Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life's Little Instruction Book for Single Women

Growing up I was taught all sorts of lessons about the real world- assuming that the real world was a place where I would grow up to get married and have children. But no one ever taught me any lessons about what would happen if the ideal real world didn't pan out for me. No one ever prepared me for a world where I might not ever get married, and instead might find myself single and living alone for the rest of my life. In other words, in spite of a lot of preparation for the future, I woke up one day and found myself woefully unprepared for the future I am living.
I remember little life lessons handed down from the women above me that included things like, “Someday when you have a husband you'll ...” or “When you are a mom you will understand.” Or one of my favorites, “When you get married your priorities will change.” No one ever handed out advice that included, “When you are in your thirties and all alone, you'll need to be prepared to...”
Multiple times in my life I have woken up to these realizations, but never more so than when I am looking at my dishes. Why my dishes? Well, no one ever threw me a bridal shower. No one ever gave me all of those start up items to begin my adult life. I never got a nice set of matching dishes or towels, or pots and pans, or new linens. If I have it, I had to earn it. It is when I am looking at my mismatched set of dishes compiled from odds and ends left by roommates over the years, that I realize no one ever prepared me for what happens when Plan A (marriage and babies) doesn't pan out.
But then who was going to teach me all of those lessons? I can't think of one role model in my life that could have prepared me for my real life. My mother got married at age 19. She's never lived alone, nor had roommates. She's never been the sole breadwinner for the family. She's never had to make all of the financial decisions alone. I look back at my young women advisers, and I can't recall any single women among them. One of them had a job that I can recall, but only a part-time one. In other words, it isn't a surprise to me how completely inept I feel sometimes at how to be an adult, professional, single woman.
I am not surprised at the lack of role models in this area. But it does make me sad. I know there are fabulous great women just like me out there. I wish they were recognized more for how much they have accomplished, rather than always described as “she's accomplished because she never got married.” I think that does an injustice to all women, single or married. Why can't a woman be accomplished just because she chose to be? Why does her marital status matter? But I digress...
The list of things I have never learned could fill a book. The things I was never encouraged to learn to prepare for a life alone could fill five more books. And so I thought about it. What would I like to pass on to young women to prepare them for the future where things may not turn out to be all white lacy veils and bouquets of flowers?

Erin's Little List of Instructions on How to Live a Single Woman's Life
  1. “I'll get married someday and then I'll worry about retirement.” is NOT a financial plan. Get a real financial adviser- an unbiased one. Preferably not a member of your family. Why? Because people who love you and want to see you get married someday, might let “someday” influence your financial planning. An unbiased expert will help you prepare the right way.
  2. Not getting the full education you want because it would just be a waste of time and money “when you get married and settle down and have children,” and then never use your degree- will be the biggest regret of your life.
  3. Don't settle for “this will be a better job for me” because you can use those skills when you have kids, is not a career plan. Look into the future ten years and ask yourself do you want to be in that job still if you never have children? Instead, ask yourself “is this the job that will make me happy if Plan A doesn't work out? Will it financially support me and be mentally stimulating?”
  4. Explore your passions! Don't wait for someone else to come along to do them with you! Go find what you love and enjoy it fully.
  5. Decorate the way you like it and the way you want it. There is no rule that says you have to do it the way your mom/roommate/sister/brother/ex-spouse liked it. Do it your way! (My way involves calendars in every room. None of them on the right month, and none of them accurate.)
  6. I'd throw in my own little rule here about not shutting the bathroom door on principle, but it would embarrass my mother.
  7. Buy food storage that you will eat! I think not stocking up on food storage is one of the biggest mistakes singles make.
  8. If you don't live close to your own family, find a child to love in the community or in your ward. Having a child in your life is having a touchstone in your life to keep things real. It helps you remember that the world is not all about you, money, and whatever your job is making you do.
  9. Travel! See the world! Have fun!
  10. Buy good furniture. Say goodbye to Craigslist and invest in something you are proud to call your own. Make it something worth paying a moving company for!
  11. Send out Christmas cards. You don't have to have a cute little family card to send out cards.
  12. Insist on being treated like an equal. Don't let people treat you like you don't matter because you aren't married.
  13. Make something of yourself. Don't ever hold yourself back from being great because of what others might think. Be the next girl's role model.
  14. Don't be afraid to be yourself. There is an awful tendency to feel like we have to act or be a certain way in order to attract a man. Who wants to attract a man by being someone else? Attract a man by being yourself!
  15. Buy a toolbox and learn how to use it. Don't spend your whole life being helpless and depending on others to take care of you. Learn how to take care of yourself!
  16. Never, ever make a major life decision that you think will help you get a guy. This includes quitting a job, not getting an education, moving (cross town or cross country), buying a car (because you think he would like it), or spending more than $200 on anything (plane tickets excluded). Do what is best for you! Not what is best for you to hopefully, possibly catch him.
  17. Find role models at work, at church, and in your personal life. Especially ones that have been where you are now. Moms and sisters are great, but if they haven't ever been in their mid-thirties, single, and financially independent, their advice and viewpoint will be limited. Seek out people who have been there and understand your challenges.
  18. Have a guy best friend who will tell you the truth.
  19. Never, ever kiss your guy best friend unless he kisses you first. And don't even think about kissing him otherwise.
  20. Have a healthy relationship with food.
  21. Own one great pair of jeans that you look fabulous in. Own one great dress that you know turns heads when you walk into a room.
  22. Never let yourself become a manhater.
  23. Learn to cook for one. And don't eat Lean Cuisines and cereal for the rest of your life.
  24. Never be afraid to do it yourself. It doesn't matter what IT is. Go do whatever IT is you have always wanted to do.
  25. Remember that all the answers you really need come when you are on your knees. Don't be afraid to ask the One person who knows exactly how you feel.
Single women, help me out! What do you wish someone had taught you? What are life's little lessons that you never saw coming? Leave them in the comments below!

Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, and single woman. By day she works in marketing, and by night she hunts unicorns and writes romantic novels, “You Heard It Here First,” and the sequel “This Just In!” She accepts new friends daily at https://www.facebook.comAuthorErinAnnMcBride


  1. Buy dishes you love just for you. Decide how many dinner guests you'd reasonably entertain at once and buy that many plates to start. Use the good stuff, just for you - towels, linens, etc.
    Think of yourself as a daughter of God with much to contribute to the world, not someone waiting for your life to start after you are married.
    And - I love your 25!

  2. Don't serve a mission thinking you'll be blessed with a temple marriage.
    Don't take out your own temple endowments without preparing yourself for the possibility of being stuck going alone for the next 10, 20, 50 years with no eternal companion no one to share it with.
    Buy yourself a big box of Sees (or whatever your favorite brand of chocolate is) on Valentine's Day.
    Feel free to skip church on Mother's Day, you're entitled!
    Do your best to ignore that huge, gaping hole that only a worthy priesthood holder can fill, there are many holistic remedies that work almost as good as a priesthood blessing for those annoying menstrual cramps because menopause only comes to those who live worthy of it!
    Do ask your home teachers (if anyone remembers to assign them to you and if they feel comfortable coming to your home to share an awkward lesson on strengthening marriage, home and family) for priesthood blessings when you need them and try not to mind their wives' "back off bitch he's MINE" attitudes every time you approach them. Oh, wait, that was my experience in singles wards.


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