Monday, 20 August 2012


Because I write for Singles, not because I harbour any desire to flee B.A., I sometimes ponder what I would be doing if I were still Single. The only image that comes up is of me in a big Catholic publishing house in Toronto, editing the Sunday missal. My imaginary office has a view of Lake Ontario, and there's a coffee machine in the kitchenette, and anyone who refers to the Holy Father as "Ratzinger" in my hearing is in big trouble.

I don't have an image of where I would be living, although I think I would still be living with my parents, because I like my parents and I don't like living alone. Every once in a blue moon I would get a personal letter from a religious order inviting me to "come and see" and I would wonder how they got my address.

That is where conjecture ends. I admit the idea of the publishing office gives me a pang because I would like the routine of 9-5, but of course only in a career I enjoyed, and I'm very grateful my mid-life immigration has not meant I have to scrub floors or work in a factory or do other work that well-educated immigrants often have to do, wherever they go.

(In case you're wondering why well-educated immigrants drive taxis, it is because it takes years to build up a network of contacts in your proper field, useful contacts who know where the jobs are, or want you to work for them.)

Anyway, the thing about marriage, as married ladies will often tell you just when you don't want to hear about it, is that it shuts a door on a lot of opportunities.

Of course nobody is supposed to fire female employees just for getting married anymore. But marriage often puts a roadblock in the careers of academics, for example, because if you marry a local man, with a local job, this often means you cannot seek a university position in any town but his. I am told there are fewer and fewer tenure-track positions available, and therefore the chances of finding one in your husband's town are slimmer than ever.

"Cry me a river," I heard someone say, a tiny voice from over the sea. "That's her choice, isn't it? I don't have a choice. I'd rather be married to my soul mate than go through all those horrible interviews at the MLA convention anyway."

Well, that may be very true. But that is also why, when you are Single, you should grasp all the opportunities that there are and that you can manage.

Incidentally, I should officially announce that B.A. said I could go to night school if I want to, and that I have signed up for Polish 1.1 (although I think I might have to upgrade to Polish 2.1) at Edinburgh University. For the sake of new readers I should explain that we have not been blessed with children, so I have much more freedom than mummies do.

So although there are all kinds of things I would like to do but can't, for various social, domestic or geographical reasons stemming from marriage (but the world well lost if lost for love), I can in fact go to night school.

Back to you. Right. Being Single can be a real pain, as you know, but it does have its bright side in adult life, and this is full autonomy and freedom to pursue work, hobbies, classes, travel and breakfast in bed on your day off without ever having to ask for permission. You can adopt a zoo of cats if you want to, for there is no man around to say no.

The statistics being what they are, the older you get, the more likely you are eventually to find yourself living with a man who says no to stuff. Of course, you might find yourself saying no to stuff to, as in "No, I don't think we should buy that object" and "No, you can't go down to the pub and wait out my tea party. You have to BE at my tea party." But the times your husband says no to your whims will be a real drag. So party now. PARTY NOW, POPPETS!!!

I have a word of caution about taking my advice and running with it, getting that amazing job in Phoenix, Arizona or going on a bus-tour of Europe or taking up belly-dancing classes or getting a grant to move to Prague and learn Czech. It is not to tweet or post up your movements on Facebook. If you do, you run the risk of the envious leaving comments like this:

"Oh you're so lucky. I don't even have time to go to the beauty parlour, now that the babies are here. LOL."

"Too fat from babies to go to belly-dance classes myself. LOL"

"Prague sounds wonderful but I guess I'll have to settle for being a yummy mummy. LOL."

And then you will find a comment on a favourite blog about how selfish single women are.

Well, if you tweet anyway, and this happens, ignore them all, poppets! If/when you get married, I want you to have some beautiful Single girl memories to reflect on. Of course, for the sake of still-Single girls, you must remember how much it sucks to be Single and what comments Single girls hate so you don't make them. But you should also have a bagful of Single memories to recollect with satisfaction, like looking at the city of Florence from the Piazzale Michaelangelo in October at dawn.


Jessica said...

The LOLs at the end of those sample comments were my favorite -- so accurate! :)

Any words of wisdom on how to take advantage of your single state without just plain becoming selfish? I know some Singles struggle with too many demands being made of them, but my experience tends to be the other side...I get used to my "footloose and fancy free" style of life and get annoyed by interferance. (OK, it's not 100% footloose and fancy free, but you get my point.)

Similarly, any thoughts on when to stop focusing on "Single memories" once a Signifcant Other enters the picture? I'm thinking of a girl I knew who turned down a study abroad experience because she didn't want to be apart from her college boyfriend for a semester (they are now married). I'm currently dating, but sometimes I still struggle with when it's ok to sacrifice something I want for the good of our relationship vs. maintaining my independence because we're not engaged/married yet.

This sounds like it might require a whole 'nother blog post to answer, haha!

Magdalen said...

Have you looked into free online courses like Coursera so you could still spend time with your husband in the evenings?

Grad in a big city said...

Along with these amazing advantages of being unattached (and as a grad student about to take flight into the academic job market, I think about those advantages a lot these days), I would add the freedom to work 80-hour weeks if so desired. This may seem crazy, that I would be glad about that, but for where I am RIGHT NOW, the best thing for my goals is to be working crazy hours and doing the best work that I possibly can drag out of myself. And lonely as it is sometimes, I can't help but realize that my quality of work would go down if I were less lonely.

