In a world that celebrates romance and finding The One, people can be rather rude to single people, writes James Friel.
No-one is supposed to be single.
In the course of my life, I have loved and lost and sometimes won, and always strangers have been kind. But I have, it appears, been set on a life of single blessedness.And I haven’t minded. Or rather, I realise, I haven’t minded enough. But now I kind of do. Take dinner parties. There comes a moment, and that question: “Why don’t you have a partner?”
It is usually asked by one of a couple, with always a swivel of the eye to his or her other half, so really two people are asking this question.And I struggle to answer: “I have never found the right person… I am a sad and sorry manchild… I am incapable of love… I am a deviant, and prefer giraffes.”
Any answer will fail to satisfy. The questioner expects no happy answer. I am only covering up my bone-deep, life-corroding loneliness. The questioners know this, and the insight they believe it affords comforts them. They are safe.
They look down from the high castle of coupledom, protected from such a fate. But if I were to ask: “Why have you settled for him? Why are you stuck with her? Were you so afraid of being alone?” such questions would be thought rude, intrusive.Last week a friend of mine went on a date. A foolish thing to do. The man she met had been married three times and had a child by each wife. An example of emotional continence I’m sure you’ll agree. And he asked my friend, single and childless, why she had failed at life.
It was a shortish date. Failed at life?
Single people can also feel this way about other single people, and about themselves. You see, no one is supposed to be single. If we are, we must account for our deficiencies.
A recent book claims on its cover that single people might be the most reviled sexual minority today. But it’s not just today.Take the word “spinster”. It is withering and unkind. The word, of course, is innocent, but its connotations are unhappy, dismissive and disrespectful.