Is There Something Queer About Being Single? (Narrator: There Is Not.)

by Stef & Riese

Today, The New York Times‘ Modern Love column published an essay entitled, “Is There Something Queer About Being Single?,” which might as well have been subtitled, “The Straights Are At It Again.” In the column, a very nice-seeming writer wonders about the larger consequences of how she’ll be perceived as a single woman on a road trip who almost cut all her hair off but then didn’t cut her hair off.

While camping alone, she notes:

“I felt conspicuous, as odd and unsettling as a mermaid in the desert. I felt queer.”

At her new job as a faculty member of a college, she reveals to her colleagues that she is single, and then:

“…when new friends in that town effused about having me over for dinner but failed to follow through, I felt queer again. I suspected they felt awkward inviting me when everyone else would arrive in twos. I was the only single person among 11 at a dinner I did attend.”

When a friend of hers is running for local office and is worried about how her single-dom will be perceived by voters, she notes:

“There was something queer about being single: queer in the sense of “strange,” yes, but also in the sense that connotes a threat to the conventions around which most people arrange their lives.”

To answer the titular question:


Apparently our feelings about this were shared by somebody who has access to The New York Times backend. Minutes later, we got this new headline:

The answer is actually still “no,” but we freaked out in Slack anyway.

Stef: good thing i got this screenshot then!
Molly: will you screenshot the “odd” too
Stef: yes
Vanessa: It’s worse, honestly
I hate this so much
Molly: it’s just more offensive
Vanessa: Did they change “queer” to “odd” every time the author wrote it in the article
“I am more odd than this lesbian who is now married because her life has mainstreamed while mine is still…odd”
Molly: hahahahahahahahaha
Stef: omg
Molly: if this author had just been like “why are single women still treated as social outcasts”
Vanessa: I know! Molly I know!
Molly: that’s valid! but being like “it makes me a social outcast LIKE THE QUEERS”
Vanessa: like, one that rly would only interest a certain subsect of women
But a valid essay nonetheless
Stef: i mean i’d write it but also i’d write about how being queer makes it weirder
Stef: and then i’d be like “i also understand being marginalized in every way because i, a cis white woman, am SINGLE”
Vanessa: Haha
Then it would be bad again ;)
Stef: oh i don’t know, i imagine a montage of me talking to a homeless guy on the subway like ‘yeah i know, she never texted me back, i know exactly what you’re going through’
Vanessa: Ok now I’m cackling again
Anyway the thing is
There’s a way to talk about what this woman is talking about!
Unfortunately she missed that opportunity
Valerie: it still says queer all up in this article
despite the headline change
Vanessa: Right right they haven’t line edited it yet
Per my suggestion
You know some queer person in the office is like
“You guys I thought we DISCUSSED THIS, do NOT write the word queer before running it by me, jfc Autostraddle is gonna have a field day with this one YOU IDIOTS”
Molly: someone from the nytimes digital liked my tweet about it
Vanessa: She’s the queer who just said that, Molly
She liked your tweet and immediately emailed her boss
Laneia: jesus christ i go to one dentist appointment and miss everything!
Stef: is there something queer about going to the dentist?
Molly: i LIKE going to the dentist and no one else does, does that make me queer
Stef: my hygienist is a mean polish lady who hurts me which seems to be my type
Stef: they can’t have being single, that’s my thing
* stares into the sea * my only thing

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Stef Schwartz is a founding member and the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

Stef has written 464 articles for us.


  1. Really want to know about the conversation that happened at the times that led to this headline being re-written

  2. A year ago a straight woman told me she was offended when I called myself queer because she didn’t like the word.
    Now a straight woman is trying to take it.
    Actually you know what, no. Better idea: just stop.

    • I came out to my mother in May, and since then she has treated me as her gay sherpa, asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. My favorite was “What does the Q stand for in “LGBTQ?” Queen?”

      She was certain that it couldn’t be “queer” because “queer” is an insult, whereas “queen” is a perfectly okay thing to call someone.

      Again. Straight people are not okay.

    • Yes! Seriously fucking stop! :/ The only person I allow to say the weird “queer” is Jack Skellington from TNBC lol :P

    • back when i was on a university campus that the street preachers would stop by at in the springtime, their argument was that it was bc you were having sex w/someone of the same gender.

  3. Really hating how the writer of the NY Times article equates the affirming of lgbt+ relationships as valid with some kind of assault on her single-hood.

