Modern Dilemmas; Singlehood

1,607,904,000 seconds
26,798,400 minutes
446,640 hours
2658 weeks
50 years and counting.

That’s how long I have been stomping my size 11’s all over this planet. ALL that time and I’ve never heard of the word ‘singlehood’ before. It seems I am missing out on my education; I really need to start watching daytime tv more often.

So, ‘singlehood’ defined not as the favoured attire of hoodies, not as an unsubtle reference to the non-circumcised but according to the free online dictionary it’s ‘The state of being unmarried.’

I’m not sure who thought up that definition, there is so much more to singlehood, to me it means I can quite happily go to the flicks by myself and not have to take a friend (yup, done that), it means I can quite happily go off travelling the world by myself (yup, done that in spades) but most importantly it means an acceptance of being single and being happy with that state. Yes, of course if I come across someone that I fall in love with then sure by all means I can leave singlehood but I think singlehood is all about acceptance, contentment and being happy with your lot and even enjoying it..

…at the present time.

There seems to be some social stigma about being single and from my experience it seems to increase the older one gets, like it’s socially awkward, people are always trying to pair me up with someone, I go to dinner parties and social events and I’m constantly being introduced to other single woman – with a knowing smile from the introducee. I’ve chatted to married couples at parties asking why they do this and part of it is the genuine desire to match-make and have a ‘happy ending’, I think that’s just human nature but a few friends have said they do it because they think I must be unhappy being single and they want to help. And I’m a bit throw by that, why would you think I was unhappy because I’m single and they quote dubious research and tell you that if you are married then you live longer (which was old extremely flawed research that doesn’t hold water by today’s standards) and are healthier (and this was said to me by a bloke who’s belly was resting comfortable on his knees like a large blancmange).

The thing is, happiness isn’t really about being single or married, it’s a cliché but happiness is a state of mind, a choice. The Lifelines of Happiness Study, directed by Prof. Richard E. Lucas first reported findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Looking at the quantified results, you can see how happy the participants were in the years before getting married, how happy they were in the early years of marriage, and how happy they were later on,” she said. “There was a little blip around the wedding and honeymoon, but overall it showed that people who were happy before getting married were happy afterwards and the people who weren’t happy before getting married aren’t happy now. Being happy has more to do with their individual personalities than whether or not they’re married.”

So being happy is compatible with being single (and ironically being married!), I keep telling my friends this. However – and just to throw a spanner in the works – this is the modern dilemma;  I am of the opinion that whilst being single is fine, I think our natural instinct, our natural state, our natural condition, flow, our natural urge, is to be in a long term relationship. In a partnership there are benefits, some that are obvious and some that aren’t so obvious. The obvious ones are the financial ones, for example; nearly all insurance is cheaper if you are buying it with a partner, single hotel rooms are few and far between and you end up paying for doubles (my pet gripe when I go off on my wanders), living together as a couple is much cheaper than living as two separate houses and the word ‘discount’ seems to only apply to partners. But there are other benefits; tossing the coin to see who goes down the stairs to investigate that strange noise during the middle of the night (!), sharing jobs that need done around the house and looking after the brood is a lot easier if there are two adults in the house, and then of course there’s the company, the rumpy-pumpy and most of all, the love you have for each other and the anticipation, the expectation of building a life together and being together into old age.

So, I’m 50 and enjoying my singlehood and I think that’s just the type of person I am. However, I would like to leave singlehood one day, it’s fine and I’m comfortable with it and in full acceptance but I’m naturally gregarious, I like company, you see, I was born a twin and spent the first nine months of my life in the closest possible relationship with someone and that should tell you lots about me. I think that’s when I’m at my best, it’s when I do the most good, am most creative and fulfil my most potential and I want to do that, I want to ‘be used fully’ if that makes sense, I don’t want to waste my energy and resources just pussyfooting around pissing off the senior management at work, I want to do something I’m proud of and not just raise two brilliant kids but also be in a relationship and think to myself ‘yup, I did all right there, I made a few mistakes and owned up to them, I tried my best and really worked at it but overall I’m kind’a proud of what we achieved together..’ and I think this is where I’m meant to be, not in singlehood but in parenthood, familyhood, lovinghood.

But here’s the issue and it’s why I’m still resident in singlehood land, there is no magic marker on everybody, you can’t trawl the internet, the bars, the clubs, the dinner parties and find someone with a large neon light hovering above their head saying ‘THIS IS THE ONE’ so I have to play the game, play the field, nearly all residents of singlehood do this and I’ve watched friends over the years pair off and leave singlehood and I’m enormously pleased with them..

But they always say to me “why didn’t you go out with XYZ, she was nice.?” And the problem is yes, she was nice but she wasn’t the one and I get ‘but what was wrong with her?’ and it’s something that’s hard to quantify, I see my friends match up and I’m pleased and I’ve met some very very nice woman over the years and I could have settled down with a few of them but I would be settling for something less than I want. It seems to be a game, a balancing act everyone does, do we cut our losses and go for ‘reasonable OK with potential’ or do we continue to wait and hope that someone who just knocks your socks off comes along eventually. It’s like buying a house, when I was trying to buy a house in the 90’s I was being constantly gazumped, I kept losing out to higher bidders and eventually I got a house (in desperation) but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it ‘was nice, had potential’ but I bought it out of fear of never ever having a house, out of fear, and I don’t want to pick the woman I am going to settle down with out of fear, I want the reason for settling down with her to be solely out of love. I made a mistake before, in the choice of houses and partner and I think it’s important that I learn that lesson and this is what I say to my friends who are becoming increasingly exasperated with my reluctance to just settle for someone ‘nice looking with potential’.

My mother Doris waited until she was 81 before she left singlehood, I’m hoping…no, I’m confident that I won’t have to wait another 30 years before I hand in my keys to singlehood.