Hey, remember back when I wrote this piece about how Donald Trump’s election had killed my creativity and any instinct to write about anything that didn’t seem urgent and critical and life or death? One of the things I’d been working on before the election was the idea of starting a podcast about modern singledom. Not dating, not complaining about being single, not how to navigate Tinder and Bumble — just the realities of dealing with being a single person in a world that’s often built for couples.
Well, I sort of lost all steam in early November because lol who cares about being single I’m so oppressed. It just seemed like the things I had to say about the subject did not matter any more. Well, they still might not. But I’m trying to reignite my creativity and writing and stuff, and I thought this was an idea and concept I wanted to continue to explore. So below I’ve turned what was to be the first script of what I was going to call the podcast — The Modern Single — into an article, and I hope to write more pieces about this.
Picture this: Last winter, A young(ish) woman, very beautiful and very interesting, wants to go on a vacation to the beach. This youngish and very beautiful interesting woman — who like, is obviously me — needs to get somewhere warm and sunny in the winter, because darkness makes her into a crazy person. But think about this: do you know it’s a lot more expensive to get a hotel room alone? Off course you do, because you know how math works. It’s TWICE as expensive as getting a hotel room as a couple. That’s a lot of money! And when I went online there are tons of websites telling me about great deals for family or couples travel, but almost nothing on how to save money traveling as a single person.
But whatever. I book the trip, because yay, vacation! And I started to tell people I was going. Inevitably they asked: so. who are you going with? Just me, on my own, I would say brightly! But i got looked at like I had three heads every time I told people that (seriously. I even wrote about it. Google vacation alone disturbed and it’s the first result). And when I finally went on the vacation, it was great, but don’t even get me started on the complications of getting a table for one or going on a group snorkel tour as the only single person. Single snorkeling in a group of couples is weird. Much like many things one does as a single in life.
Bu there’s more, too. Think of my single friend who recently had minor surgery. He was being put under, and legally could not leave the doctor’s office without out somebody who would drive him home. It was during the workday, so he didn’t feel comfortable asking friends, and he has no family in the area. So he was left wondering, uh, can i like, pay an Uber drive to do that, or…??
Or my single friend, let’s call her Sally, who recently filled out yet another form that requested the name and number for an emergency contact. She shrugged and put in her dad, like she always does, even though he doesn’t even have a cellphone and lives 1200 miles away. As she told me, “I’m basically admitting that I’d rather die in an emergency than figure out who that emergency contact should be.”
These little snippets might give you a narrow window into the day to day realities of being single and the weirdness we come up against. And as I’ve been navigating being single over the last year, and sort of becoming more conscious about the ways society is constructed, there are a few things that I’ve noticed.
One, which is a thing that is obvious to anybody who’s aware of societal trends, is that more and more people are becoming single. I’m not a sociologist, but I do know how to google, and a quick search reveals some data points. Like that in 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that almost 125 million Americans were single. That’s over half of the population.
And I bet you know more single people than you know what to do with — you might even be one of those single people. Welcome! As for me, when my parents were my age, they were married with kids. So were all of my aunts and uncles. Today, I’m single. A lot of my friends in their late 20s, early and mid-30s are single. Overall, it’s a huge increase from just 20 or 30 years ago.
But you know all that. I know all that. There is a literal glut of media coverage about the rise of the single. Then why does being single still feel so… hard?
I think it’s because of this: even this groundswell of singledom has not led to any sort of solutions or modeling for what a regular old single person should look like, or how to deal with any of the numerous challenges they may come up against. That’s because it seems like we live in a society that is still a society built for, and oriented towards, a partnership of two.
Now, I really think there IS more and more of an acceptance that we’re moving into a model where no one person’s life or happiness is dependent on a structure of being in a couple or a traditional nuclear family. But at least from my perspective — and I admit my perspective as an affluent, educated straight white women in her 30s is limiting — there are not a lot of scripts or answers or models for the sort of things I’m dealing with as a single person.
So what am *I* dealing with as a single person? Well, let’s go back to basics, and tell you a little bit about me.
I’m Catherine. Hey! I’m 37. I’m single. I’ve been in a bunch of relationships — a couple of one-year relationships, a 3 year relationship and engagement, a 6 year relationship, and in between all of those, gone on anything from four dates with a guy to dated a guy for four months. And I sort of just expected… I would be married at this point? Because that’s what people do?
