A few weekends ago when I went to visit my parents for the weekend, my mum was telling me a story about a woman she knows who has recently found a partner and had a baby after a long period of being single. My mum, who longs to be grandmother, has taken to telling me stories like this. I sometimes wonder who she is trying to reassure more, me or herself.
Anyway, during this conversation she made a comment about the woman being single for so long because she was “obsessed with her career”. The words “like you” hung in the air between us although she didn’t actually voice them. It reminded me of a time when I was trying to reassure someone who was newly single that things weren’t so bad. My cousin on hearing me say in a joking and self-deprecating way that it could be worse, she could be me, said: “Oh but you’ve only been single so long because you’ve been focused on your career”.
Hmm. Am I the only one that feels a bit annoyed by comments like these? Firstly there are plenty of people who are “obsessed” with their career who are also in successful relationships or marriages. I know, because I’ve worked with a lot of them. It feels a bit like people are suggesting you can only have a career or a relationship and not both. It’s not the 1950s!
Even though I have worked really hard to get where I am, I sometimes wonder if when people say stuff like this it means people think the only thing I have in my life that is of any worth? Sometimes I’ll admit I do think this myself, of course, but I try to talk myself out of feeling that way.
Aside from knowing I have a lot more going for me, my career could so easily crumble before my eyes given the industry I work in and besides, I’ve got so much further to go until I reach where I want to be. Perhaps then I’ll feel more comfortable owning the label of “career woman,” as a friend recently called me. There is also obviously the fact that you never hear of a man being described this way. I consider how focused I am on my job to be a normal healthy level.
I do think a part of it is that people feel need to label others to help them understand because there is a fear around people not conforming to the status quo. It’s easier – and more socially acceptable – to put me in the career-obsessed box as a way of explaining it away. I feel like people are thinking: “Yes, she is still single, but don’t worry it’s only because she is one of those career-obsessed types.”
By the way, for the record, my career is not the reason I’m single.
Anyway, I’d be interested to know what annoys you about how people talk about you? I would love to hear from you, so please reply to this email and let me know. Maybe I’ll do a whole newsletter devoted to the most annoying things other people say to single women!
What has caught my attention
This is my favourite of the three. Aside from the fact the article is about sex, it also brings up all the studies which say that single people are actually healthier and happier than coupled up people, which I always enjoy reading about. Stick that in your smug pipe and smoke it! Jokes aside, there could definitely be much more done on this subject as I think this only scratches the surface, but it’s a good read nonetheless.
Quite a few people sent this article to me but I’ve had a busy week and have only just found time to read it. It fits in very nicely to some of the things I touched on above about careers and expectations. I had originally intended to write about going to the cinema alone last week but decided to save it for another day so I loved this part: “Countless adults are terrified of simply going to the movies by themselves. I increasingly think Chris Rock was right when, years ago, he joked that a lot of people marry just to have someone to go to dinner and the movies with. Funny, but sadly, probably true.”
I have often pondered a similar question myself, especially when I used to get annoyed that my friends never tried setting me up with anyone. They would protest that they didn’t know any single men at all, that all of them were coupled up. How is this possible? Josh believes the problem is down to apps and technology, but he also touches on the rise in education because apparently graduates prefer to marry graduates and in general women’s standards have risen.
Single heroine of the fortnight
A more serious heroine this time. This is Laura Madden. She is the very first person brave enough to go on the record about Harvey Weinstein. At the time she had just gone through a divorce and was battling breast cancer. She was also the single mother of four daughters. What a woman! You can read more about it her the book She Said by the two journalists who broke the scandal.
For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in London, UK. I don’t get paid to do this newsletter (maybe one day I will), but if you enjoyed it and would like to buy me a coffee, you can.
Did someone forward The Single Supplement to you? Subscribe here.