dating

Let's talk about the fact that single women are still seen as entertainment for married couples.

I had just popped a rather sizable chunk of garlic bread into my mouth when the dreaded question once again reared its ugly head.

“So, Laura, are you dating anyone at the moment? Tell us everything!”

With that one request, six heads all instantly sprang up from their phones, their half-filled wine glasses and the menus we had spread out haphazardly across the table, and quickly zeroed in on me.

I knew instantly there were only two ways this conversation could now go and neither of them were very pretty.

The first option was to just give up the goods I knew they were salivating to be dished up for them. With their preferred confessional menu including a range of scandalous dating stories, preferably ones littered with awkward encounters and cringe-worthy endings, we could all shriek and groan about until dessert was served.

The second option was that I just allowed myself to choke to death on the slice of garlic bread I still held clenched in my mouth.

Thus ensuring I would be wheeled out of the restaurant on a stretcher and spared any further questions on the subject while also leaving my dignity behind next to my still full glass of rosé.

With a sigh of frustration, I decided I had just better live, mostly because I’d already paid for the wine, and now I was left to dig hurriedly through my mind for some kind of enticing, crowd-pleasing story to offer up to the table.

Of course this wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to having a small stand-up routine filed away in the back of my head, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice should a horde of couples decide to treat me as a dancing monkey. Anyone who has walked this same path knows that offering up a jovial and entertaining take on single life and dating is the currency you bring to these types of gatherings

Even when the occasion is packed with people whose company you enjoy, much like this particular rosé and garlic bread filled night was, playing the specified ‘single gal’ role in a group will always lead to this particular and slightly stinging side effect.

It’s just something you know you’re signing up for the moment you confirm your attendance on the group text.

Let's talk about the fact that single women are still seen as entertainment for married couples. Source: HBO.
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Of course, the alternative to refusing to play this game is so much worse than just being confirmed as the scheduled entertainment, and I'm the first one to admit that things would be much more dire if I wasn’t included on the invite list at all simply because I didn't have a plus-one who was happy to chip in for the cheese platter.

The 'single women as entertainment' schtick is one that has been rolled out in countless TV shows and movies over the last few decades, such is it's persistant presence in real life social occasions.

It was an issue tackled in the very first season of Sex and the City, in the episode 'Bay of Married Pigs' where Carrie is invited to a Hamptons beach house by her married friends and knows that 'singing for her supper' means detailing her dating and sex life in graphic detail over morning coffees.

There's also the iconic scene in Bridget Jones's Diary, where Bridget is seated at a table with a slew of 'smug marrieds' and is asked to explain the mystery of why so many women are single, leading to a deafening silence which she cuts through with a joke about all singletons "hiding scales underneath their clothes".

If you're now shaking your head that both these examples are outdated, then I'd like to draw your attention to an episode in the most recent season of a TV show millennial women have been devouring in droves, The Bold Type on Stan.

In this episode, Kat laments the fact that she's been asked to attend a dinner party solo, saying, "I don't really want to spend the night with a bunch of couples who only want to ask me about my sexy single dating life that I don't have right now."

The real truth about the couples both in these pop culture moments and in real life, however, is that they're not asking these questions or demanding these performances as a form of pain or punishment (except perhaps for that dour married man in Bridget Jones, he was just being a jerk) it's just how our society has trained them to act.

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"I don't really want to spend the night with a bunch of couples who only want to ask me about my sexy single dating life that I don't have right now," said Kat on The Bold Type. Source: Stan.

There's something about marriage that demands reverence and respect for the couples who have signed up for it, so there's no way I'm going to plop myself down in a booth, and in the same breath as I order a cider demand that the coupled up friends I'm having dinner with regale me with intimate stories of their sex life and relationship.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this unspoken social agreement is that this same reverence and respect is not translated back onto the life experience of single women.

As many single women can attest, there's nothing quite as demeaning as sitting with a group of couples who eagerly ask if they can please "just have a go!" at swiping through your Tinder/Bumble/online dating app of choice like you're all back in your childhood homes squabbling with siblings over whose turn it is to play Super Mario.

"Oh sure, I mean this process is actually about finding a person to spend my life with and could define my entire future....but you feel free to have a laugh over it while you wait for your bottle of tier two white wine to arrive, Kathy."

When I speak to other women who walk a similar path to this, their experiences are all eerily similar to mine.

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"I actually went on a date recently which I suspected would be pretty awkward before I even arrived, but I was going to a friend's birthday dinner the following weekend and I wanted a story that wasn't just me sitting at home with Netflix," one friend told me.

"I have a few good stories and comebacks that I just recycle through different groups of people until they become a bit old, not many people ever ask me about my job or my family or anything like that, even though they are the most important parts of my life," said another.

Of course, herein lies the second midfield of constantly having your life used as dinner party fodder. Sometimes it's less about wanting to keep the intimate details to yourself and more about the fact that... there's just not that much to tell at all times.

There's this idea that most single women spend their days wafting through rom-com induced scenarios where we're all batting suitable men away with a stick as they continually pop out of the woodwork as we go about our day to day lives, swooping down upon us like ferocious seagulls who have spotted a discarded french fry.

Or there's the belief that you're living this decadent and hedonistic lifestyle because you just don't want the conventions of co-habitation to slow you down.

When in reality, the highlight of your week was that your Fiddle Leaf Fig sprung a new leaf and you finally figured out how to use your new can opener on that tin of trapped beetroots. Domesticity and singledom are forever forbidden from being bedfellows without the scent of sadness wafting around them.

The truth of this particular conundrum is that there are no real victims or villains on either side of the relationship fence. We're all just playing the parts and following the conversation cues that have been thrust upon us, both by pop culture and by societal norms.

All I ask is that next time you're at a dinner party and the conversation stalls, that you not turn to the single woman sitting across from you and suggestively raise your eyebrow while asking way too loudly, "So, how's Tinder treating you?"

Perhaps just stick to politics, religion or whatever novelty pet video is currently making the rounds on YouTube.

For more stories like this, you can follow writerLaura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to her “TV and Movies”  newsletters for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

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