On the day of Eid, when all family members gather to celebrate this festive moment, comes that yearly dread: the constant reminder from people that you’re single. It is a time when all your married cousins parade their babies in the family gathering as if they were achievements.
I’m not ashamed of being single. Yet I anticipate the Eid family gathering and other reunions in general with anxiety, as I could already imagine what kind of questions would be fired toward me: When are you getting married? Are you dating anyone?
In these events, I often feel as if people are waiting for my explanation of why I stay single. I think being single is not news, yet when Eid comes and I feel as if I owe my family an explanation for my own choice.
But single people receive this reminder every single day. We live in a society in which single people are easy target of jokes and are laughing stock. Turn on the TV and many stand-up comics make jomblo (single people) the central topic of their comedy routines. Tune in to a radio station, and most announcers crack jokes about jomblo or make fun of callers who are single. It is as if all the single people exist just to be made fun of or to be pitied.
I wish we could live in a society where marital or relationship statuses don’t matter. People have reasons to stay single. These are mine:
- I’m not ready for a full-time commitment. I watch people around me being in toxic relationships or in unhappy marriages and it’s not healthy. I have to be mentally ready and I don’t want to rush anything for any reason.
- I don’t want to change who I am, my goals, my dreams and my values. I’m willing to wait until I find “the one” who will understand me completely.
- I’m content to be single and I’ll take my time to focus on living my dreams. I also want to feel more confident in my lifestyle choice without being questioned.
So when I meet people, I expect them to ask me about things that matter, but they won’t. Why can’t people ask about my job or my latest business trip, or even my latest vacation?
For the past years, I have developed social anxiety. I refuse to meet people, knowing that they will ask whether or not I’m single, or if I have thought about getting married. I can’t be bothered trying to be nice and making conversation with these people. But not meeting them in person doesn’t really stop the single shaming because they do it in social media conversations. It hurts because a lot of the time these remarks are made by my close friends or relatives.
People also constantly post their family activities and relationship updates on their social media platforms. Without even realizing it, they also promote single shaming. People who are single will easily feel pressured by their over-sharing posts. I’m genuinely happy for them, but their posts make me uncomfortable most of the time.
I survived several Eid gatherings for years without being asked. But last year was different. My niece said that my younger cousin, who had just turned 20, told her that she wanted to get married young, “unlike me”. The fact that my younger cousin even brought up my name and dragged me into this topic wasn’t really nice. I felt like I was being perceived as a “bad” example and failed person.
Fortunately, my niece, who is only 12-year old, questioned this line of thinking.
She told me: “When I grow up – I want to be just like you. Living my dream first and then maybe dating and getting married later when I’m older.” Her mom smiled in approval. I thought how I wish everybody was as nice and smart as my niece.
We are familiar with the term and the stigma of perawan tua (old maid). “Don’t be an old maid,” the saying goes. It is as if by staying single, we are doomed, and we will bring failure and shame to our parents. And, unsurprisingly, the stigma of being an old maid is only attached to Indonesian women, not men.
We should stop this stigma. We should value each woman for who they are and what they can contribute, not for their relationship and marital statuses. Staying single is not a sin. The single shaming must stop now.
Ivy Agrina is a freelance digital writer and music reporter. Her passions including: music, going to concerts, talking about pop culture, feminism and mental health. She also enjoys reading novels, watching Netflix and cooking.