Tuesday, 8 March 2011

If I see one more ‘woe is the single woman’ article…..

I’ve just read three articles dealing with the woes of being a single woman, the first written by a single woman who spends the entire article talking about how much of an over-achiever she is, apparently with the pedigree of an Arabian thoroughbred, only to finish pathetically dreaming of a ‘found glass slipper’ and a kiss to awake her from her slumber, dreams that apparently get her through life’s drudgery.

Article no 2 is written by an expert in getting married, having done it (albeit unsuccessfully) three times, she feels qualified to tell single women what they’re doing wrong. Essentially, it’s all about changing who you are so you can achieve the wonderful state of matrimony.

The final which I’ll admit I couldn’t bear to finish reading was about the lack of single men in New York but again the crux of the argument was that you dear single female reader are the problem….the sole reason why you are still unhappily single.

First of all let me say that I’m not single but I’m hoping you’ll be willing to hear me out before making a decision about my credibility on the issue of singledom. It might help you to know that I’m not a ‘smug married’ and I was raised by two, no three single women. First my grandmother, then my aunt and finally my mother. All formidable women who just got on with the business of life and raising children with the help of their extended family

Now, I don’t know exactly where it started but some, no make that a lot of women have managed to convince themselves that being single is some kind of a curse. Perhaps a male-dominated society has been telling them this for so long that they’re starting to believe it. Or maybe it’s their smug married female friends who are often so miserable in their own lives that they like to pretend they are somehow better off. Trust me they’re not!

I know I’m not saying anything new but I feel that it needs to be said on this 8th day of March 2011, International Women’s day – Ladies you can be single and happy!!! There are good marriages and bad marriages, likewise single life can be fulfilling or it can be lonely as hell. The advantage is that as a singleton you get to choose whether you’ll lead a life that makes you happy whereas to be married and happy depends on your spouse not being an arsehole!

While I enjoy being married, I recognise that it’s not for everyone. Marriage is an institution that requires an enormous amount of sacrifice/compromise and in my experience and those of my friends, the wife is the one who does most of the compromising/sacrificing. There are no doubt exceptions to the rule but the fact that a majority of women have to give up their surname and identity to take on their husbands should already ring alarm bells that ‘ain’t nothing equal about this set-up’. Also it may be as a result of our disposition as women, and again I speak for myself and the 80 or so married women I know, but we tend to just get on with what needs to be done and that ends up meaning doing everything ourselves. We become primary carers of our children, which often means professional compromise; we take on the lion share of the housework and we comport ourselves in public like ‘married women’. This means most of us lose the male friends we once had because we are acutely aware of what is expected of us as ‘wives’. Our husbands on the other hand have flourishing careers, supportive wives, cared-for children and homes that they can happily come back to at the end of a long day at work followed by nights hanging with the boys or girls. For all intents and purposes there is nothing, other than the ring that would suggest that their status has changed.
Before you get the picture of a gloom and doom marriage, let me attempt to qualify this though by saying what you give up on the one hand you gain on the other. There’s the wonderful feeling of being with the man you love (I’m making an assumption here of course that people marry for love); marriage also means someone to have sex with when you choose and how you choose, with or without the end result of children and last but by no means least companionship.

As a single woman the greatest benefit is freedom, to do, to be, to go without having to answer to anyone and although society would have us believe that women are incapable of enjoying sexual freedom apparently because of some hormone called oxytocin , I can say with absolute certainty that this is not true for every woman. Admittedly not everyone is liberated enough to pursue or enjoy sex outside of a committed relationship, those who do, do exist and are increasing in numbers so long live the female sexual revolution! Being single also means absolute selfishness, taking care of numero uno, guilt-free shopping and countless hours beautifying yourself without fear of being judged by a hardworking husband/breadwinner.

