and NOT ready to mingle! How putting off partnering up is becoming the new norm, plus an extract from Catherine Gray’s book The Unexpected Joy of Being Single

Heading into the ‘month of love’ with a sense of dread? You are not alone. We’re constantly told – by society, our parents, the lyrics of every love song – that we are incomplete by ourselves. Yet putting off marriage (perhaps forever) has become the norm. In her book The Unexpected Joy of Being Single, author Catherine Gray documents her journey through ‘single’ panic and the relentless search for a soulmate – and discovers contentmen­t in her own company.

Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced that they were ‘consciousl­y uncoupling’ back in 2014? The world responded with a unanimous eye-roll: why not call a spade a spade and say you’re getting divorced? There’s power in language though – calling someone a divorcee forever defines them in relation to a long-lost partner. Is that really necessary?

Now another buzzword is making the rounds. In an interview with British Vogue last year, actress Emma Watson coined the phrase ‘self-partnered’ to describe her happy-to-be-single status. With her 30th birthday on the horizon, she was starting to feel ‘stressed and anxious’ about being on her own. ‘I realise it’s because there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around,’ she said. ‘If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… there’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.’

After much soul-searching, she is in a place where she refuses to let the pressure get to her. ‘It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.’

In the US, people who are single by choice are choosing to call themselves ‘quirkyalon­es’ – the term refers to ‘a person who prefers to be single rather than settle’. The founder of the website Quirkyalon­e, Sasha Cagen, writes: ‘When you’re quirkyalon­e like me, you know that being single is not a disease. Being single doesn’t mean you are broken.’

Another trend making headlines is ‘sologamy’, the act of marrying oneself. A bit extreme, sure, but according to Brit

Up until 1976, Irish women were not allowed to buy property without a man to co-sign the documents. In the UK, a woman was not allowed to open a bank account in her own name until 1975.

Sophie Tanner (who wed a great gal called Sophie), ‘it was great to celebrate, because unless you marry or have children, there are no opportunit­ies to celebrate your own happiness in adult life’. She has a point.

Beyond all the gifting opportunit­ies, married couples also tend to have the edge in terms of perks and status. Bella DePaulo, a professor of psychology, says legally married folks are sheltered by society in a way that single people simply are not – more than a thousand laws exist that favour and protect married couples.

Back in 2006 she named this particular bias ‘singlism’.

In The Unexpected Joy of Being Single, Catherine Gray writes: ‘Society tends to view single people with a furrow of the brow, a pang of pity and a “there, there, you’ll meet someone soon”.’

But in reality, the singletons are set to start outnumberi­ng the smug marrieds soon. Worldwide, the number of people living alone has increased by 80% since the ’90s. More than half of 25- to 44-year-olds are now flying solo. In the US, singles account for 45% of adults. And in Stockholm, single households make up 60% of the population.

Even companies are catching on to the ‘single positive’ trend. Jewellery brands market diamond rings for single women – to be worn on the right hand. Then there’s Chinese Singles Day, which takes place on the 11th day of the 11th month. ‘The number one signifies a person standing on their own,’ writes Catherine. ‘Singles go shopping and spend literally billions on presents – for themselves. Yee-ha!

On this auspicious day in 2015, Topshop recorded a 900% yearon-year rise in profits.’

For women, choosing to be single is a modern privilege. Think of Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet girls were husband-hunting for a reason. Women were not allowed to inherit or own property, so when their father died, they’d be out on the street, or left to the mercy of their closest male relative – in their case, the odious Mr Collins.

I know what you’re thinking: that was the 1800s; times have changed. But consider this: up until 1976, Irish women were not allowed to buy property without a man to co-sign the documents. In the UK, a woman was not allowed to open a bank account in her own name until 1975.

‘The explosion of single people (particular­ly women) is not a crisis – it’s feminism (aka equality) working its magic,’ writes Catherine.

‘We pushed this boulder uphill, so let’s sit and at least admire it. We can now be single without being too poor to buy food, or being landlocked, or being dunked in the river to see if we drown.’

 ??  ?? Catherine Gray
Catherine Gray

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