- American Kahani pays homage to Singles Awareness Day which falls on Feb. 15 by talking to a few singles about what it is to be brown and single, and the joys singledom brings.
It is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all goes the saying, but an increasing number of people around the world who are opting to go solo, may beg to differ.
The number of American men and women who have never been married, are divorced or living alone has been on an upward trend for several years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite the fact that marriages are less common these days, being single continues to have stigma and feelings of loneliness attached, no more so than on Valentine’s Day. The feeling of loneliness among singles not yet having found “the one” still abound.
With single men and women often plagued by the question as to when they might settle down, or even feeling low about not finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, the day only reiterates why there’s no love lost, pun intended, if they don’t receive heart-shaped balloons, cuddly soft teddies and mushy greeting cards.
However, recent research shows that some people view singlehood as a happy destination rather than a stop on the journey to marriage.
Research by Dr. Elyakim Kislev, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and reported by CNN found that if you’re single, you can redefine the concept for yourself: You don’t have to be lonely, and you’re not a failure. Being single can be an advantage instead of a source of agony, he believes.
Kislev analyzed U.S. and European databases and conducted interviews to examine trends in singlehood and what made some singles happy, finding that for some, happiness was a choice lifestyle or something they came to accept.
But being South Asian and single can be a whole different story, replete with meddling parents, raised eyebrows from well-meaning relatives that will stop at nothing to get you that happily ever after. Cue Netflix hit show – “Indian Matchmaking” with Sima (Taparia) aunty.
However, this has not stopped many from dodging the bullet of matrimony.
There’s even a day set aside for it – Singles Awareness Day. Although, that’s usually lost in the shadows of its more famous counterpart, Valentine’s Day, not many know February 15 is just as important, and in fact, must be celebrated, too – a day meant for all those who are unattached, by choice or not.
American Kahani decided to pay homage to this less than celebrated day and caught up with some singles to talk about how difficult it is to be brown and single, post 21, and the joys singledom brings.
Forty-year-old Atlanta resident Su (last name withheld on request), says, “I’m blessed with a fairly atypical family — while they have ‘strongly supported’ the idea of me having a life partner, they’ve never tried to force me down the aisle just to check a box.”
However, she does clarify with a shake of her head that “the strong support comes with some pretty interesting (politely speaking) matchmaking efforts. I’ve lost a lot of precious time on terrible first dates and I’ve been subject to some mortifying incidents … I remember a dinner with a guy my family set me up with who spent a chunk of the evening googling me on his phone and asking me questions about what he found instead of just talking to me. He would say “oh it says here you’re into diving”… But… I’ve also met and dated some great guys through friends/family…which didn’t work out for various reasons. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s hard because of the pressure — I’ve learned to accept and embrace that part of our culture — I mean, another way to look at it. It’s literally an entire entourage of well-wishers providing a free matchmaking service with background checks — people here pay a pretty penny for that kind of service!”
Binod Dahal, businessman and Bollywood event manager, who’s in his early 30s does agree that being single in a South Asian home, after you cross the early 20s, is pretty hard. “Family members and relatives always ask these universal questions – ‘have you found somebody?” or “why are you not settled yet?” and the best one, “a guy like you, I don’t understand why you haven’t found somebody…..maybe, you aren’t looking”. Families are always calling about that aunt’s daughter or that distant uncle’s daughter who came to study in the U.S.,” says the Kathmandu native.
City Council Vice President, Township of Edison, Sam Joshi, who recently announced his exploratory run for mayor, says with a laugh that the first thing that popped into his head when American Kahani approached him about the story was that it was a setup by his mother. Joshi says that the “expectation” from his family is that he should already be married or “be on track” to be married. Giving us examples of when his parents have tried to set him up, Joshi says, “Pretty much every year after I turned 25 the question that was continually asked was ‘when are you going to get married?”
Joshi, who’s in his early 30s, does admit that despite the growing pressure from family, he has pushed back, avoiding every attempt at their matchmaking efforts. Joshi, who is determined to find his soulmate on his own and has made it amply clear that at the moment he is prioritizing his career over romance says chuckling “it is very difficult to hold his mom back”.