Granted we’ve seen enough Hollywood chick flicks and read enough ‘self-help’ articles to be able to list the drawbacks of being a single woman and even name the films that illustrate them; from ‘27 dresses’ to ‘The Back up Plan’, ‘He’s just not that into you’, and who can forget the dreadful ‘The Ugly Truth’. The gamut includes the date dilemma for a friend’s wedding, the realisation that all your friends are settling down, the desire to get pregnant and of course good ole plain loneliness. Without wishing to trivialise these issues, I think that the anxieties that come from them are for the most part self-inflicted.

We can choose to be happy and single. We can choose to go to a wedding alone or with a friend, male or female. Likewise we can decide to have children outside of wedlock or to adopt and finally why not opt out of loneliness? We can choose not to be lonely with or without a partner. Why allow society to define what happiness means for you when we are all so different? In fact I’m convinced that it’s all a ploy by men to lure us into marriage by convincing us that we want it more than they do….when in actual fact, they need it far more than we do. Single women need to take what their married peers say with a pinch of salt, yes of course they’re happy some of the time but then so are you! The rest of the time you struggle with various issues ranging from professional to personal. They likewise struggle with issues of inadequacy….am I sexy enough? Is he looking at other women? Are my children happy/well-balanced? We all have our issues….'local and global’ as a friend would say so let’s all stop pretending that marriage provides some sort of a catch-all solution.

There are times when I refer to myself as a single woman, partly because I forget that I’m married, partly because I think my subconscious is trying to preserve my identity in this ‘institution’. I love being married because I’m with the man I love but I wouldn’t chose marriage just for the sake of it and I sincerely doubt I would do it again with someone else.

No doubt being single comes with difficulties and the grass is always going to appear greener on the other side but from someone who is on the other side, let me assure you that it isn’t. No matter how ‘loved up’ you are, marriage is hard work and a constant battle of wills.

By all means aspire to it if that’s what you want but it helps to know that there are women like my mother, aunt and late grandmother, who were/are perfectly happy single and had/have very fulfilled lives.

Wouldn’t it be a testament to how far we’ve come as women to have more and more women happily embrace being single and telling the self-styled relationship gurus to stick their ‘how to get married in 30 days’ advice where the sun doesn’t shine?

Today, I’ve decided to raise a glass to my fabulous single female friends – long and happily may you live!!!!


JBH said...

Love it! I always tell my single friends to enjoy it while it lasts. I love being married but like you I always let them know marriage takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I know I've made some sacrifices & I admit sometimes I wish I was still single translated into free to do as I please & not have to make joint decisions many times but that said, I wdnt swap my husband & kids for Anthony & I can understand how lonely being single can be. Well written Hibiscus! Love reading your blog. HAPPY WOMENS DAY!!

JBH said...

er! blame the typos on my stupid iPhone!!! Grrr! I meant:
"i wdnt swap my husband or kids for ANYONE" not Anthony! Lordy! hahaha! guess i should have proof read that...

The Hibiscus Notes said...

Darn Iphones....hopefully your husband wont read it and start asking who Anthony is.
Thanks for your comment and compliment!

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece and I'd like to add that the worst loneliness is to be found in marriage - seen it sooo many times and it's ALWAYS the woman who bears the millstone of 'marriage' and many a time single motherhood (within said marriage) whilst the husband goes on enjoying the best of all worlds. My conclusion is that women single or married must be strong, seek the best for themselves and their kids (where applicable) and above all else ENJOY to the fullest your current state of existence whatever it may be. From a stay-at-mom of three aged almost-4 n under and loving it! For now! :-)

Anonymous said...

Great article and Hibiscus I think you got the balance right - I never thought I would say this but whilst I aspire to be married I can happily say being single can be good too, if you keep living life to the full and stop waiting and thinking the grass is greener but a word to JBH you could not help yourself by highlighting that you are married and think otherwise you would be lonely, oh dear the battle is always there from the 'phew am glad am not you brigade' Lets embrace the courage and achievement of all women single and married!

v said...

This is fantastic. It's one of those articles that makes me, a single woman, appreciate that the grass is greenest in my own yard.