    “How could I not, when even the Supreme Court would declare, with the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, that to be unmarried was to be “condemned to live in loneliness”? The pathos typically associated with singlehood is that severe.”

    and also…

    “It would be a lie to say I didn’t crave the heat of another body in that space. Contrary to what the Supreme Court might suggest, though, companionship doesn’t always mitigate loneliness. Loneliness dissipates when you find comfort and pleasure in your own company.”

    Queer people now have a right to marry OR be single. She needs to check herself. Very problematic take.

    • yes!!! also like… there’s a lot about how we talk about DOMA and same-sex marriage and marriage in general in a law setting that is old-fashioned and conventional and heteronormative, including all the stuff about loneliness in the supreme court’s overturning of DOMA. which, by the way, despite being a lesbian who followed every step of that case and wrote about it constantly, i totally forgot those pieces altogether. It’s weird for her to use what yet another straight person wrote about same-sex marriage as some sort of Grand Statement on The Importance of Marriage, Brought To You By The Homosexuals

      • Right, it’s just so out of left field!

        I want to give this girl the benefit of the doubt throughout most of her article. In a way I think straight, cis women are a beneficiary of the queer-ing of spaces in general. And I think that is a beautiful thing. Cameron Esposito brings it up pretty often in her Queery podcast. So I’m reading this and thinking, is that what she is talking about/hitting on? But then the way she frames the whole DOMA argument, it seems strangely hostile. That, and saying she has to claim the word queer as a way of empowerment. Why you gotta come for our right to marry and a word we’ve struggled for decades to redefine?!??

        Also, being queer isn’t inherintly sad. That is also a very problematic thing. I think to view queerness in that way is a big part of the problem.

    • I do think it is weird that they used the phrase ‘condemned to live in loneliness’, because it does effectively elevate queer partnered people over queer single people. But given the context of her attempt to suggest that being single is the equivalent of being a sexual minority, I’m not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

  4. If she was really queer, her name wouldn’t be Helen Betya Rubinstein, it’d be Helen Betya Rubinothergirlsclitorisesbecauseyoureagalpal.

  5. So I made a comment on the article HOURS ago, but the only comments they’ve approved thus far are from people with usernames like Beagle Lover, saying things like “I’m 71 and single and I love living with my dogs!”

  6. I clicked through to this Modern Love column this morning thinking, “Oh, cool – another interesting essay on queer experiences” only to be disappointed by the author’s gross misappropriation of the word. Seeing the rewritten headline just makes this more confounding. I should’ve known Autostraddle would be on top of this very important development.

  7. At least this makes for great research for Erin’s “Are Straight People Okay?” project. File this one under “They’re not”.

    • I didn’t even notice that you had already tagged it under “Are Straight Women Okay”!! Good job.

    • “Are Straight People Okay?” is my favorite tag on this website. It has given a name to a feeling that I have so many times in my day to day life.

  8. My god… I also hike, camp and travel solo and the most I get is, “What about bears?” You know what? I’ve never been harassed by a bear *knocks on wood*. Homophobic assholes yes. Bears… nah.

    • Have you written about your experiences doing these kinds of things solo? I’m fairly introverted and want to go on adventures, so I’d love any advice or tips or just sharing of stories.

      • I’ve never written anything public unfortunately – just my personal trip journals. I started small and worked up to bigger trips – mostly in the mountains so far, but I have aspirations for some overseas trips in the future.

  9. Vanessa really spoke the truth with this: “There’s a way to talk about what this woman is talking about! Unfortunately she missed that opportunity.”

    • I would say yes, but only because I use bottom opened bananas in my gay sex. Generally no that’s just incorrect.

    • Once saw a video saying that’s how monkeys open their bananas and therefore that’s the natural way of things so I would like to posit that you are not queer at all but instead everyone else is queer which kind of makes you a bit queer don’t you think?

  10. I feel like the writer of this article read Carolyn’s piece on how being kinky doesn’t make you queer and was like “ok, what else can I appropriate instead?”

  11. So they just changed the wording in the title? No, honey, you gotta throw the whole damn article out.

    And “nice-seeming” is way more credit than I’m willing to give this author based on what she’s written. Babe, maybe you are single because you seem like a really exhausting person to deal with.

  12. next up: does being a straight woman who is actually not queer at all make me queer because everyone is queer now apart from me so therefore I am queer

  13. so many problems would be solved if straight people could remember what homophobic slurs are and keep them out of their mouths for 20 seconds

  14. How about this quick moment:

    “Her husband had been abusive and she knew she would be better off, but she still feared that something was wrong with her for not making the relationship work.

    The shame of having “failed” at marriage isn’t unlike the “failure” of being single”.

