Voices: Selena Gomez just did single women a massive favour – with a little help from an unlikely friend

Yesterday, Selena Gomez uploaded a post to Instagram showing her spending New Years Eve with friends (and married couple) Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz. She teased that the three had become romantically involved, captioning the post “fine call us a throuple” and hashtagging #foreverplusone.

The post has already received more than two million likes and thousands of comments from fans. But while it might not seem like a huge revelation to hang out with your friends on New Years Eve, Gomez is poking fun at the long-held (and completely false) narrative that it’s sad to be single, and pitiable to hang out with your coupled-up pals all the time. And in the process, she’s dismantling some of that unnecessary shame that comes with tagging along to your friends’ dates while you’re unattached.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

People jump to judge the un-partnered – particularly women in their late 20s and above – and we hold a lot of negative biases about those who remain single, especially after a certain age. We assume they will be actively looking for a partner but have failed to find a match, and that there must be something wrong with them. Why else would they be alone?

This all stems from societal pressures to conform to arbitrary standards by a certain deadline: secure the partner, buy a house and start forming the typical nuclear family by having some kids and getting a dog. Then, happiness (and a big thumbs up from society) will have been achieved. Hooray!

There’s an archetypal idea that your early 20s are for dating as much as possible and your late 20s are when you choose your partner and settle down for good. To do anything else would simply be sad.

Selena Gomez, celebrity or not, is no stranger to that societal pressure. Following her breakup with Justin Bieber which happened all the way back in 2018, Gomez has been the centre of the “sad single girl” narrative online. Fans of either Gomez, Bieber or his new wife Hailey Bieber have incessantly suggested through comments, videos and other social media content that Selena is perpetually sad as a result of the breakup, with suggestions that Hailey has taken her happiness.

Thankfully, young people are moving on from those traditions and the shame that’s associated with the failure to get in a relationship. In fact, recent research shows that a lot of single people are happier and, in general, more satisfied with life this way. And that’s especially true of women.

Selena seems to feel the same with her proud “foreverplusone” hashtag. While she’s poking fun at her own lack of a relationship, she seems to be empowered and happy with her single status. She doesn’t need a partner to have fun, and neither does anyone else.

But despite more people feeling happier with single life, that doesn’t stop single shaming. Data from a survey by dating service Match shared with BBC Worklife shows 52 per cent of 1,000 single UK adults reported experiencing single shaming. And even though 59 per cent said they were “content with their relationship status”, they still were the target of intrusive questions about their love lives.

Most single people are familiar with single shaming. The nagging questions, the assumptions that a relationship is something you wish for, the sad eyes and tilted heads as someone patronisingly tells you “you’ll find your person soon”. This type of judgement only seems more prevalent when you’re the so-called “third wheel”.

No matter how long our friendships have reigned, when our friends get into romantic relationships and we don’t, it’s expected that activities like nights out will become less frequent. A ridiculous unspoken rule of society is that the coupled-up only hang out with other couples, while single people head to the club or out on dates so that they can become part of the relationship gang. Yet, it makes complete sense that single people would become close friends with their friends’ partner as well.

There’s nothing sad about being single, nor hanging around our loved up friends. Those in a relationship and those who are single still have plenty in common (after all, our relationship statuses do not define us, regardless of what anyone else says) and, really, they have plenty to learn from one other.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see a figure like Selena Gomez lay her intimate night out with her married pals out on social media, showing the joy of hanging around with her friends, free of shame and embarrassment.