This post is also printed on the Fairlady site.
Through a series of rather unfortunate events everyone in my immediate family is single.
We’re not talking about calamitous events; just unfortunate ones that led to unwanted realisations between couples. This situation is very different from this time last year when I was the only single person in my family, and makes me sad to live so far away from my relatives in Pretoria. This, I must confess, is because aside from wanting to comfort everyone, I would (albeit selfishly) probably enjoy family braais a bit more. It’s not that I never enjoyed them before; it’s just that there’s nothing quite like a clustering of couples to make you feel like Single Concentrate. You know, the Ultimate Single Person. The situation got particularly bad when my mother’s boyfriend’s children came over with their partners too. Everyone would cling to each other in their coupledom, sharing chairs and laughs while I just flashed ‘I’m-totally-OK-with-this’ smiles at everyone.
My cousin (also single) joked that her, my brothers and I are now finally in the position to become the ultimate wingman team. I know that most people merely tolerate their siblings rather than get along with them, but we’re actually friends. This is partly because, since my parent’s divorce, it’s been just the three of us travelling from house to house over weekends, Easter and Christmas.
We have fun partying together, so the ultimate wingman team is the next natural step. It sounds like a great idea, right? Except that I prefer to think of my brothers as Ken dolls – as smooth and functionless as combs for bald men. Also I can see this wingman plan backfiring rather drastically on me, because though I am the oldest in my family, my brothers are rather protective.
In fact the biggest difference between me and my brothers is that they seem incapable of transforming me into a Barbie Doll in their minds. Instead, rather than focusing on anything as trivial as my emotional health, the question of what happened in the bedroom is their biggest concern. After any relationship or fling, Matthew (two years younger than me) doesn’t ask “How do you feel?” or “What did he say?” or anything like that. Instead he pinches the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb, closes his eyes tightly and tensely asks, “How far did you go?”
What I haven’t been able to tell Matthew yet is that singledom isn’t as bad as everyone thinks (cue music: ‘All the single ladies, all the single ladies…’). I admit that singledom has a bad rap, especially, in a terribly sexist way, for the ladies. What the hell is up with that? Single guys are all James Bond and smooth grey hair and overpriced cars, but single ladies supposedly own lots and lots of cats. Really, cats? Why cats? They’re friendlier than goldfish I suppose, but not by much.
What’s wrong with being single? I’m not going to lie; there are advantages to having a partner, for sure. My favourite comes from Matthew Inman, creator of the popular website The Oatmeal. He calls it your ‘default activity partner’ – someone you can always do something with. Want to see that movie, go to the theatre or try that new restaurant? Grab your default activity partner! It’s someone to talk to about unimportant things, someone who cares what you’ve been up to, who wants to hold your hand, who knows your clandestine freckles and your secrets. It’s someone who knows how you feel by the way you reply, “Fine thanks.” But I also believe there’s no point in ruining singledom by moping for a ‘better half’ (“When we are unable to find tranquillity within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere,” attributed to François de la Rochefoucauld) or dating just ANYONE simply because you’d rather be in a relationship than not.
Being single can, quite frankly, be pretty awesome too. This sounds selfish, but it’s great being able to do exactly whatever I want: flitting from braai to party to coffee with friends, coming home whenever I like, napping or reading or watching a DVD I’ve seen a hundred times because I feel like watching it again. Flirting is a guilt free adventure of possibility, and a night out is a yellow brick road that can lead anywhere – and often does. I can work late if I need to, then go to gym and have a bowl of Strawberry Pops for dinner, all without issue or worry. Michael Douglas said, “Being single is pretty good. It’s a nice sense of irresponsibility.”
I’m having fun being me and doing what I want and learning about myself, and I guess the fact is there’s no way of planning when someone significant wanders into your life. All you can do in the meantime is try to be successful and sexy, and have a hell of a time doing so.