Single-shaming: I hate to say it, but it does tend to be one sided in terms of gender...
In this article, I aim to break down the stereotype of being ‘alone,’ and prove that actually, in the words of Kelly Clarkson, ‘It doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone!’
If a man is single in his mid-to-late twenties, he’s a player, a legend, and downright sensible. He’s classed as a bachelor, a ‘lad.’
To the outside world, he’s living THE life: no responsibilities, no commitments, and no-one to answer to. He’s the envy of all his loved-up pals, who wish that they too could still spend every Saturday night getting leathered and pulling a multitude of girls without a care in the world.
When a woman of the same age is single, it is almost automatically assumed that there is something wrong with her. She’s unfairly compared to Bridget Jones, or presumed to be a fan of cats.
(Side note: BTW, Bridget Jones is actually married with a baby as of the third movie, so yeah, update your references.)
Women hit a certain age, and are then continually asked why they’re single, and rudely reminded of their ‘body clock.’ I just find it so degrading and actually quite backwards in terms of low-key sexism. (These sorts of comments are particularly rife at family get-togethers, and are usually voiced by an Aunty who’s not your Aunty...)
(Another side note: Why is it so hard for people to accept that some women – both single and in relationships – don’t actually want children?? Baffling, but don’t get me started!)
Times have changed. The average age for marriage in the UK is 35!! PLEASE, take note! Why is there such a stampede to marry off all single women before the age of 30?!
Like, do people not think women can cope on their own without a spouse, is that what it is? Because I just don’t get it, and the constant detrimental generalisation and pressure to adhere to ‘life goals’ really annoys me.
Of course, as children, we all have a vision of how we want our lives to unfold. At 14, you generally reckon that you will be married with a house, kids, and a steady job by the age of 24, because it seems so Goddamn ancient. And then of course, reality kicks in like, ‘Oh hey! Here’s some unemployment rates for you, alongside rising house prices, OH, and here’s some Covid-19, too!’
And reality isn’t always a bad thing. As we get ‘older,’ we come to realise that 24 isn’t actually ancient at all, and so what if we aren’t married with children at that age?
Society’s warped time frame for various unobtainable life events is really quite meaningless. Life events should be controlled by the person living the life, not the general public and media surrounding them. Some women marry at 18 and spend their entire existences with one man, and that’s absolutely fine. Other women marry at 70, and that’s fine too. Some women never even entertain relationships or the notion of giving birth, and guess what? THAT. IS. TOTALLY. FINE.
There is nothing ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’ about any of the above scenarios, or any other scenario in-between, for that matter.
Why should women feel pressurised to achieve certain, unrealistic milestones purely because society says so?!
I feel like sometimes, women are almost snubbed if they chose to remain single, unmarried and childless.
Only WE, as strong women who know our own minds and worth, dictate the path of our lives. If a woman chooses to be alone for whatever reason, she should be left to live her life, no questions asked (mostly because it’s none of anybody’s business why somebody is single/ in relationship/ whatever else they have going on in their personal lives).
You CAN be alone without being lonely. I have been alone for most of my life, and it has made me everything I am. I’m fiercely independent, resourceful and imaginative, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always been surrounded by a large group of friends, and though my family circle is small, I know they would do anything for me. This being said, I am an only child, I grew up in a secluded village with abysmal public transport arrangements, and I didn’t get a ‘proper’ boyfriend until I was 23.
I loved every second of being ‘alone,’ and I often miss it a lot.
I am so glad that I didn’t meet my husband any sooner than I did, and in fact, sometimes I almost wish I had met him a few years later. I am so eternally grateful that I held off getting into a relationship during those all-important years of self-discovery – the years whereby you really find out who you are, and what you want to do with your life.
I think back fondly on my late teens and early twenties, and I recall with a smile travelling around Europe on my own, overcoming anorexia, moving to Ibiza, enjoying nights out, writing my first published book, and gaining such confidence as a result of my journey. Only when I spent time alone did I really get to know myself.
As a child, I was always encouraged by my parents and grandparents to have imaginary friends, play elaborate make-believe games, and write stories, in which all of my dreams could come true through my invented characters.
I would spend hours in my Grandma’s garden, ‘cantering’ across the lawn, making ‘show jumps’ out of upturned buckets and old broom handles. (Naturally, I owned my own riding school, and was training for the Grand National...)
