Things married people should know about their single friends

A newly single friend came for Easter lunch. Looking around at the other guests, he said, ‘So, is this a ‘‘strays and orphans’’ thing?’

It was precisely the kind of comment I’d expect from someone who was until recently in a marriage. Anyone who’s become accustomed to being one of a couple makes assumptions about singletons that are almost always wrong. And this is a prime one.

So, for the record, no, we don’t gather in disparate little groups on holidays, banding together for comfort while the rest of the adult world is revelling in its coupledom. Like other normal grownups, we host or attend gatherings because we like each other and enjoy spending time together.

Today, being single applies to a broad swathe of the population, rather than a few lonely spinsters sitting sadly on shelves. In fact, in the USA, for the first time ever, single adult women now outnumber married adult women. So, for your information, here are some other things marrieds should know about singletons.

* For the purposes of this piece, I’m calling all people in publicly committed, long-term relationships ‘marrieds’.

 

Much like many humans, we prefer gathering with our own kind

As evidenced by my Easter lunch guest list (8 singletons including me, 2 married women whose husbands were travelling/working), we prefer to get together with our own kind. For this reason, we prefer not to be the only singleton at a gathering of marrieds.

This once happened to me on a ghastly holiday. I was the only single person in a household of eight other grownups – all married. I became the elephant in the room: number 9 at a table intended for 8, the extra person who had to be accommodated in games, the person who made everyone have to squash up in the car on outings, etc. And perhaps the worst thing was that everyone steadfastly pretended that I wasn’t the cause of all the unevenness and the one person having to sit out a board game or be the completely unnecessary referee, etc. It was a giant drag for everyone, especially me.

And on that subject…

 

We don’t like being treated as honorary children

On that same ghastly holiday, all the married grownups got rooms of their own with doors that closed and actual beds. I was billeted ‘with the kids’. On a single mattress. Up a ladder. In a low-ceiling loft that required me to crawl about on my hands and knees like, well, a child.

Single people understand that most accommodations are designed for couples – after all, we’ve become grudgingly accustomed to being fined for our single status via the ‘single supplement’ we’re charged on hotel rooms we occupy solo. And most single people, especially in situations like a joint holiday, don’t mind sharing or, for that matter, bunking down on a mattress.

But for the love of god, married people, don’t lump us in with the kids.

And on that subject…

 

Our opinions are as valid as yours, our money as good (but not selectively better)

What’s sometimes happened to me when I’ve been the solo singleton in a married-couples gathering, is that one of the men spontaneously assumes the responsibility of being my spokesperson. I realise this is usually well meant – if he’s speaking for his wife, he may as well also talk for the tagalong singleton – but it’s irritating. Being single doesn’t mean I don’t have preferences, or that I’m somehow incapable of voicing them.

And when it comes to money, I’m always happy to foot my share of the bill – but, married people, please remember that it takes two people to make up a couple. It’s extremely annoying when I’m invited to take part in a collection for a gift for someone, and ‘each party’ is invited to contribute, say, R300. ‘Each party’ in this case often involves some singletons and some marrieds. And the marrieds, irksomely, always also contribute R300. Together.

(This also happened to me once when sharing a petrol bill – there were 4 of us travelling, 2 singletons and 1 married couple, and the wife split the bill three ways. On that occasion, I pointed out that there were actually 4 people sharing the car.)

 

We get extremely uncomfortable when you snipe at each other across the dinner table

Some married couples become so used to being hostile to each other in their private space that they forget not to do it in public. While, admittedly, singletons aren’t the only ones who cringe as husbands and wives trade thinly disguised invective over the penne arrabiatta, for some reason, many married couples tend to regard singletons as not quite grownup (see above: we’re not honorary children, and our opinions are as valid as yours), and so somehow feel less compelled to keep up appearances in front of them.

This behaviour is probably the most common reason that singletons leave dinner parties thinking ‘Thank fuck I’m not married’.

(A corollary note here for singletons: when a spouse subjects you to a long private whine about their significant other – usually, alas, this is a woman moaning about her husband – don’t say stupid things like, ‘Well, at least you’ve got a husband to complain about.’ A crap husband is far worse than none at all.)

