I usually laugh when people leave rude comments on my articles online. Like the man who commented, “man chicks r stupid” on a recent Seventeen magazine piece I published. I laughed because of the irony of his inability to use correct grammar as he was insulting my intelligence, and because I know that he is, in fact wrong: not all “chicks” are stupid.
But instead of laughing at the negative feedback about my latest I Am Second piece, I was slightly — what’s the best word? — offended, horrified, angered…the comments people left made me want to respond.
So that’s what I’m doing.
I’m trying not to respond in anger or defensiveness, and I’m trying to look at the comments as simple misunderstandings rather than attacks against me, personally. But it’s hard, as some people called my article “unreadable” or said my feelings were “laughable” because of my age.
That’s right. My age. Something I have literally zero control over apparently makes my thoughts irrelevant and my emotions a joke. A few commenters in their 40s said that I had no right to consider myself “painfully” single because I’m only 22.
I don’t know what it was like growing up in the 80s, but I do know what it was like growing up in the ‘00s. I know that every book I picked up, every TV show, and every movie I watched was saturated with romance. Starting as young as middle and high school, every form of entertainment that I consumed told me that the best way to be human is to be in a relationship.
They taught me that being romantically loved by another person is everything.
As I mentioned in the article in question, my bread-and-butter were Christian novels — historical fiction and romance, namely. And those taught me that if a girl is pretty enough, clever enough, smiley enough, she will get a guy. They taught me that reciprocated love is the highest goal to strive for. They taught me that being romantically loved by another person is everything.
Movies and TV are no better. There is romance interwoven throughout every story it seems, even the ones that aren’t about romance. Chick flicks are one thing; but even action shows have romance. “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” — they show people being in relationships.
I know that my childhood was saturated with images of love and romance. I know my friends started dating in elementary school — I’m sure of this because I was the one delegated to pass their “love notes” between them. First kisses and dates were had before adolescence.
Except for me. I was the odd one out who didn’t have boyfriends or kisses or admirers. I had crushes on others, constantly. But nothing ever panned out.
I know that it’s harder to be permanently single at 45 than at 22. But I take issue with the idea that my relationship status can’t be “painful” because I’m “only” 22. Because here’s the thing — 22 might be young, but it’s the oldest I’ve ever been. Your twenties might look like the very beginning of your life when you’re 80, but when you’re 20, they are all you’ve ever known.
I have been alive for 22 years. The entirety of my consciousness has lasted 22 years. But because that’s all I’ve known, that’s an eternity to me.
I understand that older people might look down and see me as a young little bud, barely alive at all, with so much possibility in front of me. (By the way, doesn’t one of the most popular books ever written talk about people looking down on you because you’re young?)
So, no, maybe my singleness isn’t “painful” compared to yourself, but it is painful to me.
But all I know is what I’ve experienced, and that is this: 22 years of being undesirable to men. So, no, maybe my singleness isn’t “painful” compared to yourself, but it is painful to me.
Someone commented that most people in the church aren’t with someone at 22, and in response to that, I laughed. I laughed a lot.
Because that might be true in some places — it is in Italy, where I grew up and where finding fellow Christians is like finding a needle in a haystack. But it’s not true in American church culture.
I went to a Christian undergrad, and a huge, disproportionate chunk of my classmates were either married by the time they graduated or were married within a few months of graduation. If not, they were in relationships. If not, they had been in relationships.
The church is the place in culture where people are “with someone” by age 22, usually.
Our culture is saturated with romance, our Christian culture even more so.
And finally — the point of the article wasn’t that I’m single. It was that God’s love is the greatest romance. I just decided to share that through the lens of my realization that being single is okay.
That was the point. That being single is okay, whether you’re 22 or 47 or 89. It’s not something I’m okay with in every moment of every day, but it’s something I’m becoming aware of. That’s what I wanted to communicate.
I’m sorry if my ruminations on being single got in the way of that.
Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.