Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Theory & Essay

The Second Most Backhanded Compliment Of All Time

Many moons ago I wrote a post entitled, “The Most Backhanded Compliment of All Time”. The premise? There were so many single women out there because most women made for a good option, therefore, men had a hard time discerning which women to choose from since, well, the status quo was “good women”. Being a good woman didn’t make you special because well, the default for most women was “good woman”. Yeah I caught some flack for that, but I still think its true.

You gets no cookie for knowing how to bake cookies.

I had a girlfriend once tell me that part of the value she brought to my life was that she cooked for me. I looked at her like she had three boobs (she didn’t) and said, “you think THAT makes you special? I haven’t had a single girlfriend who DIDN’T cook for me? The non-cooking woman is a myth in my life. Every woman I know and have dated has cooked and cooked well.”

And it’s true. Moving on, there is another backhanded compliment that I’m sure gets uttered on a near daily basis in clubs, libraries, speakeasies, dressing rooms, and Delta 100-year parties happening in DC this weekend:

“Why are you single?”

On it’s face, it shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Which leads to the question, is it inappropriate to ask anybody why their single?

Pretty much…yes.

This is (usually) one of those backhanded compliments intended to flatter but reminds the person that they are indeed single and implies that it is somehow their fault (it likely is at least partially their fault, but we’ll get to that later) or their choice. So while it’s not exactly inappropriate because of its intent, the execution of said question will always skew negatively and thus, it is probably inappropriate because it never has a positive outcome.

Let’s start with “implies that their singledom is their own fault.” Now, most people would argue that they are single for various reasons that aren’t of their own doing i.e. can’t find a (wo)man they get along with, opposite sex plays too many games, etc. Basically, their options have been more frog, less prince. And it’s not your fault if he or she who thee have come into contact with have been low on the quality totem pole. You can’t control who you meet, only where you meet them and there’s no guarantee that you’ll meet quality where you assume quality resides. You can mostly only up your chances. And that’s not their fault. You meet who you meet and how those persons handle that responsibility is not your fault.


It also implies that its their choice to be single – where the offense usually comes in – when in reality, most women you ask this are as surprised as you are that they are single since they want to be in a relationship and see exactly whatever it is that you saw that made you ask such an inappropriate question! While I’ve met a few women who have told me straight up that they want to be single, the vast majority would rather be coupled up. As far as men go? Well, many men wish death upon me are okay with being single until meet a woman who its worth typing a text to this girl they used to see, telling her that he chose a cutie pie with whom he wants to be. You know, because while he’d hate to see her frown, he’d rather see his new girl smile. Point is, asking why somebody is single implies choice, and a choice most of us likely wouldn’t make. Which, again, leads back to them being as surprised as you are that they are single.

Basically, they realize they are the cats meow because you realize they are the cats meow. However, that has nothing to do with how they ended up single. Those types of questions usually arise after some sort of interesting conversation or discovery that this person is super cool because of xyz. Chances are, if we were to dig into the relationship pasts of most folks, we’d be able to surmise and determine various reasons why said person who covets a relationship is single. Some of their own doing, some the doing of their lovers past.

There’s another factor here that often comes into play: I’d wager that about 9 times out of 10, a man is asking this of a woman, which has to be completely frustrating for the woman. Standing in front of you is a man who has not only determined that you are a catch, enough to not only wonder why you are single, but enough to voice this confusion to you out loud…

…and then likely move on to the life he was leading before you two met. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a woman who told me she met her boyfriend after a conversation where the dude she was talking to inquired as to why she was single. Not saying it can’t or doesn’t happen, I’m just saying I’ve never heard that story before.

Which leads to this other point – men ain’t stupid. See, if we get to the point where we vocalize – externally – to you that we’re surprised that you’re single, to which you’ll likely shrug after the pseudo annoyed look on your face dissipates, we are going to ask ourselves this same question (internally), except putting the emphasis on the “why” and not the “you”, thus making us think if you were such a catch, you’d be caught since there’s a really good chance that you’re looking to be fried and fricasseed.

It’s the same principle that I’ve heard many women express upon meeting a man who is over 35 and either hasn’t been married before or has no children. Something has to be wrong with him. Either he has commitment issues or is gay. Or doesn’t know what he wants out of live, etc. None of which has to be true, but some of which could be true. Who knows? The guy could be perfect on paper but once you go digging, you may find out exactly what “looks good on paper” and Notre Dame have in common.