    UM, speaking of appropriation… the shame issues of an abuse survivor who feels at fault for not ending their own abuse are NOT the same as the shame issues of someone who is safe in their life and wondering if they’ve made dating mistakes.

    Like y’all, I totally agree that there’s a real issue here which Ms. Rubinstein simply isn’t mature enough to discuss without appropriating. She’s displaying my favorite symptom of privilege: being hit so hard by a brush with marginalization that she thinks it MUST be connected to the worst kinds of marginalization that exist, because that’s the only way to justify how bad she feels.

    With blissful unawareness she perfectly tracks that phenomenon in herself with these lines:

    “The history and the present of queer people’s marginalization are far more severe… Meanwhile, queer or not, single people are treated with a mild exclusion and a bafflement that feels centuries past.”

    So she’s intellectually aware that she’s experiencing “mild exclusion” in comparison to “more severe”, but her thought progression places the mild exclusion as the more important issue which has somehow grown out of the other, and she mentions that it feels “centuries past” as a device to connect the severity of her exclusion to the historical oppression of queers. That’s a pretty amazing silencing talent. I personally do not find Ms. Rubinstein merely well-meaning and off the mark.

    • “She’s displaying my favorite symptom of privilege: being hit so hard by a brush with marginalization that she thinks it MUST be connected to the worst kinds of marginalization that exist, because that’s the only way to justify how bad she feels.”

      YES! this is a post-2016 thing that is blowing up right now i think, particularly for progressive white women who can’t handle the knowledge that the majority of their demographic voted for turdblanket. they want to distance themselves and find ways in which they are still part of a group that is oppressed.

  15. Rather than challenge our society’s unhealthy ideas on romantic partnerships completing a person she writes this bullshit, submits this to her editor who looked at thought,”This is fine.” and now here we are.

    • This doesn’t surprise me at all given that these are the same people who published Blossom’s disastrous modesty op-ed this month.

      • The New York Times editorial staff has been on my “what the fuck list” for years but for some reason this one out of all bullshit I’ve seen has me pulling put out Picard gifs.

        I understand some of the dumb things they do having taken compositional english many times. Like publishing things that belong under a rock b/c it’s an opposing opinion and it makes things “fair”. Publishing the opinions of Darth Sidious because you need something different Master Yoda’s opinions is not fair, it’s stupid.
        Sorry rich fancy Masters degree having people.

        I think the reason this particular piece bothers me is because it feels like trolling, like our outrage is being baited while our identity is getting appropriated.
        Like an editor was looking for shitty piece, rather than just being tone deaf and out of touch.

  16. It’s 2017 and words mean nothing Table tennis is queer Donald Trump is president gravity is bisexual pot pie is nonbinary

  17. Aside from the many other injuries this piece has caused, I feel like Cheryl Strayed is reading it somewhere, gently shaking her head.

    “I sped through the Rockies and slept beside the Great Salt Lake, but the part of the trip that stays with me is the day in Nevada when I lost phone service at noon and didn’t recover it for 24 hours.”


    (Also in the third sentence the author says she is seeing someone when she takes this Wild Eat Pray Love trip. She somehow undermines herself e v e r y step of the way)

  18. the author’s tweet this morning…

    “This is about learning from the queer community, not claiming queerness, and I’m sorry that people read it differently.”


  19. Christ this person’s internal monologue reads like Bella Swan’s in Twilight, which if you read it as comedy is actually a hilarious novel. Simultaneously feeling better than and despised by the morlocks around her.

  20. YES to all of this! i scanned all the comments of that dumb article looking for one queer comment and there were 0.

    she wasn’t even single! she just didn’t have cell signal!!

    • I mean maybe we’re looking at this all wrong. If losing cell service contact with your special guy friend for 24 hours makes you question whether or not you might be queer maybe you have other things to examine.

  21. The real essay that should have been written right now in America would tie the assumption that people (mostly women) don’t want to be single into rape culture and, I don’t know, WORKPLACE HARASSMENT. Hey, haven’t folks been talking about a bit lately?

    Specifically in the New York Times- I know this woman was a guest author- but the Times folks have really been jacking themselves off for “breaking” the Weinstein scandal (which they didn’t actually), so just spitballing here, if they had published a real, intelligent Modern Love column this week tying together all these issues, the Times staff could have followed up with (1) more pieces examining the societal problem and (2) a closer look at Harvey specifically within this issue. Since the participation of his staff in luring women into privacy with him is one of my favorite parts of the whole story, maybe we could try to find out to what extent he researched his victims and if any were chosen over others because they were single? I wouldn’t be surprised. Harvey definitely displays the good old “she wanted it” mentality, so it makes sense that he might target singles.

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