But I’m not. And the weirdness of being single in your late 30s aside, it also, surprisingly to me, has ended up leading to any number of issues that I just sort of don’t know how to deal with, or end up just winging completely on my own, without the absence of a script or tips on what the best path is. Like the very stuff i talked about at the beginning of this — solo vacations, surgery, emergency contacts.
But let me give you a few more examples: People who are single have to think about stuff like, how do I make big life decisions without the benefit of a partner to share the burden and outcomes of those, both positive and negative? What’s it like to navigate attending weddings as a single as we get older? Speaking of weddings, Can I throw myself a 40th birthday party that’s as big as a wedding? And if so — can I, uh, register for gifts? Am I REALLY supposed to handle work, social life, keeping my home clean, errands, my family, bills keeping up on the news, hobbies, fitness, cooking, and shopping — all on my own? I’m just so tired.
I feel some of you rolling your eyes out there. Yeah, I know these aren’t the seminal oppressive issues of our time (ed. note — LOL MORE THAN EVER GOD WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS, PLEASE FORGIVE ME), but these are real things single people deal with, and i imagine — I know I do — maybe feel embarrassed about, or don’t feel like asking about, or just don’t know how to handle. There are no scripts, there are very few models, and there aren’t a lot of resources. In contrast, there are 55 billion websites on how to throw the wedding of your dreams, and maybe 47 billion websites on dating tips, and 20 billion websites on having and raising a family. But there are not a lot of places that help navigate the reality of a single person that give you advice and stories of people like us.
And I really think the lack of those resources and models make single people feel even more isolated or weird and lonely. If there are so many freaking single people out there, where’s our tribe? Where are our 55 billion websites helping us navigate life and telling us what we should do? Why isn’t anybody talking about this in a sensible and practical way that validates this massive shift in culture?
That’s where the Modern Single comes in. I want to start to fill that resource gap with these pieces. I want to talk about the unique challenges in being a single person in a society oriented towards couples and nuclear families — and come up with solutions, models and tips for dealing with those issues. I want to help single people realize that we are our own community, and we’re not weird, or even really all alone.
I gotta make one thing clear, first though: This is NOT a dating series. Articles about being single seem to be geared to the essential miserableness of being single, or what you’re doing wrong, or tips for finding the love of your life. One piece I found was called Single in Stilettos — no thank you. Another was called This is Why You’re Single. Okay, thanks for judging me. Yet another was called the Single But Ready Podcast: Habits For Healthy Relationships.
Now I’m totally down with wanting to find the love of your life and I would love to be in a relationship myself, but I feel a need to explain the difference I’m going for here. Those articles and podcasts, my friends, are NOT about being single. They are pieces about how to fall in love, or how to find a romantic relationship. They are all about how to STOP being single.
This will be a series about being single, what it means, the challenges and benefits, and how to move forward in life as a single. And it’s for singles of all sorts! If you want to stay single forever, great. If you are currently single by choice, fine. If you’re widowed or divorced, come on in. If you are single but lonely and think you are pathetic and something is really wrong with you, well, I think you should change your perspective and don’t be so hard on yourself, but come on board. If you are single and okay with it but hope to fall in love again one day, as I suspect many of us do, wonderful.
And there are literally not going to be any dating tips here. I mean, I do hope to give you tips. But tips on navigating stuff like, How do you deal with being lonely or needing physical affection? How do you make new single friends or build a community outside of a romantic partnership? How do you learn to start to do things on your own? How, for the love of god, do you set up your wifi and cable and speaker system without a live-in boyfriend to do those things for me because you uh, sort of never learned to do that on your own? (That last problem may or may not come straight from my own personal life experience.)
I’ll write about solutions and ideas for these situations and sometimes I may even interview experts who can give us their insight and advice. Plus, I’d like to talk to lots of different single people of all ages and sexual orientations and listening to their stories of what being single is like for them. In short, with the Modern Single singles, I hope to uncover practical advice for single people as they navigate a world that is built for couples.
As for those of you who are reading: I’m gearing this exploration and writing towards singles, obviously. But I mean it for coupled people, too. Polyamorous? Married your dog? Come along for the ride. Because the fact is we’ve all been single at points in our life, and probably we will be again, and all of us KNOW and care for single people, and these are stories and tips that will help us navigate life going forward and hopefully normalize the idea of being single in a society based on and around the driving concept and expectation of a romantic partnership of two people.
So welcome to the Modern Single: practical tips for those flying solo. I can’t wait to talk to you more.