Monday, 9 January 2017

Choosing to be Single: some pointers

Regular readers will know that I've settled on a state of perpetual (possibly eternal) singleness.  Maybe you're in the same boat and you're wondering where you go from there.  If you've reached this point the odds are that you've figured out that not being with someone won't kill you.  Despite what you may have seen on How I Met Your Mother (and pretty much any other form of drama since Menander), you're going to survive.  The interesting question is, what do you do to get maximum value from your life after that point?

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HIMYM: Not necessarily a guide to life

The first thing to understand is that remarkably few people actually care about your decision.  Since I found myself in this position, I've been asked precisely two questions on the point.  One was by a partner from a regional law firm at a lawyers' association dinner (he was a bit drunk), and one was a throwaway question from one of my brothers-in-law about whether I was on eHarmony.  In an age where we're presumably only a few years from someone asking for the right to marry blocks of steel-reinforced concrete, someone choosing to be alone is probably slightly less bonkers than the population at large.

In this type of life your dreams take on a remarkable importance.  Yes, you can do pretty well whatever you please with your life.  And if you're like me, there'll be a disastrous tendency to reduce all that potential to drunking cheap wine and watching clips from Futurama on YouTube.  Do not do this.  Your dreams - pursuing them, achieving them, reimagining them - will keep your life afloat.  Letting them stray into commute-work-eat-cheap laughs-sleep reduces your life to something as narrow as a prison cell.  Good if you're Pope Saint Celestine V; less good for we ordinary mortals.  To borrow from Big Bang Theory
Wolowitz: Just imagine ... if he says yes, we'll have an entire summer without Sheldon.
Raj: We could play outside.
Wolowitz: We could sit on the left side of the couch.
Leonard: I could use the bathroom at 8:20!
Raj: Our dreams are very small, aren't they? 
Another thing to make peace with is that unless you join the Shakers, you're going to age and die alone.  There's really no avoiding it.  How will you live your life in light of this?  Me, I have a horror of becoming like a fellow I lived in the same building as many years ago.  I suppose he was in his late 50s, and he was a bachelor.  I never got further than the front door of his flat, but that was enough.  His flat had the look of constant darkness and smelt like a collection of old socks.  Not bad, exactly; just mean, dingy and low.  I never want that for myself.  So, consider nurturing a habit of healthiness and cleanliness and fresh air and having a clean mind, that will ensure that your grey years will be dignified even if they are down at heel.  You can only nurture that life by living that way now.

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Hoarding: it's a remarkably poor lifestyle choice

On a related note, your future is supremely in your hands.  A person who is 50% of a couple always has an excuse for their disappointments ("I put my career/motherhood/passions on hold so my significant other could pursue their career", for example).  You don't have that: this is the flipside of your freedom.

If you think about not being single, or wonder if this is really for you, go along and spend a few days with an old married couple.  Watch them bicker and snipe and hurt each other.  Or go to the local Magistrates Court when family violence orders are being dealt with and contemptible men (let's not kid ourselves here) wander in with bottomless excuses and the women wander in with black eyes and broken fingers.  These are the people you're not going to become.  You're welcome.

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As an added bonus, you won't wind up with someone like this

Before you wonder if I'm writing this because of deep-rooted cynicism, the answer is plainly no.  I can't exactly recommend this sort of life to someone: being married was great!  My point here is that if you've found yourself in a position where repartnering isn't an option (or is an undesirable one), there's no need to lose hope.  An entire new life is waiting for you!

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