“My career is my passion and till date I haven’t found anyone who would be understanding of my passion. If I found that person, this would be a different story, says the not-so-habitual bachelor.
Young financial merchandising planner for Bed, Bath & Beyond, 24-year-old Ridhi Parmar, who also teaches Bhangra classes online, is enjoying her single life. “I got lucky with my family, they think that I’m a child in a 24-year-old’s body and so aren’t really pushing shaadi (marriage) on me,” says Parmar laughing.
As to what the pros and cons are of being single, Su says laughing, “No fighting over the TV remote lol!” but adds on a more somber note, “Seriously though, I wouldn’t label them as pros and cons. I love cheesy bumper sticker quotes so I’m going to quote one… ‘Not Single, Not taken… but busy building an empire, finding myself, healing myself, loving myself, being passionate, getting fit, growing friendships, meeting new people and making memories.’ Now, would I like to share all that with someone special? Of course! But in the meantime, there’s plenty of adventures to be had.”
To this Dahal adds, “I think single life is in your control. I am very strong and independent, so being single I don’t have to ask someone else for their opinion. Also, you can spend more time developing yourself, when single.”
Dahal does add that, “Somedays it would be good to have someone to eat dinner with or watch a movie with!”
“I can go out on a very short notice without having to check with someone,” says Joshi, when listing the pros about being single. “I can go to a friend’s place, get dinners, and go into the city (New York). And a big part of it is that I can pursue my career, and I may not be able to do that unless I find someone with the same passion – career.”
And listing the negatives, Joshi says chuckling, “by far, it is to constantly have uncles and aunties asking me when I am going to get married, pretty much every day. And it does make you question whether pursuing your career should be prioritized over building a family life.”
The one con that Parmar sees being single is “loneliness,” as she waits to be ready to be a part of a duo.
With many labeling Feb 14, Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday, what about the pressures on singles during this month of lovers? Says Su, “I’ve never been too attached to this particular Hallmark holiday, so personally, it doesn’t bother me much. What gets me are the personal moments when you just wish you had that person to help you carry the load, or ride the wave with you… speaking metaphorically.”
Dahal also doesn’t feel any pressure either, however, does add that “sometimes I think it wouldn’t be too bad to celebrate it!”
Dahal further says, “You see the shops getting filled with flowers and restaurants and gift shops getting ready and so you have that vibe all around. Friends can’t meet you that day as they have plans and I have even baby sat my friend’s daughter, so they could have a date night! It’s not the pressure per se, but the environment.”
Joshi, who is quite happy being single, no longer feels the pressures to be part of a couple on Valentine’s Day, which he did feel when he was in his early 20s.
Parmar too doesn’t seem to care about the day. “Valentine’s Day was always about eating candy for me and giving my friends candy and making them feel good. I’ve never really had a valentine and I really don’t know what I’m missing out on, but I don’t think I’m missing out that much,” although, she makes it a point to stress she’s not anti-Valentine’s Day.
As to plans for Valentine’s Day, these singles seem to have it all figured out.
“I will probably have a lazy Sunday, spend some time reading or watch a movie at home. And since, I have work to finish too…it’ll be books and the laptop for me,” says Dahal.
Joshi, whose plans are not firmed up will probably be spending the day at home with his first love – a miniature GoldenDoodle named Nala and later “may catch up with elders at a local bar and mingle – a guy’s night out.”
As for Parmar, she’s got her day all chalked out with Bhangra classes in the morning, and Facetime calls with friends, where she plans to raise a glass and bite into something sweet to mark the occasion, and maybe even watch a movie. “But my bhangra class with my kiddos aged 2-12, they are my true valentines,” she says with a laugh, “so I guess I’ll be busy with my three sets of valentines!”
Like all great movements, Singles Awareness Day was created from feelings of isolation. Around 2001, Dustin Barnes decided to create a day for his group of friends to enjoy their singleness rather than drown in their sorrows. Cheers to the single amongst us.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.