Monday, 11 February 2013

A Book To Read When You're More-Or-Less-Single* near Valentine's Day

Posted By Daisy

FOR A WHILE, I was the go-to single person for the newspaper I write for. I did features on dating events and even went to Galway for a weekend because an American survey said it was the best place for single girls to find a man – it definitely wasn’t.

Below is a piece I wrote about 'Being Single on Valentine's Day' - and yes, I had to get a photo taken of me smiling inanely and holding a flower - I made sure I had a bouncy blowdry and nice make-up, because I could just imagine people saying 'No wonder she's single, look at the state of her.’

THIS Christmas, at the dinner table, my mother jokingly announced that ‘This year, we’re launching a rigorous campaign to find Daisy the man of her dreams’. My siblings and their respective partners sniggered into their turkey, whilst I agreed, laughed, and helped myself to more cranberry sauce.

Single for seven months, I’ve been through the depressive stages of a break-up, the late-night wine-drinking sessions with my flatmates, and the cat-lady predictions of my life ahead. And have emerged, rather surprisingly, happy as hell.

But I really shouldn’t be. According a recent cover of ‘Love It!’ magazine, lots of celebrities are, apparently, ‘Sad, Lonely and Loveless’. By rights, I should be sitting at home on Saturday nights, drinking tea in my shrunken flannel pyjamas reading ‘If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?’ or ‘Living Single: One Day At A Time’ or even, ‘Being Single On Noah’s Ark’.  

But I’m not, and neither are thousands of other singletons out there. We’re actually SALI (Single And Loving It – yes, I can’t believe there’s an acronym for it either) most of the time.

Single 30-something year-old women have two choices – be bubbly or be bitter. Having experienced the bitter type in the form of friends who break out the cigarettes and wine at the announcement of an engagement on Facebook, or cry when given ‘The Cookbook for the Single Woman’ on their birthdays, I decided to opt for bubbly. There’s nothing that confounds the stereotype of a lonely singleton than someone who is active, enthusiastic and loves life.

So what are the benefits of being single? For starters, the weight loss is dramatic. There are far less meals out, no more cosy breakfasts in bed with home-made croissants and hot chocolate made from melted slabs of ‘Green and Blacks’, no more Sunday morning trips to the Farmer’s Market to share a brie-and-bacon baguette, and no more DVD-and-Thai-takeaway’s on Saturday nights.

And nights out can also be more fun when you’re single. Whilst most couples are tucked up in bed by 2:30a.m.on a Saturday night, the singletons are in pursuit of more fun. We sit in kitchens talking rubbish to strangers, and creep out of smoky pubs at sunrise, our eyes squinting in the harsh dawn light. Untethered to anyone, we arrive home on a Sunday morning, kick off our diamante studded heels in the hall, and fall asleep smiling.

There are also fewer obligations when you’re single. I can read a book in a coffee shop for hours on end, without having to go to a partner’s family gathering. I can stay in with a pizza and a bottle of wine on a Friday night. I can stick a pin on a globe and head off to exotic destinations every year. I can watch reruns of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ for hours without having to switch over to ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ or ‘Bundesliga Football Highlights’. Of course, I don’t tend to take snowy walks in the woods with my girl friends, but I can make a snap decision on a Friday to take off on a girly weekend, without having to check with anyone else.

However, there is a danger that singletons can become selfish. My mother fender-bendered her car recently, and instead of consoling her, I preened myself in the hallway mirror and asked her opinion on my new bouncy blow dry.

I’m not single by choice, but nor am I going to settle for any random man. Like most singletons of my age, I am discerning. I tried internet dating, but had to pull the battery out of my laptop to rapidly shut it down when one guy ‘winked’ (like ‘poking’ on Facebook) at me. Eagerly I clicked on his profile photograph, only to see a wrinkly 65-year-old naked man rising out of a hot tub, his skin glistening with water droplets. However, I currently know of six couples who met via the internet. Just be careful out there. 

Never have the lives of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte from ‘Sex and The City’ (more re-runs) seemed more relevant to me as they do now. As a single woman in my thirties, their problems have become mine. And their pleasures and achievements have also become mine. I’m far more confident now than I was in my twenties, and have more time now as a singleton to concentrate on pursuing my dream career.

I have more disposable income to buy sequinned tops and expensive night-cream on a whim. I have also become super-independent. I no longer have to put on a cute baby-voice to get what I want from a boyfriend. I just do it myself. Except when changing a punctured tyre on the side of a country road. You definitely need a man for that. Or an AA membership.

And yes, it can get lonely being single, at times. Everyone needs someone to talk to, someone with whom to share the minutiae of their daily life. The thing I miss most about being coupled-up are those early-morning, stuck-in-traffic phone calls on the way to work– who else would call you that early?

And the perceived predatory-aspect of the single women isn’t a plus either. One insecure married friend kept jumping clumsily into the conversation whilst I was talking to her husband at a dinner party. More recently, a drunken friend of mine leaned across the pub table and flicked the wedding ring of the man I was making small-talk with, saying ‘He’s married’. For the first time, I felt uncomfortable and slightly uncouth for being single. I avoided that man for the rest of the night, not because I was chatting him up, but because my best friend had perceived it that way.

And yes, it will be soul-destroying if you go out on a Saturday night actively seeking a man/husband. And men can spot the ‘crazy eyes’ anywhere – the swirling pupils of a bunny-boiler in a disco are like a sharp puff of breath to a dandelion clock. Best avoided. But if your aim is simple to have fun with your friends, then you can't go wrong.
The key to successful single living is to have lots of single friends. There’s nothing like a couple’s dinner party to make you feel slightly uncomfortable in your own skin. Although most of the couples I know are marvellous company. And even some of them have muttered darkly to me that ‘the grass is always greener.’

And sure, there comes a time when buying another ready-meal-for-one becomes a bit tiresome, but just remember, the odds are you probably won’t die alone being eaten by your cat. Singledom is generally not a permanent state. It fluctuates. So you may as well embrace it and quit worrying.

And, at the end of a long day, being single means that I can stretch out fully in my double-bed and not have to stare teeth-bared at someone snoring next to me at 4a.m. I can also go to bed whenever I want.

As for my mother’s/sisters/friends proposed set-up’s – I say ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ I love the excitement of first dates; the dressing-up, the butterflies and the stomach-shuddering potential of it all. And after twenty failed blind dates, at least I’ll know for sure exactly what I don’t want in a man.

And whilst being single is fabulous, and ‘autonomous happiness’ is a new key word in my vocabulary, I feel obliged to add that if there are any tall, well-mannered and devastatingly attractive fellows out there, my number is 086……………
I’m currently re-reading this book and it’s still excellent.
It also contains one of the most unromantic scenes in a book, and lots of romantic scenes.
Unromantic: When Emma has an affair with Mr Godalming, the middle-aged headmaster of the school she works in, and they spend their afternoons rubbing up against each other on the scratchy carpet in his office.
Romantic: When she finally sees sense, resigns without too much thought, and moves to Paris to become a writer.  Hurray! And of course, her latter scenes with Dexter.
*I say more-or-less-single, as I have had 5 dates with a lovely guy with glasses. More on that soon!

 (Top illustration by Marc Johns



No comments:

Post a Comment