Anyway, is it appropriate to ask somebody why they’re single? Why or why not? Of is it really just a backhanded compliment that should be kept to oneself?

Inquiring minds would like to know.


Filed Under:
Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • Crystal Marie

    ZOMG, this website is sexy.

    It’s appropriate to ask if they legitimately are curious about the circumstances surrounding your singleness. The motive can be determined in the way they ask. “Ah… you’re single? If you don’t mind sharing, how did things end in your last relationship?”

    But if they say in that same tone that they use when they say stuff like, “Let me guess. You MUST be a model! Gotta be!” …. Then you know it’s just lame. game.

    Good post P.

    • thanks. you’re right. the way folks ask is definitely the best determiner.

  • Angel Baby

    Tears lol

  • Perverted Alchemist

    I could say something about this, but I won’t. Why? Because the truth offends people…so I’ll just lie…

    • Yoles

      speak your mind PA…

    • Sweet GA Brown

      Actually I would like to know your thoughts.

    • Sandpaper

      You are misrepresenting the great city of Auburn with your reluctance.

      Speak on it, bruh.

    • Tristan

      vsb is overdue for one those 800+ in your feelings comment threads…spill it bruh

    • thanks for sharing. what you brought to the table was scholarly on so many levels. lol.

      though i have to say, not only did you not say what you could have said, thus prompting the desired chorus of folks asking you what you would say…you ALSO didn’t lie.

      So either offend us or lie, good sir. Doing neither when you said you’d do one or the other is nincompoopery.

      • Asiyah

        I’m saying!!!!!

      • Perverted Alchemist

        Here’s the thing, Panama. I generally avoid most posts on love and relationships, and I avoid talking about it in real life. The primary reason- as I have stated on numerous occasions- has a lot to do with how it’s approached. When I speak on anything, it’s usually from the perspective of thought as opposed to emotion. The trouble is that an overwhelming percentage of people who speak on it do so on an emotional level rather than a logical and thinking level. So when I say something that is basically along the lines of common sense, it’s always the folks who have been hurt and are bitter who would rather be offended and fire shots instead of taking a long hard look at themselves and the decisions they made in their dating history.
        The reason why I said I would rather lie is that some people would rather have their egos stroked than to admit their bad choices. Case in point: This 43 year old woman who I talk to on a regular basis got offended when I called her “bitter”. I did so because she wanted to lump all men in a box based on what one man did to her (She was cheated on and physically abused). So when I called her on her bullsh*t, she hated my guts because I stated the obvious instead if catering to her school of thought. Most people in this day and age would rather hear how much of a catch they are instead of being shown what flaws they have and how much they need to work on themselves before entering a romantic partnership. One would think common sense would prevail in the dating atmosphere, but as Chuck D. once said “Common sense isn’t always common”.
        The whole thing that bothers me about the question “Why are you still single?” is the whole “double standard” behind it. Sure a few women may find it annoying, but try asking that to a single man and watch what their reaction is. If a woman in my age group is still single, she’ll be percieved as being a “career woman”. If a man in my age group (such as myself) is still single, he would be referred to as being too picky, commitment phobic, gay and everything else known to man. Why can’t someone just enjoy life intead of being labelled, for once?
        Another thing that bothers me about the question is what I have stated before. I am surprised at the number of people- men and women- who would rather assign blame to another party instead of focusing on and working on themselves. That’s not rocket science- it’s plain sense. Sure, it’s easy for a person to point fingers rather than admit they are in need of a definite personality makeover, but not many people want to do that. So, what you get is a lot of hurt people being on that bullsh*t about why there’s not enough good (wo)men today, rather than focusing on self improvement. Looking inward admitting to yourself goes a long way folks, trust me on this.
        Sorry for my incessant ranting, Panama. I didn’t really want to speak on this at length, but someone needed to say it.

        • Asiyah

          This wasn’t rambling. This was insightful.

          • Perverted Alchemist

            Thanks, Asiyah.

        • Sweet GA Brown

          I agree with you. I try to use logic when dealing with relationship selection now and then add emotions. Whats crazy is guys dont feel me on that. Then again, should I really expect most guys to think logically? While some women act on emotion, some men act on physical attraction.

          • T.Q. Fuego

            Well d*mn…I guess PA finally took the d*mn bait lmao

            • Perverted Alchemist

              Shocking, ain’t it? LMAO!!!!

          • Perverted Alchemist

            “While some women act on emotion, some men act on physical attraction.”

