Suzanne Harrington offers some helpful suggestions for family and friends


All the single ladies: What not to say to a singleton during the festive season

Spare a thought for single belles this Christmas as they navigate intrusive questions about their love life. Suzanne Harrington offers some helpful suggestions for family and friends

All the single ladies: What not to say to a singleton during the festive season

Spare a thought for single belles this Christmas as they navigate intrusive questions about their love life. Suzanne Harrington offers some helpful suggestions for family and friends

IT’S Christmas! Yay! High-pressure shopping, relentless mince pies, and the seasonal horror of eggnog latte. Enforced jollity at terrible parties, then being trapped indoors with your relatives for days on end. No wonder those who can — the unattached, the unburdened, the unmarried — jump on planes to zoom anywhere hot and far away.

Not all, however. Many singletons stick around for Christmas, and are subject to all kinds of patronising nonsense from non-singletons. Or at least, the single women are. Look at the demographic — there are currently close to 145,000 single people in Ireland aged between 35 and 39. That’s 30% of the mid to late 30-something population not married or cohabiting, made up of 76,000 single men and 69,000 single women. But while we tend to presume that single men are having all the fun, we still persist with the myth that single ladies are secretly crying into their Baileys.

Here’s a handy guide on how to circumvent this big fat misconception while interacting with single 30-something women this Christmas, thus avoiding eye rolls. Or being poked in the eye with a bauble.

Don’t drown her in singleton cliches

“Don’t give up, you’ll meet the right one eventually. Enjoy your freedom, you’ll be old soon enough. You still have a good few years left yet. Have you tried [dating site]? Want me to ask [partner’s name] if he has any nice friends? I can’t understand how a woman like you hasn’t been snapped up!”

Seriously. Just stop. No matter how well-intentioned, please stop talking right there, and have a think instead — this is not school sports day, and she’s not running the three-legged race. Or the egg and sperm.

Don’t ask her about her sex life

Asking married or cohabiting couples when they last had sex, unless you’re a barrister and they’re filing for divorce, is considered inappropriate. Intrusive, awkward, a bit rude. Married sex — despite often being an oxymoron — remains off limits. Shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to singles? Why charge in, demanding updates and details? Unless they’re actually keen to share, in which case pull up a chair.

Don’t mention IVF, egg freezing, or sperm banks

Her ovaries are not time bombs that need defusing. She knows how fertility works. She may not welcome an in depth discussion about her reproductive status during Christmas pudding. Or ever. A fifth of Irish women are consciously childfree — assume she’s one of them. You know, like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz. Happily childfree. If she’s not, she knows how to make one, thanks.

Don’t try and match her up with anyone

Remember that toe-curling scene in Brigid Jones Diary, when meddling parents shove Brigid towards the grumpy man in the reindeer jumper? On screen, that’s funny. IRL, it’s less funny than a Christmas cracker joke and twice as painful. Do. Not. Go. There.

Don’t interrogate her about how dating apps work

“So you’re on Tinder? God, that sounds horrific. I’m so glad I met [partner’s name] before those apps were a thing. But seriously, how many semi-nude pics? Ugh, you must feel so dehumanised. Or is it hot? Do you just swipe right all of them and hope for the best? Ah go on, tell us.”

Do ask about her actual life

Don’t fail your own Bechdel test by assuming the defining narrative of a woman’s life are her relationships with men, or lack thereof. She may have just been made captain of the fleet, got her PhD in astrophysics, won the Ballon D’Or, wrote a novel, learned Mandarin — how are you going to discover any of this if all you ask about is with whom she is or isn’t getting naked?

Do expect to feel envy when you hear her answers

This is the real reason we cling to the idea that single women all crave the security of long term relationships — because if we hear one more story about how moreish single lives really are (more freedom, more spontaneity, more disposable income), we might feel just the tiniest frisson of jealousy. And want to join them.

Do realise that single women are generally single by choice

The story is that all men prefer dating women younger than their socks, and that women age in dog years. The reality is that women get bored far faster than men, and are the main instigators in ending relationships. According to cultural anthropologist Wednesday Martin in her book Untrue, it’s not women’s libido which is lower than men’s — it’s our boredom thresholds. And these days, we remain in relationships only if we want to — no longer because we have to.

Do realise that friends are the new family

Instead of creating a nuclear unit involving 2.4 kids, more and more straight women are house sharing, holidaying, and planning for old age not with a partner, but with each other. What’s not to like? Close friendship and support, good company, undemanding empathy, and no daft questions at Christmas. In fact, she may even be spending Friendmas with her besties this year.

Do remember that the narrative has changed forever

Traditions are made to be broken, or at least to evolve. We need to examine the drilled-in idea that coupledom is the holy grail of human existence. It’s not. Single women are not witches, spinsters, mad cat ladies, or desperate for the attention of men.

Speaking as a single woman — I recently left a younger, richer partner, because it was stifling — being single at Christmas (and Easter, the summer holidays, Halloween, in fact all year round) is an enviable state of being. Sorry, couples, but it is.

Whatever you think about single women — 35-40 and desperate for a baby daddy, over 45 and just desperate, over 50 and more likely to be killed by a terrorist than find a partner, etc — remember, it’s made up nonsense attempting to keep women anxious, compliant and blow-dried. So, if you’re hosting any single ladies this Christmas, remember, the only question they want to hear is this: “Champagne?”

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