Seraphic said...

Well, choices, choices, choices. You can't take both the 7:30 PM Monday cooking class and the 7:30 PM Monday French class, and in the same way, you can't go to Prague for a year and stay in the same town with your non-Prague boyfriend for the same year.

I suppose it depends on how seriously you feel about Mr Non-Prague. My mother gave up a study year in Europe to hang around waiting for my dad to propose. I'm glad she did. I'm also glad she spent a few months in Europe previous to that working in a retirement home and sightseeing on her days off.

I will ponder the subject of Single selfishness--carefully, as I am no longer Single myself.

As for online study, really, I'm on the computer too much as it is and the most effective way to learn a language is in person with people. But it's a nice idea, especially for mums and the housebound.

Mary E said...

Great topic! I'm in my second year of a serious relationship and I'm a week away from returning to my second year of grad school in Europe. Leaving my boyfriend (we both are from TX) is HARD. But we have a Church booked for a wedding next year and even though it sometimes sucks being so far apart, I do see it as a blessing that I get this amazing opportunity to study something I love before I get to marry a wonderful person.

It does help that he and both of our families are extremely supportive of our current situation and the our future plans together. Having an actual wedding in the works seems to make it somewhat easier to deal with the distance.

Eowyn said...

I agree with Grad. I'm awfully grateful to be learning the ropes of my chosen profession and putting in all the long hours of the learning curve now while I'm single and don't have anyone who expects me home for dinner all the time (though this doesn't mean I should be a workaholic, and learning not to be one is part of the learning curve too).

Anonymous said...

Singleness and selfishness--yes, please do advise.


Jam said...

I used to really struggle with this (more than I do now; it comes and goes of course). I mean; oh, so I have nothing better to do than get ahead on classwork? Whoopie.

Now I can see much more clearly what an asset singleness has been to me. In my grad work, of course: more time and money to spend on research (one of my married classmates did his first research trip when I was doing my fourth) translates into a shinier CV and hopefully more opportunities as a result. Not to mention -- please God! -- a faster time to degree.

But also, just personally, there are SO many things I have worked out or learned or practiced that I'm glad I had the time for without husband and children. Every time I screw up a recipe, I think, at least I'm hitting the learning curve now while I'm just feeding myself! (heh) And how about friendships? We all know how hard it is to make friends out of college, and I lost touch with lots of my college friends. Being single over the last few years, and the moving around/traveling I've done has really taught me a lot about making "grown-up" friends and keeping them. If I had gotten married say a year after college graduation, I wouldn't have learned those things in the same mostly-pleasant way, and maybe I would have had that loneliness to deal with along with getting adjusted in a marriage.

Anonymous said...

There are advantages to being Single, but most are shallow, inconsequential things. Few and rare are the ones that we can look back on many years later and say, "I'm happy that I got the chance to do that."


Urszula said...

I was actually going to write in and ask for you to write about singleness vs selfishness! I'm enjoying being single after a toxic quasi-engagement, but I sometimes feel I shouldn't, and I'm afraid my current enjoyment of life might grow into be becoming so set in my ways that I won't know how to - or want to- sacrifice when the time comes. at the same time, the time might never come, so why shouldn't I delight in life as it currently is?

Mustard Seed said...

I agree with Jam! As a single, I've learned a ton about establishing and maintaining friendships, getting my career path in order, developing my own interests, taking good care of myself, serving others, learning what I want/don't want from men, and being happy... all of which took a serious chunk of time and effort, and trial and error. All that has made me a better person for it (and coincidentally a better wife to someone if that day should come). As much as I hope to get married someday, I'm really thankful for the time/space I've had to focus on all this on my own. I guess I could have done those things while married to someone, but it was fun to call the shots myself.

I'm curious about the selfishness bit too! Please write about that.

Also who is the swashbuckler (last name)? He's very dapper :)

n.panchancha said...

Is that John Wayne?? Good heavens! I don't think I'd ever seen him young and sans hat. :S

(Oh, and - great post!)

Anonymous said...

I really think that negative comments such a being single sucks are better left unsaid. There is such a thing as being single as a vocation and not everyone is suited for marriage (or the religious life). I take pride in being single and allowing God to utilize me and the best thing about being single is getting a message from a Catechist student now a teenager whom I taught five years ago. The message was I pray and hope that I can continue to be as faithful as you are to our faith and thank you for being such an amazing role model. It is better to live alone than to settle for second best. I have so many friends who got married just for the sake of being married and they are more lonely than I am alone. In Christ, Pretty Terisita.

Mustard Seed said...

Aha, it is John Wayne! Good call!

Seraphic said...

Yes, it is a very young John Wayne because when it comes to Swashbuckling Protectors from Hollywood I am a little shallow and demand good looks. John Wayne got just a little too lined and rumpled for Auntie's caffeine-in-the-cappuccino-of-life aesthetic.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm pretty much shocked by selfishness of married people. Most of them treat their single friends (no matter how much these "losers" did and do for them) as lepers. So they imagine they are saints if they remember them twice a year.
Yes, I think about me every day. Because I live alone and none thinks of me. Or, at least about my bills, my food, my laundry, my job, etc.