Los Angeles, CA

Was Anything Wrong With Still Being Single at Thirty?

Elle Silver

No, but people will certainly make you feel there is.


I didn’t really begin to feel “weird” as a single woman until I reached thirty. That coincided with my move from Los Angeles to Spain. I went from living life as a wild and crazy party girl in L.A. to hanging out with a group of British ex-pat couples in Barcelona.

I ended up in Barcelona because an American friend of mine lived there with his British girlfriend. Through them, I plugged into the ex-pat community. Most of the new people I was meeting were couples: married or simply “in a relationship.” Here I was, now living in Europe all by myself.

This made me a curiosity. Because everyone in my new social circle was partnered, my single-ness came into clear focus and that made me very uncomfortable. This was especially true because all my partnered new friends seemed very interested in my relationship status.

Did I have a special someone in my life? Oh, no? Oh dear! We must fix you!

This was at least what it sounded like to my ears. My status as a single woman always seemed so disappointing for my new partnered friends. Wasn’t it a shame I didn’t have someone like they did?

Come to think of it — yes, it was. It was a shame because I was lonely — and I felt ashamed about that.

I felt humiliated by these new friends calling attention to the fact I wasn’t a member of their club. I assumed a kind of outsider status — the weird single, thirty-year-old American.

This was hurtful because I was trying very hard to become part of their group. I was already an outsider, a foreigner in a foreign land.

Honestly, I was embarrassed by my single status and didn’t want to call any more attention to it. But that wasn’t possible because my new acquaintances kept doing just that.

By and by, one of them would decide they wanted to set me up with some poor sod or other, some male friend they knew who was so nice, so sweet, so cute — he’ll love you, you two would make the perfect couple!

Of course, they were usually projecting their desires in a mate onto me. Would we really make the perfect couple? How did they know?

Did they know my taste? No, they didn’t. I rarely if ever liked the guys my partnered friends tried to hook me up with.

Or worse, I would like him. We’d try to date. It wouldn’t work out and I would crumble in shame at my inability to shed my single status.

Of course, I wanted to have what everyone else had: love. I wanted someone to love me! But I was still single at thirty — an age when I should be settling down. And that was so embarrassing!

Sure, this was only because I allowed it to be. You don’t have to be coupled to be whole, no matter your age.

There’s no proof that life is better when you’re in a relationship. I know plenty of miserable partnered people.

When I did finally get married myself, I ended up one of them. Ironically, when my marital problems were at their worst, I very much wished I was single again.

Trust me, sometimes being single is even better than being coupled up and this may be why it’s so tempting to some couples. They may even be jealous.

Regardless of what other people think there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re single at thirty, forty, fifty, or whatever age.

It’s worse for women.

Unfortunately, the social norm is that if you’re still single by a certain age there’s something wrong with you. It’s especially difficult for women to be single past thirty. An unpartnered woman is like a flower that must be picked or she’ll wilt. At age thirty, she’s just starting to show the first brown edges on her petals.

No matter how much we progress, a woman’s purpose is still viewed in terms of her reproductive viability. She has a shelf life, a sell date. Wait too long and she’ll stop producing eggs and won’t be able to get pregnant at all.

Then no man will want her!

Besides, she won’t be attractive anyway because only young women are viewed as beautiful in our culture. We are terribly hard on the appearances of older women — not just men are but women are, too.

Women judge other women as we age. We judge ourselves. With the first wrinkle or gray hair, we rip ourselves apart. Why else are women in their twenties pumping their faces full of Botox and fillers?

Men get away with aging better than women do. However, not even men can escape being viewed as defective or sad if they’re single by a certain age.

But men do have more leeway than women do to stay single. Men don’t have a ticking biological clock. A man can still get away with being single in his thirties or even his forties. He’s just a dude who still wants to play the field.

But even a man will ultimately be judged by some as a lost cause if he remains single into his fifties. The social norm is that people partner up and there’s something wrong with you if you don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with being single at any age.

The only thing that’s wrong with this belief is that too many people think it's true. You’re no less whole as a single person — you’re no less complete.

Being complete has nothing to do with having a partner. Being complete is loving, accepting, and esteeming yourself enough that you’re okay just being you, alone.

Yes, even if you’re single after thirty. Or fifty.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

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Journalist and relationships expert. I write about Los Angeles as well as about dating, divorce, and family.

Los Angeles, CA

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