At the age of six, I wrote a book about a mischievous made-up cousin called Ella, who still stars in my books to this day!
My imagination provided me with an escape that seemed so real, and this a quality I have carried into adulthood, and treasure immensely. It is the sole ingredient in my passion for writing, and what I hope to provide my readers with every time they pick up one of my books. I want them to be transported into another world, just as I was while penning the words.
Personally, I am actually generally happier on my own than I am in a relationship, and I am married! That bold statement is of no reflection on my husband, merely my own personal preferences. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy spending time with my husband, but I do feel I strive more as a one-woman-team.
I prefer holidaying on my own because I find it easier to take in breathtaking scenery without any distractions, or arguments about where we’re going for lunch.
I prefer walking on my own because I like to daydream and conjure up new story ideas for my books along the way, very much inspired by the countryside. (Besides, it has often been noted that I walk faster than the average Roadrunner, and very few people can actually keep up with me without acquiring a stitch.)
I prefer to shop on my own, because to be perfectly honest, I just want to get in and out of town as quick as humanely possible without cursing the irritating category of ‘slow walkers.’
I prefer to sleep on my own because I’m not woken up at 3am by someone snoring, dramatically turning over and causing a ruckus, or even worse, SOMEBODY (namely my husband) having a night terror about ‘spiders with pig’s heads’
I prefer to cook for one, because I can have what I want, when I want, and I have my pick of the leftovers.
Before Covid, I even went to a concert on my own (due to none of my friends being raging wannabe gangsters like me...) and I would totally do it again! I had the best night of my life, and met some new friends!
Those ‘goal-worthy’ relationships we see plastered across social media... Newsflash – they’re so fabricated!
No-one, and I mean no-one, is going to post a status like, ‘Just had our third argument of the day and I am currently packing my bags to go back to my Mum’s for a few days.’
Come on, get real.
My husband and I went through a bad patch before our wedding last year, and were actually on the verge of calling it a day. To my social media friends, I was the advert for near-marital bliss, as I shared photos of my bouquet ideas, and jetted off on my hen-do. Nobody aside those closest to me had any idea what was really occurring.
Obviously, I didn’t want anybody to know that my life was slowly unravelling between my fingers, and I frantically showcased myself in a manner I hoped would gloss over any woes below the surface.
It made me wonder how many other couples were having cross words or going through shit behind the posted poses of picture-perfect contentment.
We’re all guilty of it.
So, bottom line, before you compare yourself to the meticulously edited world of social media, stop and consider the bigger picture.
The other day, I was thinking about the single women in my life, and I concluded that they are actually some of the happiest people I know! My Mum has been on her own for over 10 years now, and absolutely relishes it. She has stated so many times that she has no desire whatsoever to ever meet anybody again. I look at the quality of life my Mum has, and I feel so proud: she’s paid off her mortgage, and has a better social life than all of the Kardashians put together! She is always here, there and everywhere with her vast friendship group, whether it be abroad, or a weekend away in the UK.
Another friend of mine is constantly on holiday with her lovely Mum and children, literally having the time of her life! Hands down, this girl is a ray of sunshine – I have never seen her in a bad mood!
So next time you dare to make a woman feel uncomfortable for being single at any given age, please consider the following possibilities –
*She is a carer for a poorly family member and simply doesn’t have the time to commit to a relationship
* She is absolutely smashing her career and would rather channel her energy into her job at this present time
* She has had a bad experience in the past and needs time to herself to get over it
* She simply enjoys being single
She doesn’t need your pity, or your offers to ‘set her up’ with your mate’s sister’s cousin’s fish monger, and most of all, she does not need your opinions or judgements.
I guess what I’m also trying to say is that we – all of us - need to stop fearing being ‘alone.’
Whether we choose to be alone for an hour, a month, a year, or a decade – we should all prioritise and embrace it – not dread it!
We NEED time alone to truly understand ourselves. I really can’t stress this enough.
Any major decision making should be pondered away from the influences of spouses, friends and even family, unless it directly concerns them.
Spending 24/7 around other people can often lead to us forgetting who we are. Knowing who we are breeds an inner self-understanding, which results in confidence and independence. With these traits, you will never truly be alone, because you unknowingly possess the knowledge that you can be whoever you want to be, and go wherever you want to go.
Being alone forces us to put ourselves first, which is an imperative factor in maintaining a mentally and emotionally healthy life.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©