“If I am to disclose to you what I should prefer if I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and a single, rather than queen and married.”
Newsflash: The most famous single woman in the world is not Carrie Bradshaw. It’s Elizabeth Tudor, the Virgin Queen who ruled in the 16th Century.
There are few things more mystified than single women. The word bachelor has an energetic touch to it. We know from popular culture that bachelor pad is a happening place, whereas spinsters live in far less glamorous lodgings (unless they are the Queen of England) that smell of cat-pee, because spinsters are also crazy cat-ladies.
(Pop-culture apartment reference from Batman Returns:
Single male: Batman who lives in an epic man-cave.
Single woman: Secretary Selina Kyle who resides in a pathetic little flat with – you guessed it – only her cat for company. Until, of course, she transforms into a sexy Catwoman. Cat-lady = bad. Catwoman = good.)
I’ve spent much of my adulthood in mainly long-term relationships, and find myself not in a relationship for some time now. While I’m spared from cat-references and intruding friends (“joined Tinder yet? Seeing any interesting men?“), I have not been able to entirely escape the subtle stigma attached to single women.
So what’s, like the purpose of your life?
People who have kids do not need a purpose in their lives, because the kids are the universal excuse for a purpose. Single childless women who are not happening bachelors need to constantly convince others about the meaningfulness of their lives. Committed to a professional career? So sad. Committed to a cause? That’s a fad that will pass as soon as you meet the right person. Not committed to anything particular? Such a waste of life.
So what do you, like, do?
Frankly, given the choice, I would attempt to do the absolute minimum, such as stare into space and nap. Most friends with kids regularly wish they could just sleep. Somehow it is not, however, considered an appropriate pastime for a single woman.
Who do you turn to for advice?
This is the tricky one. You’re alone with your head. Most of the time. This is often considered scary, which it is not.
Women who die unmarried are doomed to lead apes in hell claimed a Reformation-era proverb. Single women have never been considered particularly glossy, with the possible exception of the foursome in the Sex and the City. There has always ben something negatively freakish attached to women whose lives do not center around someone else’s needs. Selfish comes to mind. And independence – something that is otherwise classified as positive. Women and money have never boded well with the society. What the hell does she need the money for?
Despite financially independent women not exactly being a thing anymore, there’s still a tiny tinge to any woman who is a little bit too everything in the material department. Also, there used to be a way to describe career men as being married to their jobs, because they are committed, dedicated and ambitious to their professions and advancing their careers. I rarely hear that description being used to describe a professional woman. It’s usually more in the “she doesn’t have any other life” – direction.
While I don’t have the need to turn my civil status into a science project, I came across two interesting books about the topic of single women some time ago. Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies is a seriously researched take on the 21st century phenomenon of single women in the United States. Joanna Scutts’ The Extra Woman is about Marjorie Hillis, a glamorous New York-based independent working woman in the 30s, who published a radical self-help book Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman in 1936.
(Quick observation: I’ve never seen a Guide for Single Men – How to Live in my life.)
Both books are excellent non-fiction for both single and non-single people anywhere. I am photographed with a Finnish book Naiset, joita ajattelen öisin (“Women whom I think about at night”) by Mia Kankimäki, and should you master the Finnish language, read the book. It is a fantastic collection of stories about olden days women explorers. We’re talking about women doing round-the-world trips, alone, in miserable conditions with only a large handbag to house their belongings, in some cases wearing Victorian outfits complete with lacy bonnets.