This morning, I was chatting with a friend about how a guy she’s just met keeps pushing the “are you single?” question.
This kind of thing makes me twitch. Now, I’m all for people using their words like grown-ups when it comes to relationships – but there are good ways to do it, and this really isn’t one of them.
For one thing, asking someone this when you’ve literally only just met them implies pretty strongly that you’re mostly interested in their physical appearance. (To quote my aforementioned friend, who did try to explain her complex relationship status to the dude in question, “I don’t really think he was actually listening to me at all. I mostly just felt like some tits and a face attached.”) And – particularly when asked by straight men to presumed-straight women – there’s also this underlying assumption that being single makes you “fair game”. Like the most pressing reason this lady could have for not wanting to date you is that some other man has already staked his claim! Like a dog pissing on a tree, or something. Why bother spending time as friends, learning about each other – your shared interests, your points of divergence, what makes the other tick – and finding out about her relationship status the slow and boring way, when you can just cut to the chase and find out instantly whether there’s a chance she might fuck you? (And if what you want is a no-strings fuck, then, well, listen to Captain Awkward, Use Your Words and be up-front about it, yeah? In fact, anyone who wants to ask other people out without being a prat, go read some Captain Awkward, who has been writing about this stuff since post #3.)
But also – to leave until another time a deeper analysis of patriarchy and loaded questions and coercive situations and Schroedinger’s Rapist and the way that (in the economy of normative heterosexual relationships) women are still postioned as Objects To Be Won whereas men are People Who Win Objects – it’s just a stunningly pointless question.
Asking “are you single?” reminds me of all the misfires people make when playing Twenty Questions, because a “yes” or “no” response will not get you any closer to the answer you actually want. (Incidentally, this is why asking about gender in Twenty Questions is frequently pointless – if you can narrow someone’s character down to being a famous fictional 19th-century detective, you can tell without knowing gender that it’s probably Sherlock Holmes – unless you’re playing with a Doctor Who fan, but even then, “are you a Silurian?” will get you just as close as “are you a woman?”.)
The thing is, we don’t live in a world where the two (ONLY TWO, NO MORE, NO LESS) options when responding to “are you single?” are:
– “Yes, and I think you’re also super-cute and would like to do kissing with you!”
– “No, I am in a happy monogamous relationship, and cannot conceive of makeouts with someone other than my beloved!”
When actually, there’s a whole constellation of answers:
– “Yes, but I am celibate / asexual / not attracted to people of your gender / just completely uninterested in sexytimes with you personally for whatever reason!”
– “No, but I am attracted to you and polyamorous / in an open relationship / getting a divorce / happy to cheat on my partner for whatever reason, so let’s get down and dirty!”
For the purpose of squeezing MAXIMUM ENTERTAINMENT VALUE out of such interactions, I also recommend introducing answers along the following lines:
– “No, I’m married to the sea.”
– “YES I AM SINGLE BUT ONLY BECAUSE I BITE MY SEXUAL PARTNERS’ HEADS OFF AT THE MOMENT OF CLIMAX
HEY OUT OF INTEREST HOW STRONG WOULD YOU SAY YOUR NECK IS
JESUS WHAT, IT WAS JUST A CASUAL QUESTION, STOP BEING SO DEFENSIVE”
– “Yes, but only technically. Because apparently marriage to robots is not legally binding. Apparently.”
– “[whispering] We are not single… we are LEGION. A thousand vicious voices instruct our every movement as we struggle to puppet this stifling mortal shell we must wear to conceal our true nature, until the Day of Reaping…
I MEAN UM YES DEFINITELY SINGLE THERE IS ONLY ONE OF ME HA HA HA”
– “[incomprehensible hissing noises and the buzzing of ancient wings risen at last from the tombs of once-glorious kings]” <— That one probably works better over textual media, unless you’ve got some seriously evocative vocal abilities.
This might be why I’m not an agony aunt. Still, being surreal sometimes feels like the best way to get creepers off your back. Unless they’re, like, “creepers” in the sense of being tendrils of some kind of horrifying bloodthirsty plant-monster, in which case maybe weedkiller, or the common cold if it’s of extra-terrestrial origin?
(And to anyone wondering – the next Frozen post is on the way, it’s just taking a while because I decided to make it a collaborative piece, and I’m still waiting on a few people!)