One difficulty that Serious Singles have is convincing Searching Singles that they are perfectly happy being Single and are not interested in a romance with a Searching Single. They might enjoy a bit of light, flirtatious conversation, but that is it. Back off.
I believe that young priests and male religious often have this problem. They must have done in my theology school where frivolous women like me conversed late at night about who was cute and who was most likely to run off with one of us. I do know that one or two young male religious were seriously bored by the histronics of a woman (not me) who had had an unhappy love affair with another male religious. Och, it's a fallen world, hen, aye.
The solution for young priests and male religious is to make friends with young married couples, and if they are more the friend of Mrs. Layman than Mr. Layman, it really doesn't matter, as long as Mrs. Layman is firmly attached to Mr. Layman and everybody knows this. Of course, there are also serious-minded Single women who would never dream of trying to attach their priest pal. But also thinking back, I seem to remember male religious stringing along such serious-minded pretty Single girls who amused them and then dropping them flat when they moved to another post. Och, it's a fallen world, etc.
Anyway, obviously in the case of male and female religious and priests, there has got to be a lot of prudence. Quite obviously young priests and nuns need friends, and as there are no longer flocks of young priests and nuns around, they are going to have to choose friends from among the laity. And those lay friends had better have their heads screwed on right.
Priests and religious, however, have the advantage of custom: even though the Baby Boom's priests and nuns abandoned ship in great numbers, in general other generations expect that priests and nuns will always be Just Friends. This is not the case for ordinary men and women who are happy Serious Singles, or are happy being Single right now.
So what are you lay Serious Singles to do when it comes to friendship? How can you avoid the agonizing "We're just friends" conversation with besmitten Searching Singles? Well, I am sorry to tell you this, but--short of locking yourselves in a tower with your pets--I don't think you can. And if you think that is hard, imagine being the Serious Single with SSA who has to tell the Searching Single with SSA that they will always be just friends.
Yes, you can minimize the hurt. When the subject of romance comes up, you can and should state your position flatly: You love life, you love people, you love your Serious Single state. You're open to friendship. You're open to flirtation and joking around. You're open to keeping things light. But not every friend is going to believe you because not everybody is rooted in reality. Many people think they can reshape reality according to their will and are gobsmacked when they find out that they can't.
Perhaps then you should look for friends with a high level of social sophistication and maturity. You could find other Serious Singles to befriend: merry widows and contented widowers, calm women with SSA, integrated men with SSA, nuns who are firm in their vocations, priests who are solid in theirs.
But you might even find friends among those who are much younger than you. Some young people are utterly charming in their surprise that "old" people, people whom they do not think sexually attractive, might find them sexually attractive. And therefore they can happily enter into confidential friendships with wrinklies and semi-wrinklies without any expectation of either party wanting to "take this relationship to another level."
Then there are married folk, although I caution the Serious Single woman who very much wants to pal around with a Married Man that the Married Man's wife might not give a damn how Serious a Single the Serious Single woman is: any time spent with the Single Woman is time the Married Man should have spent with her.
This, incidentally, is not just a problem for Serious Singles. Married people also enjoy having friends of the opposite sex and sometimes friends of the same sex who have SSA. I very much enjoy spending time with my husband's friends, and occasionally I have spent time with them without my husband. I suppose it wouldn't do to do this too often, for I might be dubbed The Wicked Mrs M, and how annoying would that be, eh?
Anyway, sound off in the com-box, my little Singles. Tell Auntie your woes.