Being single can be loads of fun, we all know that. The dating, the girls’ holidays, not having to answer to someone or attend their boring friends’ birthdays. But why do we assume that it’s a temporary phase? Why are we told to “enjoy it while it lasts” or that “you’ll meet someone eventually”? What if – actually – we never meet anyone with whom to spend our lives?
Despite the many ways of defining sexuality and relationships that have emerged recently – from polyamory
to pansexuality – it seems like women who remain alone forever, either out of choice or otherwise, are the last taboo. There are pretty much zero TV or film depictions of single women over 35, and the most enduring image of the ‘spinster’ is probably still Great Expectations
’ Miss Havisham in her mouldy wedding dress. This despite the fact that more than half of the UK’s one-person households are now female-occupied
. Have the centuries where there were few options for women other than marriage left such a mark that we’re scared to tell the stories of those who choose a different path?
Professor Bella DePaulo
, 60, a social scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has spent the last 20 years focusing on what she calls “singles studies”: measuring the impact that singledom has on people as well as the way society treats them. “I was always really happy with my single life,” she explains. “I never imagined what my wedding dress would look like or anything like that. Yet for a long time I thought that maybe I was just slow at getting there, that I’d be bitten by the ‘marriage bug’ at some point. I can’t remember when it was I realised, no, I’m never going to want that. Single is who I am. It was so freeing.”
However, she found herself perturbed by the lack of writing on long-term singledom, or even any positive examples of it. “All the reports I read in the media were that marriage makes you happier, healthier and live longer, and it just wasn’t in line with my experiences,” she says.