 

Please don’t assume that our lives are the same as yours, only pitiable

Our lives differ vastly from yours, and they’re very far from pitiable. Especially for those of us who’ve chosen singledom, rather than had it thrust upon us, our lives are a long list of pluses weighed up against a fairly short one of minuses.

Some of the pluses: We can take up the whole bed, we never have to negotiate what to watch on TV, we don’t have to deal with other people’s bodily fluids or moods or dress sense or snoring or eating habits or choice of friends, we can do whatever the hell we like with our money, our time and our bodies, we can honestly dance like no-one’s watching, we can wash the dishes when we damned well feel like it, we can indulge our love of cats/crochet without a snide running commentary, we never have to tell anyone where we are, where we’re going or when we’ll be back…

All of the minuses: No additional income, no shared expenses, no-one to fetch teenage children from parties/clubs at 1 in the morning.

And on that subject…

 

We’re not lonely (or any lonelier than any of you, anyway)

Being alone is a far cry from being lonely. And while some singletons are indeed lonely, most of us are very happy being alone.

I spend most of my week very happily in the company of a dog, two cats and a handful of chickens, and then socialise very happily on the weekends with delightful friends and family who I adore and who hugely enrich my life, and who I love saying goodbye to on Sunday afternoon.

(Incidentally, some of the loneliest people I know are married.)

And on that subject…

 

Unless specifically requested in writing, we don’t want to be ‘fixed up’

Especially not if it’s with your recently divorced brother, your recently paroled neighbour or your recently medicated best friend.

And, finally, on that subject…

 

Most of us don’t want your husbands

While there are a few predatory single women out there (and I apologise for them), most of us aren’t interested in your husbands. Most of us don’t even like your husbands.

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Why I’m not going to pay my TV licence

Dear Mr Motsoeneng

Your accounts department has recently stepped up its reminders to me to ‘do the right thing’ and pay my TV licence, by sending me repeated SMSes. I’ve also received a licence-renewal reminder by post.

But this year, Mr Motsoeneng, for the first time in my adult TV-owning life, I’m not going to pay my TV licence.

It’s not because I can’t afford R265. Of course I can. That’s a drop in the ocean compared to what I’m paying these days in other taxes, and for electricity, water, food, transport and the house I live in.

It’s also not because I think the content of our local TV stations is rubbish – although think that I most certainly do.

And it’s not because I believe (although, again, I do) that what should be our public broadcaster has turned into a state broadcaster, with all the implications of propaganda and censorship that go hand-in-hand with that.

It’s because, Mr Motsoeneng, like so many other South Africans, I’m thoroughly sick and tired of being a victim of the daylight robbery you and others in positions of power in our country casually pass off as governance.

 

I’m a 52-year-old white woman, Mr Motsoeneng. I’m a first-generation South African – the very epitome of what some of my fellow South Africans wish would ‘return to where they came from’. But I come from here, Mr Motsoeneng. I’m a South African.

I love my country, Mr Motsoeneng. I love my country but, as has been the case almost throughout my life, I’m ashamed of my government.

With the brief exception of that halcyon period of Mr Mandela in South Africa’s hot seat, I’ve always been ashamed of my government. A pivotal moment in my life was when, in my early 20s, I travelled overseas, and my father advised me to tell people I was from Australia. Think about that for a moment, Mr Motsoeneng: so indefensible was my own government’s position that I was advised rather to lie than admit I was part (willingly or otherwise) of it.

And today the same is happening: where Mr Zuma and his (our!) blatantly corrupt, greedy, selfish government is concerned, I’m unable to defend them. Because they’re quite simply indefensible.

I have, nonetheless, over the years, been a fairly law-abiding citizen. I’ve never cheated on my taxes – I truly believe that as a relatively privileged South African, it’s incumbent on me to help my fellow citizens, and to that end, I hand over many thousands of my hard-earned rands each year to my government. (I call myself ‘relatively privileged’ because although I’m white, I didn’t come from a wealthy family: of the four kids in my family, only one – not me – went to university, and that was on a loan. While I fully accept and acknowledge my position of ‘generational wealth’ and the many inherent advantages I have as a white South African, I’ve never had a foot up or a handout from my government: everything I am and have, I’ve worked for.)