            This statement is why a lot of relationships tend not to last. When you base a relationship on something as fallacious as something superficial, things are bound not to end well.

        • The Guy Formerly Know As Hmmmm

          Someone reading this somewhere is in their emotions about what you said….but it all seems fair to me.

          • Perverted Alchemist

            I know. I’m just waiting for the backlash…

        • SweetSass


          But as you dish it out…

          Can you take it?

          • Perverted Alchemist

            Absolutely- I have no problem accepting criticism as much as I give it.
            However, this is what people have to understand about constructive criticism:
            Either they can use it to better themselves and their situation, or they can take it and make it out to be a pity party.
            The choice is in all how one decides to handle it.

        • Rewind

          Not only did the church say Amen, but that statue of Jesus cracked a quick smile.

          • Perverted Alchemist

            And then he said “Tabernacle”! LOL!

        • Dakota B

          Not a rant, it was insightful, I don’t ask that question – because most women and men will recite chapter and verse of ESSENCE articles and Steve Harvey books generalizing themselves and everyone around them. Instead of saying, hey it just hasn’t work out for me yet, but I’m working on it.

          • The Guy Formerly Know As Hmmmm

            “because most women and men will recite chapter and verse of ESSENCE articles
            and Steve Harvey books generalizing themselves and everyone around them. ”

            This is why I will ask the question.

            “Instead of saying, hey it just hasn’t work out for me yet, but I’m working on it.”

            And this is the answer I am usually waiting for.

        • Kema

          “When I speak on anything, it’s usually from the perspective of thought as opposed to emotion. The trouble is that an overwhelming percentage of people who speak on it do so on an emotional level rather than a logical and thinking level.”

          Well you know most women are feelers rather than thinkers #mbti Neither one is wrong. Just different.

          • Perverted Alchemist

            I can’t say neither one is wrong- except when a person’s thoughts and judgements get clouded by their feelings.

  • T.Q. Fuego

    Haaaa! love the shots fired at Notre Dame.

    Guess I’m weird. I don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate at all. I don’t think it’s a backhanded compliment. It’s more like a genuine question that comes from the same place that a compliment comes from…and last time I checked that was an upscale neighborhood.

    I’d probably judge a person that got offended by that question as a particularly sensitive chick…Certainly not a deal breaker, but a red flag…

    • Iceprincess2

      Say it with me- rollllllllll tiiiiiiiiide!!!

    • Negro Libre

      Is it inappropriate to ask a woman why she chose to get married? If not, I see no reason why asking a woman why she has chosen to be single is inappropriate, unless of course…

      • How often is the question, “why have you chosen to be single?” that’s not the question. the question is often, “why are you single?” which is due to some discovery of how awesome she is.

        if she says i chose to be single and then you ask…well yeah, then asking why she chose to be single makese sense.

        • Kema

          People ask men all the time why are they getting married.

          • Negro Libre

            Lol, if we were honest, we’d just say a lot of women don’t like questions that make them feel self-conscious, especially when it comes from men who might be attracted to them.

      • LMNOP

        I think it would be really rude to ask someone why they chose to get married.

        • Negro Libre

          Why do you say that?

          • LMNOP

            I don’t know, I just am trying to picture a conversation where I would say that and can’t imagine it not sounding really rude.

        • Ms. Bridget

          Funny. Marriage counselors ask engaged couples this question all the time.

    • Notre Dame must have missed their flight.

    • Asiyah

      I don’t think it’s a backhanded compliment either. I think it’s a passive-aggressive dig at you and a way to remind you that a) you’re single and b) you’re not as special as you are because if you were you wouldn’t be single.

      • Asiyah

        *not as special as you THINK you are

      • thats possible. hadn’t though of it like that, though i think the few times ive seen somebody say it, it was more in adoration than it was…some sort of reminder as to why they were single.

        • Rewind

          That’s what needs to stop. Don’t say it admoration. On sole principle of giving an unnecessary compliment. Why? She has men doing that all day. Try something different like…”I like that outfit, what made you wear it tonight”?…sounds corny but her answer, if positive would give you a way better introduction to her personality and thought process than the reason why she didn’t come with attached dyck.

      • Maris

        I agree. Honestly the way it comes off to me when it is said? “Why are you single? [READ: Sooo….WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?]”

        It just seems like the person asking the question is probing for your “flaw”. Kinda like the “unemployed” stigma. “If no one else wants you, why should I?”

