The single woman is still a source of confusion for many people who have to try and dissect the life choices that would encourage one to actively remain without a partner. If you’re a single woman, no doubt you will be bored almost to the point of jumping on the nearest man and forcing marriage, especially after hearing the diatribes and psychoanalysis offered by so-called experts claiming to know what is wrong with you. Because there must be, surely? What, you’re over thirty and not married? You mentalist!
But why is it always assumed that the single woman must be living an unfulfilled life? Without doubt, being in a partnership does not automatically ensure that you have a rich and exciting existence, does it? And is it not possible that many women stay in unhappy relationships because of the fear of “loneliness”? Being lonely is, of course, considered synonymous with being single. Forget friends, if you don’t have a man in your bed, then you’re on your own. Women’s magazines are filled with advice columns and features telling the sad singleton how to ‘bag a man,’ so it’s not surprising that it’s considered an anathema to be avoided.
Dr Pam Spurr, alleged sex and relationship expert at the Daily Mail, has had her thinking hat on yet again, and unfortunately the results are just as infuriating as usual. For those of you not familiar with Spurr, she has been responsible for a number of ‘helpful’ articles for women, controversially claiming at the end of last year that feminism has made women “selfish” and inadequate lovers, in a piece titled “Why women must learn to say yes in the bedroom,” and more recently published a piece on the politics of housework, discouraging women from ‘nagging’ (yes, nagging – feel like I’ve been transported back thirty-years to have tea with Alf Garnet) their partners to help around the house: “Are you in danger of nagging your way out of your marriage?”
In fact, do you believe any single woman over 30 is being honest when she claims to be happy that way? I don’t. What’s really going on behind that confident demeanour and fulfilled exterior is crushing loneliness and desperation. Single women become adept at playing the isn’t-life-grand game. They have to do it around men so they don’t appear desperate. And they come to do it around other women, too…
Apart from providing sweeping generalisations, her argument (based on a few case studies) is largely ignorant of the complexity of expectations placed on the modern woman. Spurr fails to realise that any insecurities a woman may feel regarding her relationship status may not entirely emanate from an innate desire to “satisfy an urge that’s been around as long as humankind.” A single woman after a certain age is expected to provide justification for the reasons why she is not married or without a parnter. As a woman in my early twenties I find that there is increasing pressure on me to settle into a long-term relationship, something that is only going to intensify as I get older. But this is not mine, nor any other woman’s, problem, but rather the result of the expectations society places on us to settle down, get married and have children. Regardless of professional achievements, on a very basic level if a woman fails to fulfil what is seen as her traditional and biological destiny then she is considered a failure.
A woman’s achievements are often devalued by the fact she hasn’t married or had children; instead of being successful she is viewed as an object of pity – as having had to fill her time (that would otherwise have been occupied by a partner/children) with other tasks. A career is always seen as a substitute. By assuming that every single woman is unhappy about being Spurr implies that this is the correct, normal way to react: if you are single, you should be desperately sad, cryinging into a bowl of ice-cream every night and reading self-help books to try and recover some semblance of a romantic life. Why is it so hard to understand that some women don’t want to get married? Some women don’t want to have children. Some women don’t want a partner. Some women like to have their own apartments; their own things; their own useless, pointless goods which sit on the shelves and just look nice. Why is female contentment always seen as a shiny veneer masking unhappiniess emanating from male absence?
Sex outside of relationships is now acceptable – women are empowered to satisfy their carnal desires without having the obligation of a serious commitment, and so what’s wrong with indulging in this behaviour? Something men have done for centuries. Why is it that we can only be legitimatlely happy by fulfiling social expectations?
I may only be in my early twenties, but I can honestly tell you that I have no desire for a relationship. I’m sure many women my age and older feel the same way. I’m not going to generalise like Spurr and claim that ALL single women are happy, as not only would that be ignorant but it would undermine the feelings of those who would like to have a relationship. But what I will say is that I don’t need a man to validate my existence. I am not, as Spurr remarks, like many singletons “too embarrassed to admit it [that I want a relationship]: that’s why they end up as single, lying females trying to protect some semblance of their dignity.” I do just genuinely like having my own space. I don’t feel that staying single in some way compromises my dignity. Why would it? Because, let’s face it, while many women love being in relationships, there are many good reasons to enjoy single life:
1. You can do what you want, when you want and with who you want without having the obligation of spending time with another person. However good a relationship may be, you are prevented from fully indulging in all the spontaneity life has to offer.
2. You can make career-decisions without worrying how they may impinge on your relationship.
3. You can be friends with whoever you want without worrying about your partner becoming jealous.
4. You are forced to take control over your own life. You have to be more independent and more confident, helping you to determine (without influence) what you actually want. Surely being happy with who you are will help you enter a relationship in the right, healthy state of mind?
5. You can have sex/flirt with whoever/whenever you want without feeling guilty afterwards. Let’s face it, relationships can be stressful. Being single means you can get what you want, often without the aggravation that comes with a long-term partnership.
6. You don’t have to worry about the way you look for anybody but yourself. If you don’t want to wear make-up, you don’t have to. If you want to cultivate a muff like a mammoth you can. While it’s unfair that this is on the list, in all honesty some women in relationships feel pressured to look a certain way all the time, and some partners expect this.
Yes, I appreciate that being in a relationship can be life-enhancing for some women, and that single life is not without its downfalls. But will not the wider-world begin to understand that single-life does have its upside? Surely a woman’s decision to enter a relationship or not should be made at the discretion of the individual, and be something she does not have to justify or be berated for. While women in relationships are rarely questioned about their happiness (it’s assumed they must be content), us singletons are presumed to be desperate and pathetic. Hopefully the above list will perhaps, in some way, indicate the reasons why being “alone” is for some of us an attractive option. Loneliness is not a valid criticism. Women in relationships can be lonely just as much, or even more so, than women who are single, it’s just the former are doing what we are meant to do and thus they are not provided with the forum to express their anguish.