I love my friends. I love my family. But after a certain age, something happens when single girls spend time with these cohorts, and I think it’s time we acknowledge it — and then cease.

It isn’t intentional of course, the subtle gestures that let single women know they’re not officially human yet. I notice it most when I am in a group, or visiting friends, or renting vacation spaces: Silly Shani, you’re not enough to take up an entire guest room! All that space is meant for a couple, otherwise it’s just half-used, and that is a waste of space. You are wasting space, being alone. To maximize our utilization of this AirBnB, you should sleep on the couch, because that’s enough for a single person who doesn’t require privacy because she can’t possibly be having sex. If there happens to be a children’s room with bunk beds tho, you can have that.

Yes, it’s a bit childish — but we’d never make a couple feel like children! That would be so rude! A couple should never have the worst sleeping situation available, that is where single girls go. By the way, you’ll be paying the same amount as the rest of us.

No one knows what to do with a single girl. We’re the equivalent of a third arm growing from one’s neck.

I love watching grown adults dining in public together trying to determine where everyone will sit around a table. I used to hang back and take whatever leftover perch remained after all the couples nestled together, plunking myself down between the pairs that obviously didn’t care to chat to each other.

Now I walk right up to the table and sit down wherever I chose. Let the happy people sort the rest out, I’ve done my time. That ancient Downton Abbey rule where you never sit next to your spouse sounds genius to me. Mix things up! Have new conversations with people you don’t see much, or know well. Now people are concerned if they sit their spouse next to a single woman, she’ll steal him. Such the minx, with all her dinner banter of the weather, how much she hates the subway, and the genuine value of Amazon Prime.

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There’s the sense that I don’t “get” people’s lives anymore, once they’ve wed and reproduced and are suddenly seen as having achieved completeness. My download is apparently stuck at 50%. I’ve long observed that partnered people no longer know how to speak to single people. As if we’re suddenly of different genetic matter. I wonder, when marrieds get together, do they talk about cohabitation and romantic partnership exclusively? Do they think we’d just sit there, Aperol spritz in hand, staring blankly into space, confused by the discussion?

The point is that invitations dry up over time; a single woman will get asked to hang out less. We become less of an asset to the group dynamic and more of a liability. Someone talk to her, about anything, I don’t know…she’s alone.

No one knows what to do with a single girl. We’re the equivalent of a third arm growing from one’s neck. Everyone knows it’s there but ignores it, confused as to why it exists. There’s no purpose to it unless some kind of unique chore arises.

Single women are seen as incomplete. What is an adjective at 29 suddenly becomes a problem at 30. Everyone is seemingly moving forward but the single woman is stuck, she can’t move. Lord knows she can’t get up from the kid’s table of life unless a man grabs her hand and leads her. It’s a perpetual childhood, a failure to grow up, until suddenly we’re that cool old woman in quirky round glasses with an “alternative lifestyle” and lots of plants.

I’m unpartnered, so I’m incomplete. I’m unpartnered, so I’m not balanced. I’m unpartnered, so I stick out.

I am moving forward and I am thriving, or at least trying to. Every time I sit in the backseat of a couple’s car or with a motley crew of leftovers at wedding reception table #14 or consciously try to talk to the woman in the couple more than the man, I’m reminded of how superfluous the world tries to make me feel, simply because I’m unpartnered.

Illustration: CSA Images/Mod Art Collection/Vetta/Getty Images

I’m unpartnered, so I’m incomplete. I’m unpartnered, so I’m not balanced. I’m unpartnered, so I stick out. And rather than looking at me and thinking, “Hey, I’ve got a friend she should meet,” they think, “Whew, I’m so glad I don’t have to be her anymore.” If we can only see ourselves, and only understand ourselves, and only empathize with ourselves, we run in a pretty selfish circle.

Someday, I will be in a couple. And there will certainly be a wave of relief that feels like standing on the Splash Water Falls bridge. I will be relieved to have company, affection, someone who, in moments of great disaster or joy, thinks of me first. That will all be fantastic. But it won’t erase my understanding of what it’s like to be a woman who doesn’t have that. Not who doesn’t have that yet, but simply who doesn’t have that. And I don’t know how long my understanding of how she feels will hold, but I do know that she will always, 100% always, get my guest room.