        It just makes me feel like the buyer is looking for a reason to get you on sale, if you catch my drift. Hence the reason I answer now, “It’s because I’m not in a committed relationship….with anyone I’m currently seeing. Oh, shoot, I’m late! Call you later, byeeeee”

  • Iceprincess2

    I think it’s a fair question. Pretty straight forward. Plus, it allows the askee to state their case: Im dating, not dating, not looking for anything serious, looking for something serious, haven’t met the right person, focusing on career/school, ect.

    • Kema

      I always say… “Because I am not in a relationship at the moment” Then I return the question.

  • Iceprincess2

    Panama, didnt you answer this for someone over at guy speak? I can’t recall what you told her. So I guess my question is, how do YOU feel about it? Do you ever ask women this? Would you be annoyed if a woman asked you? Inquiring minds want to kno…

    • It’s possible, but hell, that could have been a while ago. I’ll revisit that this week. lol.

      I’m not sure how I feel. I never ask anybody that question. Or at least I don’t ask it outloud.

      And nobody has ever asked me that question.

  • I Am Your People

    Asking if you’re single isn’t necessarily offensive, especially if the person asking is trying to holla, or maybe a peer who’s just being nosy.

    Offensive is the “why aren’t you married yet” questions, especially when they’re from someone 35+ who just got married for the first time their d*mn self.

    • Sweet GA Brown

      Yeah I cant stand the why arent you married yet or when are you gonna have kids.

      • LMNOP

        I really try to not ask people when they are going to have kids, because I try not to be an @sshole, but sometimes I wonder because I really want a baby to play with and hold and all of that, but without actually having another child of my own.
        I think that is the motivation behind most of the “when are you going to have kids?” questions.

      • I feel you. There’s this unstated implication that its all just so easy to do. And its hard for everybody. Men and women. We get those questions too. Trust me.

  • Stanley

    It is almost as if the person asking the question is trying to tell you he/she is better than you right now.
    Anybody who got married less than 1 year as no business asking anyone WHY AREN’T YOU MARRIED YET?

  • That Ugly Kid

    I don’t see anything wrong with the question. When I’m content on remaining single, I don’t ask it all. Because I honestly don’t give a sh*t. What matters now, is if you down for letting TUK aka Langston Huge aka Ballz Mclongdong do some spelunking. Of the vaginal kind.
    – Even if I am romantically interested in a female and wish for more than lust, I don’t ask that often. But when I do, it’s genuine inquiry. That means I really find her fascinating and I’m curious as what led to be single and me lucky enough to meet her at this strip cl…ahem…Future Babyma…AHEM…Future Billionaires Club. Excuse me. D*mn cold.
    – I also want to see where her mind is at so I can learn a bit more about her, and catch any early warning signs.
    That way I can sleep easy at night knowing that she not gon’ throw Peen-Eating Pirahna in the hot tub I’m chillin’ in.

    • chameleonic

      pff. this is sacred womb. MINE. [*squeezes my thighs shut*]

  • Yoles

    ~~~~ i think the problem is the tone and the reasoning behind the question, along with the timing… i have been asked that question before and its ALWAYS shortly after an initial meeting, where the person knows nothing but the most superficial and non essential things about me… so i know he (and its ALWAYS a man asking this never a woman) is basing it on nothing of substance i.e. looks or flirting which has no bearing on how wonderful someone will be in a relationship if we are being honest here… it also comes off as NOT a compliment but him fishing for whatever my problem is that makes the men run for the hills…

    ~~~~ i think its truly a reflection of the man though, i have never met anyone that had something real develop with me actually ask me that… it seems immature to assume because a woman looks the way you like and can carry easy breezy conversation that she is a great compliment in a relationship and it shows me that he isn’t serious in his search… he is still looking for some chick that will fit in his cookie cutter “this is my girl right here” box.

    ~~~~ this is not to be confused with the real question of what happened in your last relationship in an effort to gather true deeper understanding of a person…

    • Tx10inch

      Cosign all dat.

    • Flyy


    • Namia


    • Todd

      Nailed it. And I like the line “this girl right here”. Mmm…validating status by using women as sex objects…*drool*

    • Asiyah

      Awesome perspective, Yoles. Maybe I should see it this way too.

    • trudatizm. <~~~~ new religion.

    • SweetSass

      Yoles FTW. You go girl.

    • Rewind

      Can always depend on my Yoles

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