Being a single girl anywhere can result in seemingly endless questions, but if you are traveling without a male counterpart, the questions and raised eyebrows can really start to get to you. So here’s the big question: Should you just invent a boyfriend?
I think pretty much every female traveler has at least considered this. And our short and long answer is, no.
In many other countries and cultures, single women (especially single traveling women) are a strange and unexpected occurrence.
Sometimes admitting you are single can make you feel like an outcast or, in some cases, much more vulnerable. Inventing a boyfriend might ease your mind and save you an interrogation, but I’m not convinced it will truly make your situation any better.
Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Invent A Boyfriend
If you say you have a boyfriend, you might be forced to defend that. Nosy and persistent men are often hard to shake off, so your best bet is then to just be more forceful with your boundaries.
When I first started traveling I was so concerned that people would perceive me as a “rude American.” If you feel similarly, let me tell you: this is something you need to drop RIGHT NOW.
It’s time for girls to get more comfortable with having a stronger voice and stronger commands. Be proud that you are traveling solo. You planned your trip, paid for it and made it this far- you don’t need to make up a boyfriend to get out of an uncomfortable conversation. You need to get comfortable ending that conversation.
Embrace Being a Solo Traveler
If you have a boyfriend back home, rave about him and tell those foreign men you are happily taken. If you don’t, don’t make it a label or part of your personality. You are not a “single girl” you are a Solo Traveler Extraordinaire – embrace it.
I must warn you, though, this attitude will not be an easy one to maintain. Men and women alike are going to be all over you with questions, so you need to prepare yourself.
Do you have a boyfriend? Start simple and just tell the truth.
Yes: Smile and tell them that yes, as a matter of fact, you do. He is waiting for you back home and you have no intention of doing anything abroad you wouldn’t do at home. Make it clear you don’t believe in this whole “if he’s not here you’re single” attitude.
No: Tread lightly. Start with just no, don’t offer any extra information.
Dealing with Persistent Men
If you’re single and ready to mingle: go for it!
If you are looking to have some fun, go right ahead. Just be careful. Remember, there are guys out there who get a kick out of how many foreign girls they can bang. They also might be total psychopaths. Just limit the information you give them and be smart about it.
If you are not interested and feeling pressured, just remember that no matter where you are in the world, it’s your choice.
You can be single and uninterested, no need to invent a boyfriend. You can politely turn down advances. If that doesn’t work, get stronger and make yourself a little more clear.
Dealing with the Biddies
No matter where you go, there always seem to be old, grandmother-type characters ready to scold you for being alone. They tend to make you feel inadequate, as if your womanly whiles have failed you and you need to try harder.
Let’s get things straight – There is nothing wrong with you. Maybe you love being single or perhaps you are looking but not willing to enter a relationship just for show. Either way, that’s your choice and you don’t need to invent a boyfriend just to make them feel satisfied.
We’re not in the 50s anymore ladies, you are more than a baby-making machine. Just smile at the old ladies and tell them, as politely as you can, that you haven’t found the right one just yet. Hopefully you find this easier than I do. I don’t get along with the elderly all that well.
If you still choose to invent a boyfriend and have a photo of a male friend handy and spin an elaborate love story for all your interrogators, I won’t judge you, but make sure you are doing it to make things easier on yourself, not just to please other people.
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Great post. There is a stigma about women in their thirties/forties travelling alone. But it’s the same with men in their thirties/forties. You’re partnerless, and going on a three-week holiday alone is like carrying a sign around “No one loves me.” But there are so many reasons to be alone. And a lot of them are GREAT reasons.
Thanks, Christopher, I’m glad you liked it. You’re right, it’s not always just women who get trouble for being single, we just get it more often! I’m glad you realize being single does not mean there is something wrong with you!
Rease! I love this post so much! I dealt with this constantly while traveling, particularly in South America. For whatever reason, each time I said “I have a boyfriend” I felt like I might as well have been saying “I have a cat.” No one cared! They were like, we’ll, you’re not married, no?
Unfortunately, I didn’t know “Back the F up, bro” in Spanish. Maybe you can help? haha. Great post!
Yeah, you could have a ring on your finger in South America, but if that man isn’t at your side, you are going to get hit on.
As for “back the fuck up, bro” here’s some options:
“dejáme en paz, pelotudo” (leave me alone, dick)
“Basta, sobrepaso” (Roughly- Enough, guy who crosses the line)
Very humorously written post 🙂 BTW – Was the Pinocchio photo taken in San Marino?
i say stick with being single! after being asked so many times, i got immune to it. wonderful post! now i have a new mantra when traveling alone: ‘there is nothing wrong with me!’ Ü
I agree with everything you have said. I was recently reading a guide book for Turkey and they recommended wearing a wedding ring if you were single. The thing is this attracts more attention as a majority of Turkish men do not agree with married women traveling on their own. Just embrace it if you are single and handle each situation as you see fit.
I had to invent a boyfriend while in Dubai because too many men tried to hit on me. The problem was that it didn’t really deter them much. :-/
I have an actual boyfriend, yet this rarely seems to stop creepers when I am traveling without him. I hate feeling like a cold bitch but when random guys start gyrating and grinding against me suggestively in a nightclub even after I have given them lots of verbal and nonverbal signals that I am not interested, sometimes I just walk away or put a firm hand on their shoulder/chest and physically push them away while saying “NO”. They remind me of dogs trying to hump your leg! You feel like you are being rude, but when they are not taking the more subtle messages you are giving them and being so invasive to your personal space then what can you do?
I had a guy follow me in the Paris Metro and try to hold my hand/kiss me. I was lucky because the bus I was getting on was right there, but he just wouldn’t take the hint even after I told him I had a boyfriend and to go away many times.
Don’t these creepers realize that this is not attractive to women?
Given my age I am more often asked if I am married. To which I reply: I am a widow (which is true, one of several exes passed away). That shuts men and women alike up quickly, because they are afraid to open up old wounds. If nothing helps, I let slip that I’m a kick boxing black belt (only in part true, I have three belts, not the full hog). Believe me, that does the trick every time.
I think it’s pretty clear that the invented boyfriend rarely makes things better, so I say we all teach them a lesson about OUR culture and let them know we’re single and proud.
@inka- Those are pretty great tactics too, and only mild exaggeration is involved. I like it!
Great post Rease. Really enjoyed it and I love Inka’s comment!! Except I would be completely lying if I tried any of her options. 🙂
Hi and thanks for the post. Honestly, the imagined boyfriend bugs me but, I have to admit that I did claim to have one once. It came out of my mouth before I even thought about it. The guy was quite dodgy. Otherwise, I am solo and proud of it.
Anytime someone asks me something that makes me uncomfortable I reply “oh, i just got out of federal prison.”. And then they tend to feel uncomfortable, but i feel like a badass!
I am planning to travel to France/Spain from mid of June till mid of July 2011.
If anyone of you has the plan to search a travel partener for the same period,
please feel free to contact me! I´m very open minded and searching for new andventures and challenges.
Moreover I am strongly interested in learning new languages and meeting new people!
i can be reach on :
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I´ve used the same boyfriend story for about 8 years now, just changing the details according to the last or current guy I´m seeing, so I give them so much consistent details that the guys who actually insist on the story end up hearing much more than they bargained for and end up leaving me alone.
Haha! Wow, it must really be getting serious between you and this guy… 8 years? Love it!
I’ve never felt bad for being a single girl traveling! And now I just love the “Solo Traveler Extraordinaire” label!! Haha
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