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.