It’s troubling that there’s still an assumption that female single-hood is an inherently problematic state. For reasons that are utterly beyond me, everything leads to a pitiful sigh. Singletons are associated with various adjectives – lonely, boring, arrogant and picky. People make judgments based on our success, lifestyle and even opinions which according to them are reasons for “being single”. Surely, if they judge singletons so severely, I’m wondering if those individuals are trying to justify their own choices in life (being married, raising families, etc), and possibly some unhappiness with them. Is the world built for couples only where singles need not apply? Do whatever feels right for you. I know it’s hard to ignore the messages we are sent by society, as they are incessant and usually one-sided (i.e. to be considered a mature, responsible adult you must be married and have children), but if we understand that society as a whole is pretty conservative, and that most people will indeed comply with societal norms, we are then in a better position to see it for what it is, and to then take whatever life path truly feels right for us.
Am I really Single?
How can I be ALONE if I have friends/family around that will never leave me? Sure, I don’t have an intimate partner but I sometimes think intimacy is overrated. One can be alone in a crowded room, or at home with a spouse who is distant and uncommunicative. But I have always said I would rather be alone than wish I was! (You may have to think about that for a moment). However, I made many choices in my life that somehow put me away from my family and the society that I grew up with (I don’t mean in a brattish way but my college and job choices), and thankfully I don’t have to deal with “when will you settle down?” situation. Yes, it’s wonderful not to deal with it. As to the 21st century, we already have 7 billion people on this earth– it’s not like single people are causing the extinction of society or the human race!
If I make myself a nice dish or if I go down into the park alone to admire nature around me, is the experience lost? If something amuses me or stimulates me to think in a new way, in what sense is the experience lost? If I remember the event, clearly it is not lost. Even if I don’t remember the event, I lived the event: my body and mind were engaged in the world. However, society seem to be saying that Singletons have no existence unless some other person understands our experience. What is to be gained by subtracting private feelings and insights from our being?
The old better single/better married debate is never-ending and there is no better! You can be happy either way, or unhappy either way. And usually, at some points in our life we will be one, and other points we will be the other. Happiness is relative and highly personal. We all have to walk our own paths to happiness, not those based on societal prescriptions. 36 isn’t old, but it is old enough to question whether its worth starting a family. Hmmm…all I should do is enjoy every day, and not put pressure on myself for things that are beyond my control. Things will fall in place when it’s the right time and when God has planned for it. Oh yes, I have come to realized it off late…and my belief only becomes stronger. A failed engagement had left me charred – I was hypersensitive at times and sometimes these “times” were of indefinite duration. It’s better sooner rather than later as we accept and learn from our choices and our circumstances. And then it occurred to me (ting!!) – I’m glad it did, for otherwise I would have been a square peg trying to jam myself into a round hole, with all the anger and angst that entails. Everyone wants to be getting on the other side of the table and so was I. How about I sit and enjoy my side of the table until the table for two is seated with right person?
Indians are more driven with social norms and values where everything should conform to society’s expectation. As soon as we are born, every thing is pre-defined for us. I am yet to be anchored down by the spells of Cupid, the looks of Medussa, the agony of Romeo however every married friend of mine – male or female – shares their secret “I wish I was single” or leaves a sigh “It sounds so nice, the freedom.”, not because they are unhappy in their marriage but because they forgot what it was to be happy by themselves.
A lot of people, married and single, harbor a fantasy of a perfect relationship with a perfect mate. Sadly, a lot of marriages end when one of the partners wakes from the dream and is unwilling or unable to accept the truth that relationships, especially marriage, take work, patience, and perseverance to last. I admit that I can’t and don’t plan to keep this trajectory but I am in no rush and in a happy phase with myself – enjoying life as I should be. I think when it’s time to settle with someone, when you feel you are with a person you truly love and can happily live with together, sharing and compromising, your heart then will settle naturally, without an effort. I know few ‘un’happily married people in age 40+ to know that “settling” earlier is often a bad idea. I also know a number of happy couples who didn’t meet until they were older. It happens that way sometimes, and it doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” with either person.
I personally believe this one life is best enjoyed w/ someone to share moments with. However, it can be scary to look around and see ourselves different from our couple friends. Yet this is what makes us special; our implicit, silent yet firm rebellion against social norms make us of a distinct character. Women particularly should realize that they are not defined by their relationships but ultimately how they feel about themselves. We often mock self-esteem but for well-being, it is crucial. The ability to NOT settle for something untrue to oneself requires more intellect, strength and insight.
Comfortable being “Alone”
When and if, I find a person, one that is comfortable doing things with me and doing things by himself may be a good pick. I admire my girlfriends’ relationships with their husbands, but I am in awe of what they can do independently as well. A woman never knows when she can count on her independence – it’s not a bad thing, indeed. But a woman never knows when she can count on her partner – that’s not a bad thing either.
Remember, there is a big difference between feeling alone and enjoying your solitude. Those who are content in solitude are fortunate indeed. So many people still feel it is scary to see yourself different from peers? What about all the social changes through the decades? Hasn’t there been a big increase in singles, and much later age of marriage? As for divorce–I am not suggesting that it is a GOOD thing but let’s admit that the ratio has increased. That implies that people have the freedom to find some happiness in life. When divorce was frowned upon (rather still is considered as a taboo) people had to adjust, or have marriage in name only, for the sake of the children. I believe, if women can support themselves they will marry for love and compatibility. The great advance in gender equality means there is more chance for good relationships based on mutual respect.
Living our Dream
Married people romanticize being single, and single people romanticize marriage. Not everyone believes being married with children, house and white picket fence is “living the dream,” I may dare say that, at times, the thought is even boring. Getting married is a part of circle of life and not the whole life. Until then, break down your “wants/needs” and play with the combination of bittersweet and earnest longing to “be who you are” and have an upbeat view of the future without fitting into a well-defined plan. There are many ways to be engaged with life – Social cause, learning to dance, go back-packing, etc. when you feel like it. Life, love, food, travel, hobbies can be shared with a variety of people. One does not need a mate in order to have a sense of sharing in life, or to have love.
Feel our feelings
Singletons being neurotic and nasty??? Well, I cry at weddings. I almost burst with love when my friend described his joy at seeing his baby born. My parents might have a different opinion on how young adults view relationships as good or bad as a function of whether it benefits them or fits the template that they have fashioned for themselves. Growing up with my grandparents and parents, I have seen how relationships were nurtured amidst the chaotic lifestyle. I learnt that relationships aren’t oases, magically discovered in the desert. Relationships are structures that are constructed over years, with much effort and deliberate action.
I love the idea of marriage, not blasting it, but living alone does have its perks. It can be annoying though, to have to deal with people’s consternation when they feel troubled by not knowing how to categorize you. This is an age-old debate – Both have benefits and challenges. It does not mean good or bad, it means different. Yet there’s always this terrified rush to justify and denigrate to quell insecurities. Relax, life is varied! People say that singletons in their 30s become choosy/picky. Of course we should be, cos we understand ourself much better than what we were in our 20s.
It’s easy to learn swimming when you are still a child. As an adult, you are scared to jump cos you know the depth which can drown you. Relationship is like a huge swimming pool where 2 people die in with no safety jacket. It’s said that “female freedom has an expiration date” – but does that mean simply settling with someone. The question remains: Should YOU?