With the exception of a few weeks for the past 45 years I have predominantly been single or in long distance relationships – which frankly, in my case, has been the same as being single. But even though those weeks have been the anomaly and not the norm, I’m going to admit that I loved every moment of them and have been wearing my single status like an overly tight and uncomfortable pair of jeans… you know the pair I’m talking about, the one that doesn’t fit you anymore but you’re not quite ready to accept that you will never get that twenty year old body back again. Yep, those ones.
Then one day, I was sipping champagne (I know, big surprise) at a small bar next to the Orpheum Cinema in Sydney, with an hour to spare before the film I was seeing, and I found myself in ‘the moment’. That deliciously rich moment when there is no conversation or awkward silence, no waiting for someone else to choose what they want to order, or listening to the jingle of keys signalling impatience or… more importantly… discussion (read ‘debate’) about what you are going to see that night. And I realised that I was not alone, I was with me. And that ‘me’ has valid likes and dislikes, a sense of humour, a need to be on time and an appreciation for the small things. And in that said moment, I also realised that I was in good company.
That night I made a promise to myself to stop focusing on who I wasn’t as a single and rather who I was. And in as much, I decided to start doing all those things that I felt silly or outright embarrassed to do on my own. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t still sometimes feel like the hitchhikers thumb doing things on my own, but I have learnt to sit quietly in that feeling and then with respect to that feeling just being about ‘ego’, to let it go.
So in solidarity to all of you out there who are also single, here are ten things that I truly believe that all single women do as part of accepting this time in your life.
- Lock in a decadent date with yourself. My married / coupled friends are always posting about ‘date-night’ and, frankly, I got nothing. I read their posts and come away with a sense of feeling empty and, also, somewhat annoyed. On my good days I am all ‘oh, yaay you!’. But for the other 364 days I think ‘yeah, whatever, fuck you.’ The solution, of course, is to commit to your own version of date night. Schedule a regular night at a wine bar, followed by a movie or the theatre (or whatever floats your boat). Savour the bubbles, the meal someone else cooked and that whole bucket of popcorn all to yourself. Or light the candles, put on some music, order take-in and fill a bath. Whatever you do, the point is to take the time to stop and appreciate your life. Embrace this amazing freedom you have, the small luxuries, and the quiet time.
- Be unavailable. The thing about being single is that everyone thinks you have an endless amount of time to spare. I’m not sure what they imagine – that we are at home crocheting blankets for retirement villages? But just because you are single doesn’t mean that your time is any less valuable. It’s ok to turn off the phone, to say no, and even if you don’t have something planned, to not be available.
- Take a road trip. Get in the car, hire a camper, pack a tent, but whatever you do, hit the road Jill. Think of it as a metaphor for everything you have ever wanted to do in life, but been too afraid to do because you have grown up being told to ‘be careful’. Road trips require courage and a willingness to unleash the strong independent, capable you that is in all of us. Road trips remind us that we are capable and free and that life is an adventure waiting for us to buy a ticket.
- Take a class. Not for anyone else but yourself, sign on for that art class, that wine appreciation seminar, French lessons, introduction to criminal psychology – what ever floats your boat. The thing with being single is that friends often suggest that we take on extra curricula activities as a means to meet other people (i.e. men), but what if you just took on something new in order to learn, to grow as a human being, to feed your innate curiosity?
- Vow not to explain yourself. Too often I find myself pulled into conversations about who I am, why I am single, what I do with my spare time. And not just verbally – I also find myself faced with having to state my status on all manner of documents from job applications, to membership forms. Just as I stopped registering my religion more than a decade ago, I now also refuse to tick the box stating whether I am single or otherwise. If you need an emergency point of contact, fair enough, but otherwise, none of your fucking business is the answer in most cases.
- Be with the people you are with. There is nothing worse than going out with a group of single friends who are doing nothing but ‘looking’. Being in the moment means not being so focussed on your desire to meet someone that you devalue the people you are with. Let go and everything else will follow.
- Go Stag. Refuse to submit to the ‘handbag’ date. You don’t need someone on your arm to validate your attendance at an event. You are enough. That is all.
- Stop saying you need a ‘wife’. This statement irks me to no end. It does two things – firstly it reinforces a stereo-type of devaluing the role men play in the home. And while ever we do that, we also undermine equality. Secondly, it suggests that only women are capable of household tasks, thereby reinforcing my first point.
- Insist on equality. Don’t just expect it, insist on it. Stand up for equal representation, in salary, in work life balance, in promotion opportunities, in lifestyle choices – for women who are in relationships or single, divorced or widowed, with kids or without kids.
- Be financially independent. The best advice I ever heard was that a man was not a financial plan. I am reminded of this every time someone jokingly suggests that I need to find myself a rich husband. Rich husbands, I tell them, can lead to equally expensive divorces. I’m not adverse to financial security (and champagne), but I am not beholden to a man for this. Suggesting as much, even jokingly, sets women’s rights back 100 years.
It’s easy as single women to get pulled into dialogues, with others and ourselves, about being single in which we attempt to legitimise who we are, the choices we have made and identify a way forward. It’s time to stop all of that. It’s time to embrace the person you are, appreciate and respect her. She got you this far, and whether you are with someone or not, she and not that someone else, is the person who is going to get you the rest of the way. And you are that person.