Lately it seems that every time I run into old friends or acquaintances, particularly the married ones, the question is often the same, slightly smug one: “So… settled down yet? Wife? Kids?”
I usually resist the urge to throw a punch and respond, smiling with gritted teeth, with something along the lines of “Nah. No rush. I’m just enjoying my life as it is right now…”
The truth is, I really am. But that never seems good enough for some: “Yeah, but… what are you waiting on? You know… Go forth and multiply and all that. And a guy like you deserves someone nice.”
“Oh, thank you. (Bigger smile, teeth clenched) But you know – maybe, just maybe, it could be that I’m actually happier being single.”
Strange look from Married Person. “Or perhaps you need help!”
Thirty-something, single and not a girlfriend in sight. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I’m quite content with that so I haven’t even been seriously looking… Something must be wrong with me, right? Sigh! Forfucksake… Here we go again!
After chatting to some other single friends recently, all of whom have endured various configurations of the above, it seems to me there are two major mistakes married/attached people make regarding us poor-souls-who-don’t-know-what-we’re-missing. First, they presume that everyone should be married or attached, and if we’re not, there’s something wrong with us… you know – we’ve got “issues”. (Mine, apparently, is that I’m too picky) The other big mistake is to presume all singles are lonely. Wrong again! Although, to be fair, some are.
Years ago, I had the unpleasant experience of being aggressively hounded by an over-zealous pair of matchmakers who were convinced they’d found the right person for me. They were equally certain that my resistance to their efforts was based on nothing more than selfishness, obstinacy and an unwillingness to accept that their plans were a perfect opportunity for my life as a singleton to end. They were QUITE determined, so this went on for years. The pressure was so great that at one point I almost gave in. Except there were the small matters of me not having a shred of interest in the girl and of me having seen close up the ruins of others they’d hounded in the same way. To this day I still cringe when even well-meaning, trusted friends try to hook me up with anyone. They always get it wrong, anyway: “I know just the right person for you!” Ha, ha! No you fucking don’t!
Of course, some people find themselves unexpectedly, heartbreakingly alone through broken relationships, or the tragic death of a partner. Been there. But, also like me, there are others who haven’t yet met Ms or Mr Right (although there have been times when I thought I did) and have taken the wise advice: Better to be single than to be stuck with the wrong person or in a relationship for the wrong reasons. I’ve had the occasional tussle with the universe about its timing but, frankly, I don’t beat myself up about it – and I’m not going to allow others to do it for me.
However, apart from people trying to hook me up with increasingly unlikely candidates, or wanting to buy me a cat (A cat! See what I mean?) and a lifetime subscription to Weird Bachelor (which I’d probably enjoy!), there are obvious drawbacks to the single state: one can lack the emotional support and physical comfort that should be part of a good relationship, and being single means making all the decisions, paying all the bills, handling domestic crises alone… That’s why I often have to bite my tongue when married friends say, ‘You have all that free time…’
It’s also true that singles can sometimes feel like a spare part at some social events. But I’ve sorted that out by having a few good, close friends. I’ve found that many singles I know have a real gift for friendship. They can invest time and energy and be emotionally available to friends in a way that’s often difficult for couples. Friends are vital to the single life: to share life with – hanging out, travelling, hobbies, and so on.
So I’m single. Big deal. That could change tomorrow… or I could be single forever. I refuse to be defined by it. I don’t feel that I’m missing out on anything because, ultimately, my happiness comes from within, not from another person.