In addition to income tax, VAT and petrol levies, I also pay rates and taxes on my property. What I’m saying here, Mr Motsoeneng, is that I pay an inordinate amount of money to my government in order to make life better for all South Africans.

So I ask you to please try to understand how unbearably frustrating it is to know that this hard-earned money is used by our president, Jacob Zuma, and others in our government – and YOU, Mr Motsoeneng – as if it’s your personal pocket money.

Let’s leave aside Mr Zuma’s very well publicised theft of South Africans’ money for the moment, and concentrate what you and the SABC do with the money you’re given – R1 billion of it every year coming straight out of the pockets of ordinary TV-owning South Africans like me.

In the three years up to 2014, R3,39 billion was ‘improperly spent’ by your enterprise. And in more or less the same period, your salary increased eightfold: by 2015 you were earning R3,7 million a year. R3.7 million a year!!!! That’s over R300 000 a month. That’s about what I earn in TWO YEARS, Mr Motsoeneng. And it would take my char EIGHT YEARS to earn what you earn in a single month!

You blusteringly point out that our licence fees don’t pay your salary. But what does feed your fat bank account, Mr Motsoeneng? That’s right. Our taxes. The money I work so hard to earn. Maybe that’s why I’m drawing the line at this additional R265. This R265 is, it’s fair to say, the straw that’s threatening to break this camel’s back.

 

Now, Mr Motsoeneng, if you were doing a sterling job, perhaps this wouldn’t irk me so very badly. But let’s have a look at your track record. In 2014, our public protector (god bless her cotton socks) Thuli Madonsela directed the SABC board to take steps against you after probing claims that you abused your power, misrepresented your matric qualifications, purged senior staff at the SABC and irregularly hiked your salary. Instead, your board followed Mr Zuma’s example and ignored the findings of the public protector, cleared you of any wrongdoing, and appointed you permanently to your post – in effect, it promoted you.

And although late last year, your permanent appointment as COO was declared unlawful by Western Cape High Court Judge Denis Davis (Judge Davis called communications minister Faith Muthambi’s decision to appoint you in a permanent capacity ‘incongruent with legality’), you’re still there! Why??!!

In most other countries in the world, this would have resulted in such a huge public outcry – not to mention embarrassment to your good self – that you would have had no choice but to ‘do the right thing’ and step down. But not in the South Africa of today.

Today, the people of South Africa are like victims of Battered Woman Syndrome: we’re so punch-drunk as a result of the serious, long-term abuse we’ve suffered at the hands of our government that we’re simply incapable of rational thought.

 

So, Mr Motsoeneng, as I’m unable and unwilling to withhold my income tax (not only because I don’t want to go to jail or have my hard-earned property confiscated, but also because I believe it’s my duty to contribute financially to a better life for all South Africans), I’m going to make this small stand and refuse to pay my TV licence.

And until you – and others like you, right up to and including president Jacob Zuma – ‘do the right thing’, I’m going to follow your example and not do the right thing either.

Rumours of rain 4 – hope springs

Yesterday’s Yr forecast said to expect just 1.4mm of rain on Friday night. Disappointing, considering the forecast of the day before of almost 9mm on Saturday, but we’ll take anything we can get.

forecast 14 March

The emotional seesaw continued this morning – now the forecast (above) says we’ll get 5.3mm over the course of Friday. If it happens, it will be amaaaaazing! Aside from anything else, it will top up my pool a little – the water level is now below the weir. (I’m using pool water to keep some plants alive.)

041

I filled up used water bottles on a trip to Cape Town this morning. Eked out, these 90 litres (below) will keep a small section of my garden going, plus provide drinking water for a little flock of chickens and lots of garden birds that have come to rely on this modest supply, for about five days.

039

A lovely experience early this morning was stepping out into temperatures that were a little chilly – the first time I’ve felt this welcome nip in many, many months.

Rumours of rain 3 – hopes dashed

And here’s Yr doing what it’s best at: offering hope one day, cruelly snatching it away the next.

forecast 14 March

A mere 24 hours after the forecast below, which promised us a miraculous 8.8mm of rain on Saturday after months of drought, today’s weather forecast (above) says we’ll get just 1.4mm on Friday night.