive and exemplify the societal pressure to engage in a relationship.
For, when one is not in a relationship or does not want to be in one, most people assume that there is something “wrong” with her, evidenced by the stigma around unmarried women.
I refer to unmarried women here and not unmarried men, because there is a double standard in how the two are perceived. For example, “spinster,” a term associated with an unmarried woman generally carries a negative connotation, whereas “bachelor,” a term associated with an unmarried man generally carries a more positive one. There is a popular perception that a bachelor lives an enviable life in which he can do whatever he wants. On the other hand, the lifestyle of a spinster is condemned and mocked.
Take for instance, the popular depiction of a single woman as a “crazy cat lady.” A depiction in which a usually older single woman is considered crazy for her love of cats and perceived as using them to fill the supposed void in her life created by not having a partner. She can’t just be a person who loves cats. She must be compensating for something.
One of the many advantages to being single, and the one I enjoy the most, is being able to do whatever I want without having to worry about how my actions (be it dressing a particular way or enjoying the company of cats) will affect how a particular person thinks of me.
Pitying someone for not being in a relationship is extremely condescending and puts pressure on the one being pitied to meet the status quo (whether or not they actually want to). Furthermore, it perpetuates the idea that one cannot be happy on her own.
I will get into a relationship if I want to, or I won’t. I would appreciate it if people accepted my decision instead of trying to diagnose me.
Rezwana Bhuiyan is a Bangladeshi Canadian living in Toronto, Ontario. She has recently transferred to York University for her second year of undergraduate studies. There, she will be working towards earning a BA in English. She has a passion for reading and writing, as well as drawing. She currently has a webcomic in the works.