Life Advice



Single File: Ignoring Public Opinion

Susan Dietz on

DEAR SUSAN: As a woman on my own, unmarried and unattached, I get a lot of flak. Most of it is silent, never said (to me, at least), but the message gets through and I feel awful, as if I'm a bad person. Sometimes I almost feel apologetic for being on my own. Should I? (I know you'll say no.) Well, then, how do I handle this feeling? -- From the 'Single File' Blog

DEAR BLOGGER: An eyebrow raised in disapproval at the wrong time can be devastating to an unmarried woman, no matter how secure and worthy she imagines she is. (As I've said before, society's negative perception of a woman on her own can make rough spots in her life even rougher.) The solo woman can evoke a whole range of reactions: lascivious leer, undisguised pity, gossipy curiosity, exaggerated motherliness (aka smotherliness), uneasiness, curiosity, downright jealousy masquerading as hostility. The range of reactions is as wide as the horizons open to her. (!) But through it all, it's crucial to remember that you represent all single women, and that being content and self-reliant sends a powerful message. Like ripples of water, that contentment will affect women's lives far from yours. By living well, you send the message that being single and female is perfectly acceptable -- certainly a better decision than being with an unloving (or unloved) mate. Make a conscious effort to let your undependence encourage other women who may still feel a bit apologetic/inferior for not having a husband. This all takes time -- and guts. Bring 'em on.

DEAR SUSAN: Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and a bit sad. Any suggestions for chasing the blues? What do you do? -- From the 'Single File' Blog

DEAR BLOGGER: Feeling blue may just be part of the human condition. And yes, I too have low moments, when things aren't going fast enough or one of society's harpoons finds its mark. And sometimes I can't pinpoint a cause, but the unease seems to have a home in the pit of my stomach. I call those crunch times, and I have a few tried and true ways of dealing with them. First, I phone my brother Jim, who has always been there for me. Talk and interaction are instant mood-breakers. Then, if at all possible, I go for a brisk walk. And yes, I've invested in walking shoes. Not glamorous, but they make me feel like a pro. If none of that accomplishes my goal, I borrow a trick from professional counselors: Runaway Thinking. The trick is to exaggerate your problem to the nth degree. (The point is to blow it up to such an absurd degree that even you can laugh at it.) Meditate; pray; whatever you call it, use the power of your mind to help heal yourself. Or, buy a really trashy romance novel and make some hot cocoa, and spend an evening in fantasyland. Buy some travel books and start planning (or fantasizing about) your next exotic trip. These are quick fixes, designed to lift spirits for the time being. The real stuff -- habitual positive thinking -- requires repetition and discipline. You might try it as you brush your teeth, thinking about the day to come with optimism. Get into the habit of looking at practical solutions to your problems -- work and personal. If there's an unpleasant situation you must face at work, do it early in the day; get it over with instead of fretting about it all day. The deeper this discipline in your thought patterns, the more available the solutions will be. Read "The Power of Positive Thinking." I kid you not. This stuff really works.



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