The Follow-up Question

This weekend, I had drinks with a friend of mine who has been single for much of her adult life. She is an attractive and caring woman who is completely satisfied without a boyfriend or a husband at the young age of 29. However, there are some people who seem genuinely upset by the fact that she isn’t involved with someone, including near strangers.

A couple weeks ago a married man at a party asked if she had a boyfriend, when she said “no,” he asked the follow-up question that seems to escape the mouths of some people before they pause to realize how ridiculous it sounds, “why?” Most of the time this inquiry carries either a hint of hostility or pity; the connotations are never good.

What kind of an answer do these inquisitive individuals expect to get? “I have a fear of commitment.” “I’m an emotional mine field.” “I’m actually certifiable.” “Why? Are you available?” More often than not the honest answer is as simple as “haven’t found anyone worth committing to” or “I’m happy alone.” Still these answers are often not acceptable to those who ask why. They seem trite and contrived, no matter how accurate they may be.

My big question is why does there need to be a why? When I find out people I meet are married I don’t feel compelled to ask why. I don’t ask parents why they chose to have kids or demand that individuals justify their career choices. I’m sure these people don’t expect a defensive response, but it never appears as a question that stems from genuine interest. To me, it gives the impression that there is something wrong with being single and therefore it requires some sort of justification.

I don't know what the right answer is, perhaps I should check out this book, which apparently has some quippy responses to this dreaded "why?" In the mean time, a simple "because I am," will have to do.