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Singledom: love it or hate it? Paula Coston decides

May 23, 2013

Happy alone! Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalArt.com

Happy alone! Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalArt.com


I pledge this post to my sisters in solitude: Coco Chanel, Jane Austen, Susan B. Anthony, Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Jodie Foster, Condoleeza Rice, …. and many more.

You may know by now that I’m single, 58 and childless.

Some cons and pros of singledom, as I see them.

Con: I get few mobile messages (‘Sorry, late home’; family emergency, etc.).
Pro: Moneysaver: don’t need an expensive mobile.
Con: I don’t have many photos of myself.
Pro: Why would I want them?
Con: Everything is in the place I left it. This may mean I can’t find things.
Pro: Everything is in the place I left it. This may mean I can find things.
Con: I’m stuck with my own thoughts.
Pro: I’m sometimes enraptured by my own thoughts.
Con: No one says ‘You look great’ before I go out.
Pro: They might be lying anyway: how would I know?
Con: People think I have spare time.
Pro: Sometimes I do.
Con: On long journeys, there’s not necessarily anyone to navigate.
Pro: On long journeys, I can navigate.
Con: I have to do the housework.
Pro: It gets done properly.
Con: I talk to myself.
Pro: I make more sense than most people.
Con: I can’t turn my own mattress (too heavy).
Pro: A good way of getting interesting neighbours into my bedroom.
Con: I get fewer invitations from couples (fear of man-stealing).
Pro: I get more invitations out of pity. (I don’t have to accept.)
Con: There’s no one to bring me tea in bed.
Pro: I don’t like tea in bed.
Con: There’s no one to remind me of routine chores at home.
Pro: There’s no one to nag me about routine chores at home.
Con: I feel sorry for myself sometimes….
Pro: But most of the time, I have fun concocting posts like this.

i.e. For me, with singledom, it’s all a question of attitude.

And more seriously. It’s interesting that the 2009 report, Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death (fun title) published by the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 62.5% of the adults who reported being lonely were married.

I’ve just read the confused.com report of 2012, Friendships, Finance and the Future: The Rise of Singledom in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of women who’ve never married has increased from 18% in 1979 to 45% in 2010. And 29% of the 26.3m households in the UK consist of just one person. Alongside this, they say, ‘the importance of friendship is growing too’. I’ve also got confused.com to thank for introducing me to the stylish acronym, FLAPers (Financially Liberated And Positively Single). Like it. We, they say, are a ‘new breed of single people who are turning the tables on the stereotype of sad singledom and embracing the adventure, spontaneity and freedom of single life.’

Jody Day feels the same: to affirm it, she calls us Gateway Women. She explains that her GW blog ‘sets out to challenge the ideas around identity and motherhood that are often at the heart of much unhappiness when the “baby story” doesn’t work out, and to help women find their child-free mojo.’

There are two other fine blogs for Solo Sisters Solidarity. First, there’s themodernspinster.wordpress.com. Then, there’s diaryofamodernspinster.blogspot.co.uk. I especially love her recommendation, the little book Haiku for the Single Girl by Beth Griffenhagen, with its quirky illustrations by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers. Here’s a sample of its contents:

‘I smile to myself/Because I have a secret:/My time is my own.’

The same confused.com survey aforementioned heretofore without prejudice etc. etc. states that of the 2,000 people asked:

- 54% say that singles make more effort to try new things than married couples.
– 4 out of 5 singles say that friendships last longer than romantic relationships.
– 72% of singles have friends whom they think will be friends for life.
– 45% of singles turn to their friends first for emotional support.
– 1 in 4 singles say friends are more reliable than family, and…
– 30% of singles say the person who knows them best is a friend.

Now I’m not a great believer in statistics, on the old-chestnut grounds that 99.999% of statistics can be made to say what you want them to say; but I’m 100% certain that I like the sound of most of these.

(Also interestingly, and of course self-interestedly, confused.com adds that 45% of adults over 55 say they have friends they trust enough to buy a house with.)

I warm to the work of Professor Bella DePaulo, PhD, author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, and blogger (with a regular spot online on the website of Psychology Today). She condemns what she calls the ‘singlism’ of society. She disses the research as ‘underwhelming’, asserting that it doesn’t prove that married people are any happier than singles. Moreover, she claims, there are ‘unimpressive’ differences in suicide rates. She argues that actually, many single people are extremely resilient: they ‘fare far better than objective circumstances would lead us to expect’. And – on a hobbyhorse I can especially relate to – she berates researchers for not examining more closely ‘the creative, intellectual and emotional potential of solitude’.

She goes on to state that those who are single all their lives are ‘as healthy, or healthier, than women… currently married’. She hypothesises, ‘Maybe the best situation is the one that is the best fit for the particular individual’s profile… Maybe many people who have always been single like living solo. Maybe it suits them.’ Well, hurrah for common sense.

DePaulo also scotches the assumption that isolated people are, by definition, lonely. Many connected people are lonely; isolated people may simply enjoy their own company. They may have satisfying relationships with friends or neighbours, or just always stick to their own company; but either way, a key characteristic of us solitary types tends to be a self-sufficient personality. Which, in the cut and tumble of modern life, can be a very good thing.

Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, reminds us: ‘New media and communications technology mean that people can be home alone, but engage with communities, share ideas and even meet new people.’

In my case, people like you. The people I meet through being creative, intellectual and emotional in my solitude: i.e., through writing this blog.

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