“Do you have a boyfriend yet?” · By Holly Ann Golightly

While couples have to deal with the dreaded, “So, when are you having children?” question, single women don’t get off the hook. The primary question of torture: “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

Some of the strongest women I know are happily single. They have fulfilling and successful lives but their lifestyles are often not accepted by others, or are seen as second best.

In the 90’s, Helen Fielding wrote, Bridget Jones’ Diary, which focused on single women and the prejudice they face. The book targeted some important issues, but I think it only scratched the surface.

The character Bridget Jones worked as a publisher, and then as a TV producer. She had a flat in London, which was walking distance from Borough Market. She had good friends and was able to travel the world. However, in both the books and the film, the ultimate goal was still for Bridget to settle down and find herself a boyfriend.

Why is this always the ultimate dream and why are the personal accomplishments of single people not celebrated in the same way as engagements and weddings?

Society is changing; support and celebrate all achievements 

The truth of the matter is, not everyone wants to get married, not everyone wants to have children, and not everyone even wants a boyfriend. Some might prefer to have a girlfriend instead.

It is important to be mindful of people’s achievements outside of this ‘typical’ societal model. I know women who are working with refugees and vulnerable people. I know women who are working hard every day to improve equality in the workplace. I know women who are learning new languages, making films, and creating art and music. Most importantly, I know so many women who are happy. This is something to be truly celebrated.

When someone gets engaged, of course we should be happy for them and should send a card, and perhaps a gift. However, it is important to consider other achievements outside of those society traditionally celebrates.

Cards and gifts don’t have to be just for couples. For example, a good friend of mine was given the book, The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts, with a thoughtful message inside the front cover to read when she went travelling. Thoughtful gifts and messages are good for the soul, and in our busy lives it is important to step back and recognize what our friends and colleagues have achieved on their own.

Be kind 

Some of the strongest women I know would love to be in a relationship, but they also do not want to ‘settle’. They have self-respect and would rather have something amazing, or nothing at all. A friend told me, “I don’t want to give up being single, unless it’s worth it.”

Another issue with the question, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” is that relationships are complicated. There can be hurt attached to this question. We don’t know what people are going through and hearing this question can make people feel raw and exposed. Some people choose to be single. Other people don’t. It might not be through lack of trying that someone is not in a relationship. As with everything in life, approach people with kindness and consideration.

Another consideration is that some people may already have or would prefer to have a partner of the same sex. For a variety of reasons, they may not feel like announcing this to the room at this time.

How to answer this question without sounding bitter or defensive 

Although many would prefer that this question were not asked at all, there are ways that this can be turned around to something positive. The question can be used as an opportunity to talk about yourself and your achievements. Rather than just saying “No”, this can be expanded to something like, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Do you know I recently got back from travelling South America and it was life-changing.”

Or, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I recently discovered a love of photography and started a course last week I’m really excited about.” While this question can be uncomfortable and awkward, this is rarely the intention of the asker. They usually just want to find out more about you or make conversation, so by providing alternative information, the conversation can flow easily away from something awkward and invasive, into a pleasant discussion about something enjoyable.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more whimsical answer, you could say, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I took an online quiz, and I was told I don’t need one!” Yes, this is really a thing! If you google the all-important question, “Do I need a boyfriend?” this wonderful little quiz comes up in the results: https://spacefem.com/quizzes/boyfriend/

Open up the dialogue
In all seriousness, we need to open up the dialogue. There is more than one way to live our lives and we need to stop pushing people onto the relationship ‘conveyor belt’.
It is ingrained in our society that being in a relationship, any relationship, is better than being single. Being single can certainly be more challenging, but this can be rewarding and freeing too. It can be something valuable, and should only be given up for something amazing.
Holly Ann Golightly is a thirty-something year old woman, based in Manchester. She is passionate about telling women’s stories and setting up dialogues to tackle the issues women across the world face on a daily basis.

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