Susan Patton Princeton Column Underestimates the Value Of Single Life


In case you haven’t seen the internet in the past couple week, Susan Patton, a well-intentioned, but perhaps a little off base, Princeton alumnae wrote to her alumna mater’s newspaper encouraging Ivy league women (such as yours truly) to snag that magna in one hand and that MRS in the other. Various people have critiqued Patton for her elitism, sexism, and general not-with-it-ness, but I think we are missing a larger point that her piece brings up. Being single is assumed to be a deficiency in our society. If you’re not wanted, you’re found wanting.

Certainly, I’ve felt this myself coming back from a disappointing party, asking, “But really what’s wrong with me?” As a twenty-two year old college senior, I'd be lying if I said part of my anxiety towards Patton’s piece doesn't come from a point of personal insecurity. (I mean, hello, have you seen Girls?) But still, I’d like to think that my resentment towards the whole “Fix Thy Singleness” industry led by Cosmo, Sephora, and Victoria’s Secret is that I’m not sure if I believe singleness is inherently a negative problem. Indeed, I find the automatic societal stigma to be my main point of contention.

Here it is: I don't believe that being single should be defined just as a transitional state between my last date with Person X and my first date with Person Y. My identity when I’m single should not be that I’m not ____ enough or too ______. Certainly, I’m not perfect; no one is, but I have a serious problem to be pressured into feeling ashamed that I’m not in a “meaningful romantic relationship.”

Please don’t get me wrong. Watching a crush develop into a like and then maybe if you’re lucky enough into a love is truly amazing. And definitely, romantic love really does create some amazing art, like my favorite book For Whom The Bell Tolls. (That scene when Hemingway describes love as that space in between holding someone else’s hand = brilliant)

But being single does not mean that I am without love. I will always adore my family; my friends are out of this world amazing; my passion for curiosity and exploration never fails to thrill me. I experience love while writing a letter to my grandmother, a good belly laugh over the phone with my best friend, or sharing the warmth of sunshine while reading along the Charles’ banks.

No doubt, singleness can be unsettling, especially for us college students who rarely have more than twenty minutes of peace while we are crammed into our sardine cans known as dorms. This summer, I spent several weeks thousands of miles away from my home conducting thesis research and there were more lonesome nights than I would like. At a certain point, though, I learned to fill the space. And for the first time, I really got to meet me.

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. And within that separation is not singleness’s solace, but its sanctity.