Confession: I have been single for my entire life.
…and with that confession I’m inviting in a whole truckload of stereotypes that come attached to being single girl in the 21st Century.
Stating ‘single’ as your relationship status comes with a wealth of contradicting views and feelings. In some ways it’s empowering, yet you feel prudish for not putting out; envied for your independence and free agency, but bound to the clock that counts down to getting a boyfriend/girlfriend and marriage; pressured to follow your own dreams, your own career and your own path, but are consistently fighting off questions about your dating life, when you’ll have kids, whether you’ll ever settle down.
At nearly 24 it’s literally taken me this long to come face to face with the reality of what ‘being single’ really means and the societal pressure that comes with it. Sure, I felt it in small bursts at school, at College, at University. But it didn’t really hit me until now, two years out into the ‘real world’ living away from home and a year into a ‘proper job’. Where once the statement ‘No I’m not seeing anyone’ was met with ‘Well you’re young, you have so much more time to think about all that’, the response now garners wide eyes, a questionable ‘Oh’, and a ‘…well have you thought about online dating?’
Sometimes it feels like women are wholly defined by their romantic entanglements and relationships status. Nowadays this is only escalated by social media and the ‘fear of missing out’. We see our friends, classmates, colleagues, and family getting hitched/starting families/getting mortgages, whilst I sit in my pj’s and Netflix and chill on the sofa on a Saturday night.
And that reality – the one where ‘being single’ gives off the air of not being a real grown up, just plain ‘sad’ and inevitable late night thoughts that I will end up dying alone with loads of cats – is a really horrible, hard pill to swallow sometimes. To put it bluntly it f*cking sucks.
I reviewed Spinster by Kate Bolick recently and aside from it being a Grade A for Awesome read, she magnificently highlights the stigma attached to being a single ‘spinster’ in our society and how much absolute bull that is.
In reality there really shouldn’t be any shame attached to being single. As Bolick so eloquently presents in the book, what is important is that women should be free to carve a path of their own life. Whether that includes marriage and children, or not is – frankly – none of your business.
For me Bolick’s sentiments in the book infer that choosing the so-called Spinster life will not lead you to becoming the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons. In fact, should you fall into that path you are in wonderful company. Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Greta Garbo, Florence Nightengale, and Bolick’s ‘awakeners’ – columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton, were all incredible women who lived amazing and fulfilling lives. Some married. Some divorced. Some were widowed. Some simply never found ‘the one’. And all of them were fine.
The take away from this post is to choose the life you want to lead consciously and with a self-awareness that is not driven by societal pressure to be one or the other. It’s feeling comfortable with the outcome of both imagined futures. Your time may come to say ‘I Do’ in a white wedding dress or it may not and that’s ok too.
Never forget that you are valid in b o t h instances.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you had on so-called ‘Spinster-hood’ and relationships in the comments. I’ve also listed a couple of links below from far more eloquent people than I if you fancy skimming around the Internet on the topic.