Many years ago I worked with a number of friends in a young company. One of these friends was going through some issues-so he told me later-and would stop talking to me every few days. I kept patching up the relationship but he kept snubbing me until I, severely depressed at the time, could patch no more. Inspired by the girlfriend of one of my colleagues, my friends chose to include my ‘snubber’ in their social round instead of me as it was too awkward, I was told, to include both of us. Then began months of being subjected to the organisation of and the recounting of parties, get-togethers and holidays. They had been my only friends and it destroyed me and left a huge scar.

***

This evening, on a beach near my house, I came upon some friends preparing for a barbecue which I hadn’t been invited to. I understood why as I noticed the presence of a woman who has refused to acknowledge me on the street for the last few years.

My closest friend in the group is a single man. I have asked him a few times if he knew what this woman's problem was but at first he ignored me, then said I was imagining it and finally that it was most likely a storm in a tea cup. What the storm is I still have no idea. He has organised other barbecues on this beach near my house and gone on trips we had discussed, looked forward to, none of which I have been invited to, all most likely because of this woman. She has issues and seems to need to ostracize people. Before me it was my friend himself who was the pariah but for him it wasn’t a problem, no-one else played her game and he continued to be included. But now it is my turn and I am being excluded.

My current snubber has the married woman's status and can rest in the bosom of this group unchallenged. She is part of a recognised social unit. A single male may not be a unit but he is also not seen as a threat. The single female has always been the fearful thought on the edge of the average persons imagination. We have been outcast in the past, called witches or jezebels. Other women think we are going to steal their mates. These days few people will admit to such thoughts but the woman alone will always be the first one to be jettisoned so the social boat isn’t rocked. Somehow I think I’d prefer a horde of villagers with torches and a ducking-stool. That you can fight. You can’t fight silence.

Still maybe the 'fault' is with me and it is a matter of perspective. Maybe married people have their deeper relationships with their spouses and ‘friends’ serve a purpose quite different from the one that single people expect. For married people perhaps ‘friends’ are social window dressing or mirrors or handy ciphers on whom to act out neuroses which would otherwise strain a marriage. For wives who have not found their personhood, single independent women are a reminder of what they don't have and may be a threat to a precarious marriage.

The married prioritize practicalities and are unable to afford afford unnecessary emotion or offer anything outside of a strict schedule they control. This may be due to the unworkability of the nuclear family, a unit increasingly cut off from community and struggling for time and money. It may have to do with the disillusionment that can come with marriage and children or even to the insularity that comes with happy coupledom. How many of us singles feel like we are feeding someone elses relationship, providing colour to a busy couples life from the sidelines of their schedule while whiling away lonely hours with no one to call on?Whatever it is, for a single person it makes for uneven and dissatisfying friendships. This is no ones fault per se, we are all doing our best.

I have to remember too, at these times, that I do have married friends who have opened their schedules, lives and hearts to me and to whom I am forever grateful. They do not know how special they are retaining their individuality instead of being a cog in the great replication machine. For the rest, the rank and file, one can choose to get on board with them, suck up the inequities and fill time with work or hobbies, maintenance workers serving the machine. Or we can choose to go hang metaphorically as well as socially with those who need company most:other singles.

***

This evening the snubbers husband greeted me and we swapped niceties. The snubber herself waved happily at me presumably because people were watching, acting as if she hadn’t deliberately, blatantly ignored my greetings in passing for years. I could’ve responded in kind, pretended the bullying-for that is what snubbing is-hadn’t happened and taken my place in the group accepting it as the social facade it is. Instead I contented myself with waving half heartedly back and biting back the impulse to yell...

‘Liar!’

I bantered some more before I picked up my bag and left.

Walking alone up the road from the beach between ditches spiked with horsetails and dotted with flowers, as the shadows lengthened and the wee birds swooped, I was sad because I had to finally face the fact that an old friend is not really a friend but the deep wound of the past did not open. Now I am older and stronger. I have diverse interests and diverse groups of friends. I no longer keep all my social eggs in one basket. I also enjoy my own company to an ever increasing extent.

I know my ‘friend’ is just taking the path of least resistance. I know the woman who snubs me is enthrall, probably unconsciously, to behaviours that she has not been able to root out due to a life of being coddled within the very social structures that reject the angular, difficult, awkward, unique me. And I know the single woman will always be seen by some people as at best a sad outcast, at worst a scary witch. But then some people are far too easily frightened…

“Boo!”