I often forget how lucky I am to live in a city like London, surrounded by people who are open-minded. Other people talk sometimes about the pressure from friends and families to settle down and I find it all a bit bemusing: But, why do they care? It strikes me that it must be hard not to internalise that pressure, to suck it all up like a mouthful of slime. Worry. Fear – it’s catching. Quick! Everyone shack up before the music stops! (Tip: the music doesn’t stop until you die, kids.)
Every now and then I get my own, sharp taste of it. Like when I met up with an aunt recently, who I haven’t seen in 2 years and who doesn’t know I’m out. She walks through my front door and as she’s wriggling out of her coat, shrieks “now darling, why aren’t you married yet?”
What can I say? “I’m so gay women have to literally peel my face off their boob so they can go to work”?
Or maybe: “I used to have nightmares that I was being murdered. Now I have nightmares that I’m being spooned after lights out.”
Or: “The thing is auntie, I’ve spent so long commuting that I hate everyone. Like, I can’t have sex with anyone because I hate them all so much.”
You can’t say that shit to people but THIS IS WHAT SINGLE PEOPLE ARE THINKING. The one thing I’m definitely not thinking, is what I actually say:
“I’m just, you know, really enjoying my job at the moment.”
Lol! My job is terrible.
What I want to say is, being single, especially for women, is a sign of strength and progress. For much of history, women didn’t have the choice to be on their own. They were financially dependent on men, often forced to submit emotionally and sexually just to keep a roof over their heads. We may not have bound our feet, but we bound our bank accounts; we bound our minds.
What would Austen, Woolf et al have given for this extraordinary luxury we have? To be alone, and for that to be enough. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend then independence is her sage old granny, slapping her thighs and growling that it’s better to be alone than with that miserable bugger. Being single is a gift and a privilege. It’s our right.
It’s also a kindness – to yourself and to others. How many people cling to the wrong partner because they’re scared of being alone? All you’re doing is stopping yourself and them from finding the right person. It’s cowardly. It’s a cop out. This isn’t behaviour we should aspire to, it’s behaviour we should pity and try and gently coax out of existence. When every human in the world is strong enough to be on their own, then every partnership can start from a position of genuine warmth and affection.
So then, why aren’t I married yet?
Because if I was already married, I’d have settled for a love that’s not quite enough; for a love that’s weak or indifferent or that burns too hard or too fast. It’s not being alone that I’m afraid of – the quiet or the solo dinners or the prematurely empty nest – it’s being unhappy.
I’m strong enough for anything but that.