I’m 23 years old, and I work in the service industry, meeting new people everyday. Probably 1-2 times a week, someone, most often a male twice my age, has the following conversation with me:
Dude: Do you have a boyfriend?
Dude: Why not?
Me: Kill yourself.
Just kidding guys I’m not that mean! I honestly don’t think that a lot of guys understand why this conversation is the worst. “I’m just trying to get to know you,” they might say, or “I don’t want to step on any toes.” And asking whether I have a boyfriend I understand to an extent. It determines whether I’m a viable option, whether you should just get on with your drink order or turn up the ~charm~ a notch (9 times out of 10 the answer is please don’t). Or maybe you’re just trying to find out more about me, I’m young, probably unmarried, and you’re just trying to make conversation. I get it. But overall it’s still kind of an annoying question, particularly when it’s the second thing you say to me after asking my name. Is my relationship status the next most important thing about me? Second, is it any of your business? Trust me, if we get to know each other and there’s a mutual attraction, I’ll make it clear whether I have a boyfriend. Or rather, if you hit on me and I’m not into it, I’ll make up a fake boyfriend anyway.
But it’s the second question that really irks me. You want to know why I don’t have a boyfriend. Let’s set aside the issue that again, prying into my personal life is none of your damn business, and look at how this question is intended. I see a lot of guys try and ask this question like a compliment. As in, “Hey girl, you’re so fine, why haven’t you been snatched up?” What am I supposed to say in that case, though? “Yeah I know I’m like suuper hot, but unfortunately my personality sucks ass, so, what can you do?” Sometimes it’s not a random guy at all but rather your Great Aunt Susan, who doesn’t understand why you’re having one-night-stands at the age she’d already popped out four babies. Always though, the underlying note, what the question is really saying, is that I should have a boyfriend. Yeah that’s not what you meant blah blah I know. But even if unintended, what this question implies is that having a boyfriend is the norm, or the standard, and I’m off or against the grain for not having one.
So how can I respond? I could tell you to fuck off, but whether creepy customer or Great Aunt Susan, that seems harsh and not in my constitution. And as I stated previously, I understand that there’s not usually malice behind this question. So that leaves me to respond one of two ways: that I either 1) don’t want a boyfriend and have made a conscious choice not to date anyone, or 2) I want a boyfriend, but no one wants to date me. The former would be the “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no man” speech, which is usually the choice I opt for. I like it because it counters this antiquated presumption that any girl who is single is just sitting around waiting for a guy to “pick” her. And, it’s seems far easier and less uncomfortable than the second choice, which I guess would be, “You know, I’d love a guy but they don’t seem to love me!” This still doesn’t answer the question exactly. Should I venture into some more specific guesses as to why I haven’t found someone to be in a relationship with me? Maybe it’s my borderline alcoholism, maybe I look weird naked, maybe it’s my affinity for fast food and hatred for the gym, maybe I’m just an annoying and unlikable person? Am I really supposed to go down this rabbit hole with you, stranger I just met? Do you want me to start crying in front of you?
The actual truth is probably somewhere in between the two. That I haven’t “found the right person.” Not that I think there’s a “Mr. Right” waiting behind Door 3. But maybe it’s more that I’m not actively seeking someone while also not turning opportunities away. Maybe for me, and a lot of others, being single or in a relationship isn’t the result of a conscious choice which can be used to answer this question, but is just what my current circumstances happen to be. Maybe I’m a little immature and not totally ready for commitment at some times but yearn for it at others. Maybe I’m fucking 23 and you should back the fuck up on this pressure cooker. Perhaps I don’t fully know the answer to this question myself. All I know is it’s a personal subject, that if ever brought up, should be brought up by me. Your question, whether you mean for it to or not, holds a lot of expectations and implications, and puts me in a position to be judged by you for the lack of a man in my life. There are also so many politer alternatives. Maybe try getting to know me and see if you even like me before delving into that? Maybe when I tell you something I’m doing later you drop the old “so is your boyfriend going to be there?” *blush * “I don’t have a boyfriend” routine. Maybe wait until like the fifth date to get into why all of my past relationships have been catastrophic failures. Or maybe a simple “Are you interested in dating people right now?” would accomplish the same goal without all that judgment behind it.