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Claudia Maittlen-Harris Headshot

Married vs. Single: Can't We All Just Get Along?

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As a newlywed, I first read Lindsley Lowell's piece "Why I Refuse to Join the Smug Married Club" thinking maybe there was behavior I should recognize and avoid. Are married ladies that smug? Is it inevitable that both groups are just warring camps with each taking vicious barbs at the other's lifestyle? Are married women the Jets and single women the Sharks? Do they dance around each other cautiously knowing the other side is just not their type of people? I'd like to think not.

However, I'm sure every single woman can describe a moment when a married woman (maybe completely unintentionally) has said something condescending or passive aggressive with the effect of making said singleton feel like a total loser. Personally, I got "Why are you still single?" all the time. Apparently my single status needed to be solved, as if I wasn't trying to work on it myself. This phrase is infuriating because it treats being single like a disease that one should know better than to catch. Also, there is no appropriate answer. For Lowell, the statement was pretty blatant and offensive. Her example of the smug married club happened when she was the only single bridesmaid at her friend's wedding. She described, "An extremely obnoxious fellow bridesmaid gave me a speech on how tragic my single life must be and how she would "absolutely die" if she were ever single again and how she was "so incredibly happy" in her marriage."

This scenario was probably worse than normal because it was at a wedding. Being single at a wedding is like being prime meat in a window display at a butcher shop. Everyone wants to set up the single girl at a wedding. From grandmothers and great uncles to old high school friends, they all get in on the act. Everyone will come up to the single girl and say, "Have you met my _______ (insert nephew, college roommate, little brother, co-worker, etc.) Tom?"

So yes, it would appear that there are some smug married women out there. This is both confusing and sad. It seems especially cruel to hurt or demean any group you were once a part of. Every married woman out there was once single. Some may have married very young and their single days were few and far between, but more often than not, most married women were in the dating game for long enough to know better.

Personally, I was one of the last of my friends to get married (it just happened last month). I'm in my mid-30s and have been a bridesmaid nine times. I have been forced out onto the dance floor to catch a bouquet when the only other woman there was the divorced mother of the groom. I have a section of my closet where bridesmaid dresses go to die or are turned into Halloween costumes (18th century vampire, Audrey Hepburn, Zombie Miss USA contestant anyone?) Trust me I get it. The last thing I would ever want to do is belittle single women.

However, I don't believe married women are walking around smugly congratulating themselves about their marital status. Instead, I think they remember the harder parts of being single and try for sympathy but mistakenly come off as offensive. Being single, at times, is awesome and other times, it feels like war. When women get together, they bond over shared war stories. Maybe some married women inadvertently describe the toughest parts of being single unaware they are making a single gal feel bad. For every bad date story, there is probably an equally fun story about an all-girls trip to Vegas or night of dancing at clubs.

Weddings aside, whether single or married, each has moments of jealousy of the other. Life is often a grass is always greener on the other side scenario. Single women get jealous of the guy that sleeps next to you each night, kills spiders, stays home on a Friday night to pick a Netflix film and share a good bottle of wine, and loves you no matter what. Married women get jealous of the freedom, endless "me" time, girls nights, a life without babysitters, the anticipation of a new date, or the thrill of a great first kiss. It's not saying either one hates their life or leads a sad, jealous existence. So the worst thing we can do is make single women feel bad for being single, or assume that a wedding and a marriage certificate brings anyone perfect happiness. In fact, if we look at the country's divorce rate, it's pretty obvious that a lot of those marriages aren't very happy.

The better solution is to recognize that no one truly knows the ins and outs of anyone's life. No matter what box someone checks off to describe their status: single, married, divorced, widowed, or it's complicated, that alone does not define them. Sometimes being single is awesome, and sometimes it sucks. I'd say the same is true for marriage. However, if anyone has managed to make a single person "feel pitied or sub-human", remember the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."