I’m in the process of relaunching my ebook series. What was Love & Other Stuff will soon be republished as Love & Other Brave Acts: Essays on Courage for Fearless and Fabulous Living. I’ve researched keywords, redesigned covers and rebadged the tagline. I’ve rejigged my product descriptions. I’m also in the process of rewriting my “About this Book” section for the front matter, after ditching the foreword. The first book that has gone through this treatment is Part 1: Broken Heart Stuff, which will henceforth be known as Collection 1: The Break up Diaries.
It was rewriting the “About this Book” section of The Break up Diaries that I realised—apart from a few transgressions—that I have been single for ten years. Ten years! How the fuck did that happen? Or not, as the case may be. It’s not something I planned, mind you. There is no way I envisaged going into my dotage being single, but that is exactly what will happen, as far as I can tell. Because (and I’ll expand on this point below), the longer I am single, the longer I will remain single, particularly as I’m now in my fifties and the talent pool has shrunk considerably (more on that below). While being single isn’t at all bad (and it’s actually not), there are a few things that I’ve had to come to terms with over the course of my ten years of being (mostly) successfully single.
1. Love doesn’t happen when you least expect it
If I had a penny for every person who says, You’ll meet someone Di. It will happen when you least expect it, I would be richer than Bill Gates. Or Mark Zuckerberg. Or Rupert Murdoch. Or Oprah. All of whom, incidentally, are not single. All are married or engaged or partnered. Unlike me. I do agree with the meeting part, though. I meet people all the time. I met Mr Nonsense and and Mr Sleazy and Mr Fucktard and Mr Avoidant and Mr Holiday Fling. But nothing progressed beyond some sexy times (if I was lucky) and a whole lot of drama I could do without (if I was unlucky). So the thing where people say love will happen when I least expect it? I’m calling bullshit on that nonsense. For some people (and that includes me and Jane Austen and Diane Keaton), it never happens. At all. Ever.
2. Some men are just assholes
Actually (and this is related to the point above), things not progressing beyond sexy times and a whole lot of drama is not quite true. I’m sure things would have progressed if I’d been prepared to put up with being e-maintained (Mr Nonsense) or being one of a number of women (Mr Sleazy) or putting up with a weird relationship with his ex (Mr Fucktard) or being jerked around (Mr Avoidant) or only seeing him once every six months or so (Mr Holiday Fling). Things would have progressed to the point where I was an emotional wreck; a woman who ended up with no self-respect… a pale shadow of my former self, wondering what happened to my wonderful life and why I wasted my years on men who were just (for the most part) assholes. If I’ve learned nothing else about this being single thing, I’ve learned to increase my ability to filter out assholes and get rid of them pretty quickly. Thank God.
3. Online dating sucks
Yes, I know there are online dating success stories (three of my friends met their partners online). But as far as I’m concerned—and I can only base this on my experience—there are few genuine men on the sites I’ve been on. Admittedly, I’m too cheap to pay for the privilege of meeting someone online, so I use Oasis, the freebie site. And Oh. My God. there are some “interesting” specimens of manhood on display there (and I don’t mean manhood in the penis sense, but manhood in the general collective male sense). And if by chance there is someone half decent who you could be attracted to (and by half decent, I mean employed, actually single, reasonably attractive, can spell and hold a conversation) the chances of meeting them in, you know, real life, are in line with winning the lottery. In my experience, online dating=being someone’s pen pal. Urgh. Ain’t no one got time for dat. Least of all me.
4. The chances of meeting that someone special is close to zilch
The longer I stay single, the longer I will remain single. This is not just because I become more set in my ways (and unwilling to compromise, if the truth be told) but also because the talent pool shrinks considerably the older I get. The number of eligible men (and by eligible, I mean fit, healthy, financially secure, minimal baggage or emotional issues, no small children) I can choose from has significantly decreased. There are not that many decent blokes around as far as I can tell. The ones who are on the market are avoidants (not good for me and my anxious attachment style) or going through mid-life crises and are looking for a much younger model than me, or young (and I’m a notch on their bedpost and who can be bothered with that crap?) or just bitter from their divorces or separation (because their wives left them and they Seriously. Had. No. Idea.). I can categorically state that NASA has more chance of finding life in another galaxy than me meeting that special someone.
