Why I Hate the Term “Single”

I hate the term “single”. Every time I fill out some form or register on some website and they have a question about marital/relationship status, it really annoys me when I have to pick “single”. Every time someone describes me as “single” because I am not in a sexual and/or romantic relationship, this annoys me. “Single” has implications that just don’t apply to me.

For one thing, singleness implies availability. In American culture (and various other cultures), monogamy is seen as the One True Way, so the way to tell whether or not someone is potentially open to the idea of forming a Relationship* with another person is to find out whether or not they are currently in a Relationship. Everyone is assumed to want a Relationship, and if you say you don’t want a Relationship, people will try to explain away why that couldn’t really be so (“You haven’t met the right one yet” or “You just had a bad experience”). People won’t accept not wanting a Relationship as a valid reason to refuse someone’s advances. Seriously, try saying “I’m not interested in relationships” to someone who asks you out, and see how long they spend trying to argue with you. If you say “I already have a boy/girlfriend”, though, or even “I don’t like you that way”, most people aren’t going to press the matter.

In this sort of culture, I suppose even “not in a relationship” is going to have implications of availability just by way of everyone-wants-a-Relationship thinking. But “single”, in particular, is used to mean “does not have a partner, but wants one”. It implies not only availability, but also interest in or desire for a Relationship. For instance, someone who goes to a “singles night” or who describes themself as “single” in an online profile is advertising their availability and interest. Someone who is single, but not looking, needs to specifically add that “not looking” bit to their self description if they don’t want to give people the wrong impression (or better yet, just not mention their singleness at all).

Singleness is also generally regarded as something that is temporary or unwanted. If someone has been single for a long time, people assume they are undesirable or have something wrong with them. If everyone wants sex/romance, then if you haven’t got it you must just be pathetic or something. And of course everyone wants romance/sex**, so not getting any = being a pathetic loser. Terms for older single people are usually derogatory: spinster, old maid, crazy cat lady, confirmed old bachelor**. Even if it’s actually acknowledged that someone could simply not desire sexual/romantic relationships, then it’s seen as a flaw, as something to be fixed. Anything but acknowledging that someone could just genuinely not want sex/romance, and still be happy and healthy.

So… yea. I really hate the term “single”, when applied to me. I may not be in a Relationship, but that does not mean I am available, that does not mean that I am interested, and that does not mean that I am undesirable or broken. I’m not “single”. I’m just not interested.

* I’m using Relationship with a capital R to refer to close, important, potentially long-term relationships that are both romantic and sexual, or which start as romantic and are assumed to become, or actually become, both romantic and sexual. This is commonly seen as the only type of relationship that is a “real” relationship; non-sexual romantic relationships, non-romantic sexual relationships, and non-romantic non-sexual relationships are often invalidated as not being “real” relationships (they don’t “count” as the most important/close/long-term relationship in a person’s life, even if they are), and I refuse to perpetuate this invalidation.

** There is some gendered distinction, here. Men are assumed to be interested in sex, and women are assumed to be interested in romance. It’s more tolerated for men to be single, because men are assumed to be having sex even if they aren’t in a relationship (unless they are a virgin, or they aren’t having enough sex, in which case they are just assumed to be pathetic). Most men are expected to eventually “settle down” and start a family, though.


7 thoughts on “Why I Hate the Term “Single”

  1. “Single” doesn’t have to mean those things… but you’re right, people are going to read all that into it. It makes me wish there were some sort of “intentionally celibate” label, a culturally legitimized one, to help make the distinction.


  2. yeah, and just because I’m already dating doesn’t mean I’m not interested in someone else as well. I’m dating 2 women romantically and sexually, and one sexually only. I really hate the enforced monogamy norm.


  3. Hello. I considered translating this post to Portuguese, but I can’t, because it is not licensed as Creative Commons. It’s “all rights reserved”, so translating it is forbidden. Do you want to change this copyright status?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have my permission to translate it or otherwise create derivative works of it. I may come back later and put a Creative Commons license on it, but either way you have my permission.


  4. Have you already tried filling “widower” instead of “single”?

    When a form requires my cellphone number this annoys me, so either I say I don’t have a cellphone (which is true), or, when I can’t, I simply fill a bogus number like 0000-0000, 1234-5678, or even the same number of the organization that is asking the number. Sometimes I give public phone numbers as contact numbers, when a telephone is mandatory and I don’t want to be called on my fixed line phone (like, to receive spam calls).

    So, I suppose filling a bogus marital status could be as gratifying as filling bogus phone numbers. What do you think?


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