Sunday, October 16, 2005

On Women Being Strategically Single

In social life, people are unstintingly Machiavellian, molding themselves in ways to maintain their social standing and influence others. For example, single women are known to wear a ring indicating that they are married when in fact they are not. This is usually or always done to ward off men for whatever reasons. But this practice is less interesting than its converse: married, engaged or otherwise committed women pretending to be single. This occurs as much or more often than single women pretending to be married. By “pretending” to be single I mean strategically withholding information about their relationship status in communication with a single or married man, but mostly in communication with single men. This withholding can take the form of either not informing the guy at all or not reminding him that you are not single, but already committed to another man. For example, I’ve asked a woman in a relationship a question that clearly implicated her boyfriend and expected to hear about him as the central reason for her plans – but he was not mentioned. And I think this was no accident. Why do women do this? What compels committed women to remind men that they are not single at some times and places but not at other times? (Do we have any female readers out there who can speak up here??)

I have a hypothesis: Unavailable women are strategically single so as to not drive away (single) men they find interesting. But donning this cloak is tricky. You want to see open, friendly and available, but not too available. You want the guy to be closer to you but not too close. You want to keep him at a distance, but not shut him out completely.

But this assumes that the woman’s commitment to her boyfriend is non-negotiable. In reality, this is not always the case. Many women seem to be on the verge of ditching their boyfriends. That is to say, committed women are sometimes strategically single because their loyalty to their boyfriend is at bottom contingent -- he is temporary and provisional until it becomes too costly to find someone better. So strategic singleness, in short, sometimes signals openness to a possible affair, or if not an out-and-out affair, it indicates uncertainty or doubt on the part of the woman about the future of her current relationship. Feel free to agree or disagree about my stronger or more moderate interpretation of this social practice…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dr. Obvious for the analysis.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for everyone but I can say that I do this so that I can still keep male friends. It seems that if the fact that I am in a relationship comes out too soon, I am no longer worth getting to know, so I try to rope them into friendship before they can discount me as taken and thus useless.

Anonymous said...

hmmm.... someone's been shot down a few times