5. There are worse things than being single
Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely nothing with being single. At all. In fact there a whole lot of things that are worse than a solo status. Much, much worse:
- Being with a partner who disrespects you
- Being with a partner who is unkind to you
- Being with a partner who is controlling
- Being with a partner who is violent
- Being in a war zone
- Having no income
- Being homeless
- Being a refugee in an Australian detention centre
- Dying of an incurable disease
- Losing someone that you love to an incurable disease or an accident
- Losing your beloved pet to an incurable disease or an accident.
You get the picture.
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6. Society conspires against being single
Back in the late 1990s when I applied for a home loan, I struggled to find a bank to lend me the amount I required because I was single. Single meant one income. One income meant a risk (to the bank) of me not being able to service the loan. Couple that with the fact that I was a solo parent, and you have all sorts of potential discrimination going on. Thank God the (then) Bank of Melbourne came through for me, and I am proud to report that I have almost, very nearly, paid off my loan. And I have never missed a payment. Not once. Fast forward to today and single people are still discriminated against. Think single supplement that hits the hip pocket of the solo traveller (travel industry); table settings that discourage solo dining (hospitality industry); the awkward need for a plus one (wedding industry) and this is just the tip of the ice berg. Being single is often akin to being a social and economic pariah.
7. Being male and single is more acceptable than being single and female
Spinster. Bachelor. Which would you rather be? Exactly. The world is much kinder to George Clooney (when he was single) than Susan Boyle. Think Silver Fox vs. Dried Up Old Hag. Older, single males are viewed as sexy and virile (because they can be fertile until they drop dead) and still having a lot to offer society. Older, single females struggle with invisibility and being relevant (apart from Christine Lagarde and Janet Yellen and Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel and Oprah who are Supergal exceptions to this rule). I refuse to go gentle into that good night and colour my hair (mainly because I can’t be bothered) and and get fat (because I don’t want to be) and I am often told I don’t look my age. I feel fit and fabulous and fearless but I can’t pull the guys like I used to. Heads rarely turn when I enter a room and men hardly notice me. So while I don’t feel invisible and certainly don’t act it, society sorta kinda says I am. How can you be found by that special someone if you aren’t even seen?
8. Coupled up people are secretly jealous of my single status
A number of female friends and acquaintances have said to me over the years: I love my husband, but if anything happened to him, I would never remarry…
I think I know why. Being single means you aren’t forced to compromise when you really don’t want to. You don’t have to share your space with someone when you want to be alone. You don’t have to pick up after anyone. You don’t have to have that same old argument about leaving the toilet seat down or unstacking the dishwasher or bringing in the washing or feeding the cat or taking out the garbage. You don’t have to worry about your partner letting you down or being unreliable or becoming a gambling or porn addict. If you are single, you can take a lover if you want to (actually, you can take a lover when you are partnered, but I totally judge you for that. And not in a good way). You can have sexy times when you want with different people, or not, as the case may be. You don’t have to deal with someone being in your space all the freaking time. Your money is your own, your decisions are your own. Your life is your own. You do what you want, when you want, with who you want. How fucking fabulous is that?
9. Single is the new fabulous
Being single is the new fucking fabulous. And despite #6, there is no need to be coupled up if one doesn’t want to be. In fact, more and more people are choosing a life that doesn’t involve a partner because of the inherent, wonderful, total freedom. And there’s a lot of research saying that being single is better for your health, wealth and longevity, especially if you are female. Yes, it is an essentially selfish life because you get to please yourself, but being single also means you have more time to be selfless and pursue activities that contribute to society. I am a better mother, employee, friend and cat owner because I am single. The significant lack of relationship drama in my life means that I am more zen and centred. I have more energy to indulge in all sorts of activities of my choosing. And I am more creative because I don’t have explain or justify why I’m spending all my time after work writing or working on stuff I want to work on, which has to be better for the world. I am fit and active and look after my health—mental, emotional, spiritual and physical—and I’m not sure I’d be so driven if I was loved up.
10. A single life is an authentic life
As far as I can tell, my single status means that I am living my life as close to the real me as I can get. I spend a lot of time with myself, so I am comfortable in my skin. I don’t have to pretend to be something that I’m not. I don’t play a role. On my own I’m just me, stripped back, bare, real. What’s more, I like me. I like the person that I am. I respect myself (and these aren’t just empty, tokenistic words) for all that I am and all that I’ve achieved and all that I will become and all that I will achieve. Past, present, future. As far as I can tell, being single means I’ve been able to choose to do stuff that contributes to my growth as a person, that allows me to test my limits, to push beyond the edges of my comfort zone. I rely on myself and my own resources. I try different things and I do different things with different people in different countries. And the best thing is: I don’t have to explain it to anyone.
How fucking fabulous is that?
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