Single in your thirties? What’s wrong with you?

// 29 April 2007

Anyone who’s single, be that aged 18 or 88, will find themselves subject to the scrutiny of the mass media at some point during their solitary existence. Being an industry promoting partnerships, and their maintenance, as one of the primary indicators of a successful existence, if you fail to comply, the general consensus is that there must be something wrong with you. And, of course, also that you must be woefully unhappy. Sad but true. Yawn.

Mariella Frostrup addresses this issue in an article in The Observer today, in response to a letter from a reader seeking advice for the social pressures she experiences owing to her choice to remain single. The female reader remarks that:

“I’m excited about who I could meet and my future with that person; however, I feel I’m not allowed to feel this way and should be more remorseful at what I have missed…It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, that we (single ladies in our thirties) are made to feel guilty and fearful about our lives and that we can’t celebrate everything that we have achieved and carry that with us when dating?”

This is an interesting point, and one Mariella addresses, because if we do choose to stay on the shelf for what is considered ‘too long’ a period of time, does that make us considerably less attractive to prospective partners? She goes on to remark satirically that:

“You certainly don’t want to be sitting around boasting about your happy life and proudest achievements if you’re looking for a husband, my friend. What on earth is a man supposed to take away from that sort of encounter apart from the notion that you don’t actually need him? Perish the thought that your prospective future partner should get the idea that actually you can and do manage quite well on your own. Or that an ongoing relationship with he (or she) would just represent the supplementary icing on your already rich and deeply satisfying cake. The fact that the latter posits what seems a ridiculous and unimaginable scenario merely serves to prove your point.”

So it seems that our independence will, unfairly, be something likely to have a detrimental affect on our future relationships, with men still aspiring to fulfil the template of the primary bread-winner, intimidated by the fact that in reality, yes, we can actually support ourselves. Shock horror, and the though of us having had several sexual partners before meeting this man who professes to be the bright beacon of hope at to end our dark days of Singledom is something to terrible to think about.

Mariella’s article is amusing, and does highlight the failings of a greater society that automatically assumes that if we don’t have a partner it’s because we cannot get one rather than owing to a lifestyle choice. Her claim that as single women we should be out “celebrating our soon-to-expire state of independence” is good advice, since it is easy to be influenced by those around us desperate to pair up and squeeze our sons and heirs at will, and to loose sight of what we really want, which is to enjoy ourselves.

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